HL Deb 29 September 1976 vol 374 cc410-35

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill has two main purposes. The first is that it provides a complete new liquor licensing code for Scotland, replacing completely the Licensing (Scotland) Acts 1959 and 1962. That in itself is a worthwhile purpose since it is always useful to have a new and self-contained code. But in itself it is not a particularly exciting objective for a Bill and the more significant purpose is the second, which is the incorporation in new legislation of many of the recommendations of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Scottish Licensing Law published in August 1973.

That Committee was set up by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, when Secretary of State for Scotland. Its terms of reference were: to review the liquor licensing law of Scotland and to make recommendations on what changes, if any, might he made in the public interest; and to report. I do not propose to say much directly about the report but in the course of my remarks I shall touch on individual recommendations and our reaction to them. I should record, however, that the Clayson Report provided a suitable basis on which we could frame our proposals for change and that when comments were invited on it from interested bodies it received a general welcome. I should also record that in appropriate cases we also took account of the advice given earlier by a Committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, whom we hope will contribute to the debate.

I think that it would be right for me at this stage to devote some attention to the first chapter of the Clayson Report, since it is there that the Committee discuss the significance of licensing as a weapon against alcohol misuse. First of all, they review the extent of the problem in Scotland and conclude in paragraph 1.17 that they have no doubt that Scotland suffers from a serious problem of alcohol misuse, both absolutely and in comparison with England and Wales. They emphasise in the same paragraph that the recommendations which follow later in the report were made with full awareness of the extent of the problem. They go on to consider three types of control of alcohol misuse: social controls deriving from the attitudes of a society; fiscal controls, which are taxation, and its effect on consumption; and legislative controls which basically are the liquor licensing laws. The Committee consider the respective roles of these and conclude that, having regard to the evidence of a relationship between total consumption and extent of misuse, the effect of any relaxation resulting in increasing consumption must be considered an argument against such relaxation. Where the increase is likely to be slight, the argument must be weighed in the balance against those which suggest that the relaxation is desirable.

The Committee then went on to use this approach of assessing possible relaxations on the basis of judging the risk of increasing the problems of alcohol misuse against the desirability of more flexible arrangements. We, in turn had to exercise a judgment on these matters and consider how far it would be prudent to go in relaxation of the licensing laws. In some cases we did not feel able to accept the recommendations for relaxation made by the Committee.

Our response to the report was outlined in the other place in a Statement on 28th October 1975 by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. William Ross. The Bill as introduced in the other place was very much in line with the Statement and has remained so with one exception. That exception is the Sunday opening of public houses. The Bill I now commend to the House contains provisions which the Government opposed at earlier stages in the other place. The Government make no quarrel with that. Having, I hope, set the scene, I turn to the provisions of the Bill. In doing so I shall concentrate on the new provisions, referring only briefly to what is mainly reenactment.

Part I of the Bill provides for the constitution of a new liquor licensing authority, the licensing board, for each local government district and islands area. There is also provision for district and islands area councils to create licensing divisions which would have their own licensing boards. All the members of the licensing boards, whether for licensing divisions or complete districts or islands areas, will be members of the local authority. This is in line with one of the main recommendations of the Clayson Report. The Committee make out a convincing case, which we have accepted, in paragraphs 5.21 to 5.36 of the report for the replacement of the licensing courts which we have at present by licensing boards. Clause 4 provides for quarterly meetings of the boards instead of the twice yearly meetings as at present, and Clause 5 lays down which of the board's functions have to be discharged by full meetings of the board. The more important of the decisions to be made by the boards which will require full meetings are listed in subsection (2) of Clause 5. There are no provisions comparable to those in the 1959 Act creating licensing courts of appeal. Again, this is in line with a key recommendation of the Clayson Committee who favoured an appeal from decisions of the licensing board to the sheriff, a matter dealt with in Part II of this Bill.

Part II, as well as catering for the new appeals provisions, deals with various aspects of the general licensing system. Clause 9 and Schedule I cover the types of licence which may be granted. "Licence" is the new title recommended by Clayson to replace the previous title of "certificate". Five types of licence—public house, hotel, restricted hotel, restaurant and off-sale—are retained on the same basis as in existing legislation. But two new types are added—the refreshment licence and entertainment licence. Both of these, again, were recommended by Clayson. The refreshment licence is in the nature of an experiment, since it will be available for premises similar to cafes which provide food and non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic liquor. The main feature of this licence will be that children under 14 accompanied by adults will be able to be present up till 8 p.m. in the evening. It is hoped that such establishments, which can be licensed only when the new system gets under way next year, will be used by parents and children together, the parents having an alcoholic drink and the children soft drinks, with or without food. Such a development could well be of assistance in fostering a change in social habits affecting the social control discussed by Clayson, since children will have an opportunity to observe the use of alcohol as part of family groups, without the attendant mystery sometimes associated with adult-only drinking places. The entertainment licence is less of an innovation since it is primarily intended to provide a licence suitable for the needs of such places of entertainment as cinemas and dance halls, for which hitherto the types of certificate available have not been wholly suitable.

