§ 3.21 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Modification of permitted hours]:
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 11, at end insert—
("( ) In section 60(1)(b) of the principal Act (permitted hours in licensed premises on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday) the words "with a break of five hours beginning at two in the afternoon" shall he omitted.")
§ The noble Lord said: I understand that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 together. In moving Amendment No. 1 coupled with Amendment No. 2, both of which are in my name, I recognise the Government's problem in extending to Sunday the freedom that they have given in the Bill from Monday to Saturday. I recognise their problem because I understand that when the Bill was presented in another place they indicated that on this occasion they do not want to interfere fundamentally with the 1038 general feeling expressed in previous debates as to how the matter of Sunday should be settled.
§ However, I feel that this is an occasion when we should reinforce how illogicial it is that on the one day when local citizens want the benefit of the extra freedom suggested in the amendment, it will be denied to them. Sunday is a family day and a day when the family moves together and often eats and congregates outside their own homes. It is perhaps the only opportunity to do that. Therefore, to be under the restriction of not being able to enjoy the full freedom of spending their Sunday in a normal, national way is illogical and unsatisfactory. Also, it goes some way to bringing the law into contempt which is bad from every point of view. Because it is illogical and because it cuts across a normal family function, it carries with it the risk of people going outside the strict terms of this legislation.
§ Therefore, I prefer Amendment No. 1 where the same freedom is given on Sunday as is being given from Monday to Saturday. I take that view purely on the grounds that such an extension will help the normal family function of being together and, in these days of motorcars, of driving out and eating in places other than their own homes—in other words making a day of it. However, I recognise that the Government are in some difficulty if they have indicated that they will not deal with that matter on this occasion.
§ Amendment No. 2 need not be included in that general understanding of the Government's position. Amendment No. 2 proposes that instead of insisting by legislation that the power to sell intoxicating liquor shall end at 2 o'clock, it should be extended to 3 o'clock. It proposes an extension of one hour. It is not a question of wanting to edge over the boundaries of the principle. It fits into the common sense of the matter. When we are passing legislation which will eventually become a statute, we must take into account the principle behind any move that we make, but we must not completely ignore the common sense practicalities that go with it. I believe that this is an occasion where, without in any way infringing on the principle of wanting to recognise the separateness of Sunday—which is the indication that the Government have given and which I have said I understand—we can achieve both; the principle and the practical.
§ Perhaps I may give an example and I should declare an interest. We have a small family group of hotels which would be affected by this measure. However, I believe that by declaring an interest one is really saying that one knows something of the matter as it operates on the ground and it should add to rather than detract from the force of the argument.
§ Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday and in our hotels on that day our restaurants were crowded because families wanted to honour their mother and to turn the occasion into a family party. That meant that the number of people who wanted to book to celebrate Mothering Sunday in our restaurants could not be fitted in during the normal opening hours of the restaurant. It meant that we had to sectionalise and some reservations were later than others in order to give our customers the satisfaction they wanted on that day. From experience I can say with some 1039 firmness that that extra hour would make all the difference in the world in dealing with an occasion such as Mothering Sunday by keeping within the law at the same time giving satisfaction to those people who want to celebrate that day which we all applaud.
§ Normally people go out and eat and have a drink and relax between 12 to 12.30 and 2.30 to 3.00. I believe that to say rigidly that the covers must be put on at exactly two o'clock, irrespective of the practical matters which are affected, is carrying legislation to a rather ridiculous point.
§ The principle that people can drink on a Sunday is conceded by the Bill itself. Under the licensing law as set out in this Bill people can drink until 2 o'clock. Therefore, the principle of whether or not they should be able to enjoy this facility is granted by the Bill. How can any Government or any group of people be so certain that the right hour to draw the line is 2 o'clock? I do not guarantee that 3 o'clock is necessarily the perfect answer but I merely say that from a practical point of view it is more likely to be a sensible one than the rigid time of 2 o'clock as laid down by the Bill.
§ I ask noble Lords to think of their own procedure on a Sunday. I guarantee that almost all of us have a slightly different routine on a Sunday in terms of our lunch hour and time for recreation. Everything is done later than in the week. You get up bit later, have your breakfast a bit later and you have lunch a little bit later. We know of all of those things from practical experience because that is what we do ourselves. Therefore, in moving Amendment No. 1 I hope that there may have been a change of mind and that there is a chance that the Front Bench will be able to say that they will allow Sunday to be the same as weekdays but, as I have already said I understand their problems.
§ On the second amendment I stand firm. I believe that this is a matter where we ought to allow commonsense to run alongside our principles, whatever they are. If the principle is that one ought not to drink at all, then to support a Bill which says that one may drink until two o'clock is in itself a nonsense. It is illogical to say that until two o'clock is the only time when the principle ought to operate and beyond that it ought not.
§ My appeal to the Government and to my noble friend is that, whatever they do with Amendment No. 1, I hope that on Amendment No. 2 they will recognise that nobody can be so precise as to guarantee that their principles end at two o'clock and cannot be allowed to go on for an extra hour although there are practical considerations.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Dean, who will be speaking to his amendment in this group, produces a very different argument concerning airports. I have to say that I agree with him. The representations made to me show the difficulties in the bars at our airports, which are different from others round the world. People coming to this country find it a little ridiculous, in their eyes, that we should be so different from all the other airports.1040
§ Lord Renton
I have been listening carefully to my noble friend, but is he suggesting that it is a majority or a minority of families who visit hotels and pubs on Christmas Day, Good Friday and Sundays? Is it a majority or a minority?
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I do not know whether it is a minority or a majority, but I know that many families do. I know that enough families do that for me to say that we ought to take their views and needs into account, but I do not think there has ever been a Gallup poll upon the point. I know that in the part of the country where I have always lived, and still live, Sunday is a day when people go to the pub in a family group more than they do during the week. It is within my knowledge that our neighbours, as well as ourselves, as a family get into the motor car and travel into the country to have a drink in a country pub or go to a local hotel. It is within my knowledge that most people I know do things a little bit later on a Sunday than on a weekday, so that, where two o'clock might on a weekday fit into the normal pattern of lunch when the family is together, it is different on a Sunday.
I should not like to commit myself on whether these people form a majority or a minority, because I do not know, but I do know that enough families find this a normal way of life for me to be very disappointed if the Government on this occasion feel that they are so certain on this precise two o'clock timing that they cannot recognise the practical needs as reflected in a majority of households in this country who like a drink.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
Before the noble Lord sits down—and I do not want to speak at length on this amendment because I shall speak to my own amendment—does he not agree in regard to the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that, while one may not be able to distinguish whether there is a minority or a majority of people who go out to eat on Christmas Day, Good Friday and Sundays, there is no question at all but that it is being done by increasing numbers? If one wants to go out for a meal with the family on such days one must book well in advance to get a table.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
The noble Lord confirms the reply that I gave to my noble friend. I do not know the precise figures. I do not think it matters. I do not believe that on every piece of legislation we pass we have to work out whether there is a majority of one in the country for or against it. Our job is to reflect the normal pattern of life of the country and to try not to obsruct it too greatly. If one is creating an obstacle to the normal pattern of life one risks bringing the law itself into contempt, because people will want to subvert it if they think that what they are doing is right.
It is for that reason that I strongly press my Amendment No. 2. However, I do understand the problems of the Government as