Clause 11 is worth mentioning since for the first time in Scottish licensing legislation a procedure is created which will cater specifically for the application for a licence by a company. The application will have to name both the company and the employee with responsibility for the day-to-day running of the premises, and the company and the employee will share jointly the responsibility placed on licence holders by the Bill. Clause 16 adds to those who may competently object to applications a community council under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and any organised church representative of a significant body of opinion in the neighbourhood of the premises which are the subject of the application. Other procedural improvements are included in this clause as in much of the rest of Part II.

Clauses 17, 18 and 19 are all new. Clause 17 sets out the grounds for refusal of applications and this replaces the present absolute discretion of the licensing court. The Government depart from Clayson in subsection (1)(d) of this clause, where we give the board power to turn down an application where in the board's opinion it would result in over-provision. This seems to us a suitable power for the board, although Clayson would have been content to leave market forces to determine whether there was a need for licensed premises in an area. Clause 18 requires for the first time that a licensing authority should give reasons for its main decisions. Clause 19 creates a new offence of attempting to influence a member of a licensing board to support an application. The maximum penalty for such an offence is a fine of £100, but the licensing board could refuse to consider an application from someone convicted of canvassing, and if the offence came to light after a licence was granted the criminal court, under Clause 66(3), could disqualify the licence holder and his premises.

Clauses 23 and 24, as recommended by Clayson, help to identify the relative roles of the licensing board and the local authority in respect of licensed premises. Until the applicant produces relevant certificates from the local authority for planning, building control and food hygiene the board cannot entertain an application for a licence. And the fire authority must be consulted about fire safety. These clauses will not substantially affect the requirements already laid upon applicants for licences, but will provide a more systematic procedure with the respective responsibilities of local and licensing authority more clearly defined.

Clause 32 makes the currency of a licence three years instead of one. This will avoid unnecessary administrative expense, but as a safeguard Clauses 31 and 32 provide for suspension of licences during the extended period of three years if there is misconduct or structural defect. Clauses 33 and 34 are also new, but can more readily be discussed along with Clause 63 in Part V. Clause 38(1)(f) is a new power for a licensing authority to set out in by-laws conditions for the improvement of standards of, and conduct in, licensed premises. This is part of our attempt to encourage the licensing board to adopt a constructive attitude in assisting licence holders to raise standards within licensed premises. As a safeguard, the by-laws require confirmation by the Secretary of State for Scotland to avoid any risk of arbitrary use of this new power.

The last clause in Part II is one of the most significant. Clause 39 provides for the nature of the appeal to the sheriff. Rights of appeal are created by individual clauses, for example Clauses 17 and 31, but this clause contains the general provisions applying to all appeals against decisions by licensing boards. It is not intended that the sheriff should be able to substitute his decision on a licensing matter for that of the authority, given the statutory duty in this field. Thus the grounds of appeal are carefully set out in subsection (3) and the powers of the sheriff on upholding an appeal are set out in subsection (5). Subsection (7) gives a right of appeal on a point of law from the sheriff to the Court of Session.

Parts III and IV are substantially reenactment with the necessary modifications to bring them into line with the new system. Part V is probably of most interest to members of the public since it deals with the permitted hours and it is the changes here which will obviously affect the public most. Clause 53 sets out the new permitted hours. The main changes are the addition of one hour to the evening permitted hours, making the closing hour 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., and the provision, subject to Schedule 4, for Sunday opening of public houses. As I have already explained, Sunday opening of public houses was added to the Bill in the other place against the Government's advice.

There are therefore still some consequential Amendments required to the Bill to make it completely consistent in relation to Sunday opening and I shall put these down for the Committee stage in due course. There will also, again as a consequence, be some Amendments to Schedule 4 which contains the safeguards on Sunday opening. We are not satisfied that the procedure laid down in the Schedule is adequate for all purposes and I shall propose some improvements. The new closing hour of 11 p.m. is in accordance with a Clayson recommendation but we rejected Clayson's view on the afternoon break. He favoured permitted hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. but we have retained the statutory afternoon break. Clauses 57 to 59 deal with related matters. Clauses 57 and 58 are basically re-enactments concerned with drinks with meals. Their effect is to make the afternoon extension for drinks with meals one and a half hours instead of half an hour and the evening extension two hours instead of one hour. I believe that these are significant extensions which should be carefully noted. Clause 59 provides a new type of extension on Sundays which will allow establishments providing high teas—that lovely Scottish phrase—between 5 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. to serve drinks with meals.

Clause 63, together with Clauses 33 and 34, replaces what under the existing law is referred to as a special permission authorising the sale of liquor for some event taking place outwith permitted hours. Clause 63 caters for extensions for licensed premises; Clause 33 on the other hand caters for occasional licences for a licence holder for an event taking place outwith the premises in respect of which he holds his licence. Clause 34 is a provision which allows a person representing a voluntary organisation to sell alcoholic liquor in certain limited circumstances. These new arrangements taken together provide a flexible approach which will enable licensing boards to consider arrangements designed to cater for the special needs of individual localities in relation to isolated or regular events. Clause 64 and Clause 65 provide safeguards against undue nuisance or a threat to public order resulting from the sale of alcoholic liquor at certain times. Clause 64 allows a licensing board to restrict the permitted hours after ten o'clock in the evening while Clause 65 allows a temporary restriction of permitted hours of up to three hours in the interests of public order. To give the most obvious example, this power might be used to reduce the risk of disturbance associated with an international or, indeed, a league football match by ensuring the licensed premises nearby remain closed both before and during the game.

I turn to Part VI. It is largely re-enactment and does not, I believe, require detailed discussion at this stage. It meets the criticism in the Clayson Report that the present law does not make clear the relative responsibilities of the licence holder and his staff. The responsibilities of the licence holder are, in my view, now clearly set out with vicarious responsibility expressly stated in Clause 66 and Schedule 5. Appropriate defences are contained in Clause 66 (2) and Clause 70.

Part VII is also largely re-enactment. One clause in it, Clause 113 on police right of entry to clubs, has caused controversy. It implements a Clayson recommendation that the police should have right of entry to clubs without a warrant. I should make it clear that this clause was strongly opposed on report in another place and in accordance with an undertaking given there I shall put down Amendments which will replace this clause by a re-enactment of Section 179 of the 1959 Act which allows police entry only on a warrant front a justice of the peace.

Part VIII deals with miscellaneous transitional and general provisions. Clause 118 is now a re-enactment. We originally intended to make the closing hour for off-sales premises 8 p.m., but in the light of representations made to us this remains at 10 p.m. Off-sales premises are not allowed to open on Sundays. Clause 123 implements a Clayson recommendation that Section 91(6) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 should be repealed. This repeal will allow a local authority to apply for a licence in respect of facilities provided for social, cultural and recreative facilities. Clause 130 repeals the temperance poll legislation, but there are transitional provisions designed to protect the interests of those in areas subject to resolutions under the existing legislation. I have already referred to those Schedules which seem to me to merit attention at this stage.

I have now completed my review of the main provisions of the Bill. I think it is fair to say that in a Bill of this length much has been left undiscussed by me at this stage. Naturally, we shall have a full opportunity for detailed debate at the Committee stage, as determined by your Lordships' House. In my view, the Bill as a whole represents a major advance in a difficult and controversial area and it is with considerable pleasure that I commend it to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Kirkhill.)

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, we on these Benches thank the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for having given us that clear introduction to a long and somewhat complicated Bill. I personally am glad that a Scottish Licensing Bill is going through Parliament in this Session. The reform is much needed. I welcome most of the changes proposed, but I give the Government notice that some of us intend to take up a number of points at the Committee stage to see whether improvements can be made. As the noble Lord mentioned, I am especially interested in this Bill because I was the Minister who set up the Committee chaired by Dr. Clayson and I received its report shortly before the change of Government in 1974. I believe that we are indebted to Dr. Clayson and his colleagues. They tackled their task with great thoroughness and they have produced a most useful report.

I should also like to mention that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, who is, I am glad to hear, intending to speak today in the debate, chaired an earlier Committee which looked into the licensing laws something like 14 years ago now. That was a considerable time ago. However, the recommendations which his Committee also made have been extremely useful, I believe, in the preparation of this legislation.

I will say straight away that my principal concern in this field, both as a Minister and later, has been to reduce drunkenness and alcoholism. It is clear, unfortunately, that there is more of both in Scotland than in the rest of the country and the report that has come out within recent weeks has confirmed this. But it is noteworthy that in its report the Clayson Committee concluded that little, if any, of the drink involved in excessive drinking is obtained and consumed on licensed premises. Like the Committee I do not therefore believe that the proposed relaxation of the permitted hours when licensed premises can be open need cause anxiety in your Lordships' House. Indeed, there is an argument in the other direction, that a relaxation could lead to a reduction in the temptation to "beat the clock"; that is to say a reduction in the temptation to drink hard before closing time. I strongly support the Clayson Committee's assessment that taking a drink or two should be regarded as a part of ordinary social activities rather than that drinking should be set aside as a separate and semi-isolated pastime.

Unfortunately, I must state that there has been a tradition in certain areas in Scotland for drinking dens which are attended by men only and where there is a time limit, and that has produced some of the troubles which I have mentioned of alcoholism and drunkenness. But the Clayson Committee drew attention to a survey which showed that nearly three-quarters of a sample of Scots would prefer to spend an evening out somewhere where the whole family could be together. I am glad to say that that is an increasing trend in Scotland today. The principle, which is also carried through into this Bill, that conditions should be made easier for children and families on licensed premises is, I believe welcome, but I also favour what the Clayson Committee and the Government have accepted, that the minimum age of 18 for the purchase of liquor should be maintained in Scotland.

Those of your Lordships who have studied the report of the Committee which looked into these matters in England and Wales, the Erroll Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale, will have noticed that the recommendation there is that the minimum age should he 17; but because of what I believe are particular difficulties in Scotland I accept that a difference is reasonable and that, at any rate for the present we should there stick to 18, until we have made the necessary improvements in the reduction of drunkenness and alcoholism which I believe are coming in Scotland.

As regards the controversial question of what the permitted hours should be, the Government are proposing an extension of hours to eleven in the evening. I accept that. There are also relaxations allowing drinks to be served late with a meal. I believe that these changes should greatly help in modernising the licensing law and making Scotland more attractive for visitors. I am not suggesting that people will in future go to Scotland in order to get drinks at times when they will not be able to get them South of the Border, in the way in which in the past people contracted runaway marriages North of the Border.

At present, unfortunately, where holidays and leisure pursuits are concerned, in Scotland there is the disincentive that the licensing laws are very strict. But the three week period of the Edinburgh Festival has been assisted in recent years by a special arrangement in that city to extend permitted hours. I think the important conclusion arising from an observation of this is that it has made no difference to the degree of drunkenness in the city during those periods. Of course it has made a great difference to the convenience and pleasure of visitors, especially visitors from abroad, because where one has concerts and plays and other parts of the Festival these produce a requirement for late meals and refreshment. So in a way that has been a small pilot scheme which has shown that extension of hours for a period of that kind has not been accompanied by any observable increase in drunkenness.

The tourist industry in Scotland as a whole will certainly welcome this Bill. If it is not to be handicapped then the hours when licensed premises can he open need to be extended. As the noble Lord the Minister has reminded us, when this Bill was in the Commons the decision to open public houses in Scotland on Sundays was inserted in the Bill. That had been a recommendation by the Clayson Committee, but it was one which the Government had not accepted in the original version of the Bill. I am in favour of this Sunday opening, and therefore I am glad to hear that the Minister is not proposing to alter that. But I suggest that we should examine whether the conditions which the Government immediately introduced into the Bill when that change was made in the other place are appropriate or necessary. They are contained in Schedule 4. I was therefore glad to hear the Minister say that he himself is not content with conditions as they stand at present and that he intends to make some changes or will look again at those conditions, so I regard them as still being open to consideration at the Committee stage.

I am glad also that the Bill will abolish what is known in Scotland as the veto poll, that is the temperance provision in Scottish legislation which has enabled polls to be taken in certain areas and then that area to become a "dry" area where, for a period of years, no alcoholic liquor can be purchased. I believe that system is out of date and that it has in fact been abused. It has been open to misuse and in its uncertainty it has been unsettling for the hotel and tourist industry when they are considering setting up in different parts of Scotland.

Let me explain this. First, in cities where a veto poll has taken place and a district has decided to go "dry", what in fact has happened is that it has not caused any decrease in the number of licensed premises generally; it has merely meant that the people of that district have tramped to an adjacent district to get their drinks. To put it in other words, those who voted in favour of theirs becoming a "dry" district have simply succeeded in exporting their drinkers for the evening to the adjoining district.

Then, when we come to the more rural areas in Scotland, there has been an impediment to the setting up of hotels and restaurants, because anybody considering setting up an hotel or restaurant—particularly, shall we say, along the West Coast where a veto poll might be taken at fairly short notice—did not know whether, two or three years after they started in business, there might not be a veto poll, meaning that their bar and the sale of drinks would have to go. Naturally that is a considerable element in their calculations concerning running a business as an hotel or restaurant. So it has been damaging to the expansion of the tourist industry in Scotland, which is exceedingly valuable to our country as a whole, that the veto polls could take place at fairly short notice under previous legislation; and I am glad to know that the Clayson recommendation has been accepted and that these veto polls will no longer exist when this Bill has gone through.

The noble Lord spoke about the arrangements for transition. I think these should be the subject of consideration at the Committee stage because I am not certain that they could not be improved. In general, changing the system by legislation can be of great help, and I hope it is clear that I am welcoming the Scottish Licensing Bill because I firmly believe that reform in this area in Scotland is necessary. But I hope it will be clear also from what I have said that I believe it is the attitude to drink in certain quarters which should be brought up to date, for the benefit of everyone in Scotland as a whole. The aim should be first to reduce drunkenness and, secondly, to make Scotland as a whole more attractive as a place to live in, and to improve the quality of life for both residents and visitors.

If I may quote from page 227 of the report of the Clayson Committee, the Committee state: The weakness lies … in the attitudes in Scotland towards alcohol and drinking practices. Changes in the rules and changes in ritual which we are able to carry out in this legislation will do little if it will not also make a break in general attitudes in Scotland towards alcohol. I hope that this Bill will be a significant step in the right direction.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, at the outset may I assoicate myself with the welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, to this Bill, which constitutes a comprehensive reform of the law of licensing in Scotland. My reason for intervening in this debate after so long an absence from these Benches is twofold. In the first place, I have the honour to be chairman of a Committee which sat between 1959 and 1963 on the question of licensing law, and secondly, because I have during my whole life at the Bar and on the Bench associated myself with this question of licensing. I claim to know perhaps a little about the subject.

My Lords, the Committee of which I was chairman made two reports. The first report, which was urgently required and which was expeditiously dealt with in 14 months, had to do with sale, permitted hours, and the question of Sunday opening. The second report proceeded at a more leisurely pace as it was concerned with the procedural aspects of the licensing law, and had to be delayed, rightly, until the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. When we sat as a Committee, we were faced with this ridiculous situation of what was known as the bona fide traveller. I do not know whether any of your Lordships will remember those days—


Very well.


—when, to get a drink, one had to go in and sign a book to certify that one had travelled an unspecified distance from home, wherever that was. It led to uncertainty, to abuse, and was really a crying scandal. We suggested two things. In the first place, we suggested that on Sundays, hotels, and also public houses, should be allowed to have a bar open. Unfortunately, despite my endeavours in this place, the Government did not accept that recommendation as regards the Sunday opening of public houses, although hotels were allowed to keep their bars open on a Sunday.

So we now have the ridiculous situation that a hotel which has more than four bedrooms can have the bar open, and during permitted hours, Tom, Dick and Harry can come in and have a drink on a Sunday; but a public house, which has no bedrooms and is not a hotel, has to remain closed. This really is a farcical situation and has led to the abuse of which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, spoke, of the trekking from one district to another. There are many parts of cities in Scotland where hotels are few and far between. In the same city there will be districts where there are many hotels. As a result, as can he seen from reading the weekend papers, there is a trek on Sundays from the non-hotel district to the hotel district in order to get a drink. This results in increased transport costs to the consumer, who also has to pay more for his drink when he gets to the hotel.

That was the situation, which was unduly anomalous and illogical. Yet that situation has remained to the present day. When introducing this legislation in another place, the Government were prepared to allow that anomalous situation to continue. Sunday opening was not inserted in the Bill until the Scottish Standing Committee inserted it simpliciter. The Clayson Committee recommended Sunday opening as did the Committee over which I presided. The Scottish Standing Committee passed Sunday opening, but the Government could not leave well alone. At Report stage in another place, they introduced restrictions which in my respectful view will go far to render nugatory the whole of the privilege obtained by Sunday opening.

My Lords, at this stage I will not go into detail on the provisions, but the unfortunate licensee who has a licence for his premises, has surmounted the test under Clause 17, must then proceed under Schedule 4 to apply for a Sunday licence. He then has to go through the same test, and under Part II he has to be subject to the target of complaint. I am not sure how the situation will stand when the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, are put on Schedule 4, but in my respectful view the only proper way of dealing with that Schedule is to delete it altogether from the Bill. It seems to me to be unduly restrictive, unnecessary, and really an insult to Scotland. Scotland is being treated like a child who is given a sweet but is being told, "You cannot eat it unless you behave yourself". I would not put my name to any such restriction.

My Lords, there are, however, good parts in the Bill of which I have no criticism to make. I also agree that the extra hour will be a great advantage to the tourist trade. It is hoped that it will reduce the rapid and compulsive drinking which occurs near closing time. The provisions regarding the procedural aspect of the Bill have my wholehearted approval. The licensing board replaces the licensing court. That was a most anomalous situation, where the appeal was from the licensing court to a court of appeal composed partly of the original licensing court and lay members—verily an appeal from Caesar to Caesar! That has been swept away, and the appeal is to the sheriff.

The noble Lord who introduced this Bill explained the way in which the sheriff comes into the picture. I should like just to emphasise one particular ground upon which the sheriff can overturn the decision of the licensing board. He can overturn it if their decision was based on inaccurate material facts. No one wants the sheriff to enter into a full-blooded examination of the facts of the case, but it enables the sheriff in a suitable case to correct the position, which may be very rare, where the licensing board has gone plainly wrong and has misinterpreted the facts.

My Lords, another matter which I believe is of great benefit to licence holders is the quarterly sitting of licensing courts. At present, owing to the fact that the licensing courts sit only half-yearly, great injustice is done where the licensee, having completed all the other requirements, has had to wait for six months before he could get a licence.

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill. It has a nasty sting in its tail in Schedule 4 and if, perhaps at a later stage, that sting is removed, one may be able to give the Bill one's wholehearted blessing.

4 p.m.


My Lords, I had the pleasure and happiness to serve on the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Guest. I should like to start by testifying to the care and the understanding and the patience with which Lord Guest led us through a veritable maze of evidence from all sides and the time that he spent upon getting the right answers. The noble Lord, Lord Guest, has referred to one of the main conclusions of his Committee; namely, the Sunday opening. It was the greatest pity that the action of the Government, to whom that report was made, did not include it. And again it was the greatest pity that it was not included in the Bill in its original submission in the other place. I would, therefore, support most strongly, and will do so in Committee, the suggestion of the noble Lord that we should delete Schedule 4 to the Bill, which puts quite unnecessary restrictions upon the granting of Sunday licences. That is quite unwarranted and is more likely to cause trouble than to do good.

My Lords, we owe a very great debt to Dr. Clayson and his Committee for their report. Dr. Clayson had a wider term of remit. His remit was not to any specific side of the licensing law, as was the case with the Committee under Lord Guest; the terms of reference enabled Dr. Clayson to review the whole field. He took advantage of that in that he gives at the beginning of his report what one might term a philosophical and scientific approach to the whole subject of drinking, and I would commend this to anybody anywhere in the world concerned with this problem of alcohol.

It is clear, both from the conclusion which he reaches and from other sources, that Scotland suffers from a serious problem of alcohol misuse, both absolutely and in comparison with England and Wales. Therefore, the Clayson Committee addresses itself to the relaxation of the licensing laws, and comes to the conclusion that they probably have little effect upon the total amount consumed. I would like to quote from the report, paragraph 1.36: But we consider that in a society in which alcohol is available on the scale it is today, and in which the financial resources are available, there is little or no chance of preventing those who misuse it from obtaining it; nor would the severe degree of restriction necessary to achieve this be politically acceptable or, in our opinion, justifiable. It continues: …licensing is likely to be most effective if it operates in support of social controls."—[Para. 1.40.] That is the spirit of the report on which the rest of the final conclusions are based, and should have been the main motive underlying the Bill. Unfortunately, it was somewhat obscured.

I want to go on now to one or two details. The first is the licensing boards. The Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Guest, reported that there was dissatisfaction with the present system; we had no doubt about that whatsoever. Therefore, one welcomes the fact that in the Bill something is going to be done about the old courts; that they are to be boards serviced by the district council and consisting of members of the district council— not less than one-quarter of the total number of members of the district or islands council. I am very apprehensive about this proposal. It seems to me that it is going to transgress a legal maxim, because the district councils more and more are desirous themselves of selling liquor and establishing, as it were, public houses on their own premises. That offends the precept of their being a judge in their own cause. I should have preferred to see the boards consist of justices of the peace, selected. Some of those justices might well have been members of local authorities, but they should be there in their position as justices of the peace. I have given one reason, to avoid their being judges in their own cause. I have another.

I was for over 16 years in local government in Scotland, and I was not the only person who was well aware and had grave suspicions of illicit dealings in the granting of licences. I endeavoured to try to bring this out into the open in the Guest Committee, but there were no convicted cases to be found in recent times. The noble Lord, Lord Guest, quite rightly—and I willingly submitted to it—ruled that we could not take that matter any further. Only six months after that report was published there was a very bad case of what one might call illicit dealing, bribery and corruption, in connection with the granting of licences, and there have been several more since then. If your Lordships' want to have evidence about these you can consider the number of cases in Scotland quite recently, and especially the number of local authority by-elections that have cropped up in recent months due to prosecution on criminal charges. I own to having some mistrust of the elected representatives to local authorities as such at the present time. Also, I fear to a certain extent that if they are composed solely of members of the district councils there will be very grave danger of Party prejudices coming in and affecting the decisions that they make.

May I come to the recommendation of the Clayson Report that police should have a right of entry to registered clubs as to licensed premises. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, has said, this was a point to which we gave great consideration. There were in existence at that time, and I believe there still are, many clubs which are just, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy described, drinking dens. We discussed in the Guest Committee the question of entry to clubs. I think that we were inclined to agree that there was very little objection to it from the type of club that had nothing to fear, and that the objections to the right of entry by police to clubs came from those clubs which were not being run as they ought to be. I took note of what the Minister told us, that is, that as a result of lobbying by certain organisations the Government have intentions of substantially altering the clause as it stands just now which enables the police to enter clubs. I am sad to hear this, and if this is the case I would hope that we shall be given some details of the clubs that are doing this lobbying.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene when the noble Lord seeks to develop the points of interest to him, but to set the record quite straight I am sure that the noble Lord misheard my earlier comments. The position so far as police right of entry to clubs is concerned is that as a result of debate in the other place the Government ceded the position of those who opposed this right to the police, so that I will now at Committee stage lead an Amendment which takes us back to the position of the 1957 Act, at which point the police had right of entry to clubs only upon warrant from the justice of the peace. That is the position.


My Lords, I think that it is a pity that there should be this difference made. It would be a pity not to leave that clause as it stands in the Bill now, and that they should have to make appeal to justices of the peace. With some of these places the sooner it is possible for action to be taken the less will be the harm that is done by them. I feel that it is a corollary of the extra liberalisation of the drink laws that any infraction of them should be speedily and, if necessary, forcibly dealt with. In other words, it should be possible, where there is abuse, that those premises should be speedily closed. If I had had any hand in the drafting of this Bill, I would have wished to put in some clause whereby the chief constable had a right to close any premises immediately without giving the owner of the premises, the licensee, any notice whatsoever, and allowing him then to make appeal to the Licensing Board at the next appropriate time.

There is one small point. I think that Clause 53 leaves, in its present form, a vestige of the battle in the other place, and there seems to me to be some unnecessary circumlocution. I would join my noble friend Lord Campbell in welcoming this Bill. It is indeed a step forward, and from any criticisms that I may have expressed it can be in no way taken that I am antagonistic to the Bill as a whole. I hope that it will go through with speed.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I echo the general welcome for this Bill and its modernising effects from those noble Lords who have spoken. I object neither to the opening of public houses on a Sunday nor to the extension of evening hours. Both measures seem desired and desirable from the public's point of view, although licensees in some areas who hold current seven day certificates may not look so benevolently on the addition to the working week and operational costs in relation to turnover, turnover probably to be affected, perhaps not unfairly, by more competition on Sunday. I tend to share the view that, while changes in patterns of drinking habit will ensue, it does not follow that consumption of alcohol in total will increase. My grounds for feeling this are that I consider that probably more effect upon total consumption has in recent years derived not from previous extensions of hours, or relaxations in regard to Sunday drinking, but from changes in the off-sale situation; not necessarily increases in numbers of off-sale premises, but rather in the character of such premises and the hours for which they are open, and because of their character, the comparatively lower prices at which they currently offer alcohol than it was previously offered by the older established off-sale premises.

Such remarks as I may make do not have the force of the comprehensive knowledge of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, or of the long-term interest in the subject of my noble friends Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Balerno. The views I express derive from some practical experience, albeit limited in duration and locality, gained in five years as holder of a certificate for an inn and hotel on a main road in Argyll. My premises doubled as hotel and as local pub for a large village and I was, in every respect, a working licensee, as those noble Lords who have chanced to patronise my establishment from time to time will, I am sure, testify. However, I have no interest to declare as I sold the business and premises last May; in other words, I was a publican and sinner but I am no longer a publican.

That said—to put my views, such as they are, in perspective—I hasten to add that I do not intend this afternoon to go into any ideas or thoughts that I may have on alcohol and its social uses or abuses or the problems associated therewith but, rather, to content myself with referring briefly to some points regarding areas of the Bill where I hope changes or improvements can be made in Committee. Although these are points which are different from those already touched on, that does not mean to say that I do not concur in the views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, concerning the complexities of Schedule 4 and the complexities that will arise from its operation. Nor do I dissent from the views of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, concerning the composition of courts.

First, I dislike the provision in the Bill which alters the currency of a licence from one year to three. The Clayson Committee arguments in favour of the three-year life of a licence are the administrative burdens arising from the present annual renewals in March and the virtual automatic renewal where no objection has been lodged. I do not want to go into this in great detail or to make a Committee point of it this afternoon, but it is my view that more rather than less attendance by licensees at board meetings and more rather than less contact between board and licensee is desirable. After all, apart from police responsibility, it is through licensees that the board enforces the law. While on this subject, it strikes me that the three-year currency of a licence will mitigate against advantages to be gained from the requirement in the Bill for one condition of grant of licence to be certification under the food and drugs legislation.

My second point relates to Clause 31(3)(b) which provides for the suspension of a licence on receipt of complaint of any misconduct occurring in the vicinity of the licensed premises on the part of persons frequenting those premises. This wording has undergone changes at earlier stages of the Bill in another place but in my view the sanction as it stands is too severe. I will not go into the detail of it today, but this is a view borne purely of practical experience. Is it not worth bearing in mind that in some localities the effect of this sanction—I do not say that this would happen, but it could—could result not only in the losing of a licence which would entail the loss of the livelihood of the licensee but also deprivation to the community where there are perhaps no alternative licensed premises? Although I stand to be corrected, I believe that the legislation concerning the pay and conditions of staff in the licensed and hotel trades might also result in the loss of jobs without compensation for any staff involved. I am not arguing that somebody who regularly permits disorderly behaviour should escape the sanctions of the law but simply that, as worded, this provision in referring to "vicinity" puts too heavy a burden on him in the discharge of his duties.

My third point concerns the granting of occasional licences in one particular respect. Under Clause 33(10) the ability of a board to grant an occasional licence, or what we in Scotland currently know as a special permission, is extended to it being grantable to holders of off-sale licences. This provision appears to have grown out of the proposals concerning clubs and such in Clayson 15.05. I may be wrong, but do not find therein any specific recommendation from Dr. Clayson's Committee in this regard. I express concern on this issue because experience in dispensing alcohol by the measure and in maintaining order is essential to the proper discharge of the conditions attached to such an occasional licence. In my experience the circumstances and venue of an outside function for which such a licence may be granted tend to create special problems in this latter respect. I am no longer a licensee, but if I were and if I were declaring an interest I might, on a lesser point, say that this amounts to permitting somebody else to detract from the livelihood of a full licensee working in a particular locality and providing a year-round service to those in that locality.

There are a number of other points that I will not detail this afternoon. Indeed, the answers to them may be lurking somewhere in the 140 clauses of the Bill. To give, as it were, advance notice however of some matters which I may raise in Committee, concerning what I would describe as small operational difficulties which I have encountered over the years, I would cite the inability of courts (now to be boards) to grant two types of licence in respect of one premises even when that might be desirable. Equally, there is the apparent inability, as I understand it, for a licensing board to grant a licence covering the whole of a licence holder's premises where one part is physically separated from another but when it might be in the public and licensing interests for him to be able to use both parts of those premises for the licensed trade. There are some small points regarding the need for urgent occasional licences for such events as funerals, but they are not matters for this afternoon.

I hope that nothing I have said has detracted from the welcome I gave the Bill at the outset. I am sorry for having detained your Lordships for so long but, before resuming my seat, I must add that I wish the Bill a safe and speedy passage, and express my thanks to Dr. Clayson and his Committee for the excellent report which has provided the framework for the Bill.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, let me say first that I was indeed pleased and delighted to hear from all those noble Lords who have spoken that, in general terms, they welcome the Bill and the purpose behind it. I was particularly delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, emphasised that which is the reality of the difficulty in Scotland; namely, that the incidence of alcoholism in my native country is at an historically high level. It is against that particular difficulty that a Bill of licensing reform must be seen. In my opinion, it is against that general background on the Scottish scene that one must judge the implications of a Bill such as that which is before your Lordships' House this afternoon.

Because of that very real social concern which all who think of the problem consider the Scottish position on alcoholism to be we find that there is a question of judgment and a matter of opinion as to how far a reforming Bill should be totally radical. I must say that, at this point, I would at least take issue with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, when he claims that Schedule 4 is indeed the sting in the tail. I accept that, in times of absolute liberalism and in a spirit of a completely libertarian approach, that would be a valid criticism, but I feel that previous Administrations can be defended for their reluctance to move in the manner which the noble Lord's Commission suggested when they reported as regards Sunday opening.

One major difficulty is that in some of the very large Scottish cities public houses are frequently situated in the most undesirable loci. I give the example of the indifferent tenement street and the usual Saturday night fight which obtains in that area. This causes a reluctance to go on and take the extra step which the noble and learned Lord would clearly like.

I should be remiss if I did not remark on a comment of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. While I know lie welcomed the general tenor of the Bill, I should not like the impression to be fully sustained that a number of trials which have recently taken place in Scotland, or which are perhaps pending, necessarily reflect upon local authority representatives in their capacity as licensing authorities. I believe that the noble Lord gave that impression and I feel that, for the record, I must restrain and repulse that suggestion.

I of course welcome the generous remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, about the Bill. I recognise that he has a number of doubts and fears about some clauses and I understand from what he has said that I shall hear in more detail about these points later. I have noted the remarks which he has made this afternoon. It is rather difficult to deal comprehensively with every point that may be raised on a Bill of this kind, but I should like briefly to touch upon two or three of the main points which those noble Lords who have spoken have emphasised. First, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, mentioned the licensing board and its composition.

It was suggested in the other place that it was a mistake to allow district and islands councils to have the sole responsibility for acting as members of the licensing boards. The Clayson Committee considered this very fully, taking account not only of the evidence given to it but also of what had been said earlier to the Committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord. The Clayson Report made it clear that the Committee thought it desirable for the local authority itself to act as the licensing authority but accepted that there were practical difficulties in this course of action. What it recommended, therefore, was a system which was, in the Government's view, workable and which would establish licensing boards to be serviced by district and islands councils and their officials. Part I of the Bill provides for this system and, in this instance, the Government have followed the Clayson Report very closely.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, very properly emphasised the points which emerged as they relate to the question of permitted hours because, as I said in my earlier remarks on this point, these will impinge quite readily upon the general public. I feel that it is worth re-emphasising that on weekdays the closing hour will become 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. and that on Sundays public houses which satisfy the requirements of Schedule 4—and I must enter that caveat—will have the same permitted hours as hotels, restaurants and registered clubs.

I might have said earlier—and I shall repair the omission now—that, during the proceedings in another place, we agreed to make a change in Clause 56 which will give certain athletic clubs the option of having permitted hours on Saturdays during the winter between 1 o'clock in the afternoon and half past ten in the evening. I think that it is important to restrict the departures from permitted hours fairly regularly and I feel that this suggestion strikes about the right sort of balance.

To touch on one other point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, he mentioned the question of the temperance poll legislation. I believe that this is an example of the Government's acceptance of a Clayson Committee recommendation with some modifications. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I reiterate that we agree with the repeal of the legislation, but that we regard it as essential that there should be transitional safeguards. The transitional arrangements are in two parts: the existing position in the areas concerned is frozen for three years and thus no change is possible in that period. After three years a district or islands council could pass a resolution to bring about a change, but even then the normal arrangements would not apply immediately since, for a further period of five years, the licensing board would have an additional ground for refusing applications. This is a power to refuse to grant a licence on the ground that, having regard to the distribution of facilities in the area, it is inexpedient to grant it. We have included this provision to allow the board exceptionally to have regard to distribution since otherwise, particularly in formerly dry areas, there would be a risk that the distribution of facilities would not be entirely suitable.

My Lords, I have already indicated that, in my opinion, the Bill is a sensible and much needed step forward in the provision for civilised drinking in the land of Scotland. I have noted with care the points made in the various contributions to the debate this afternoon.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.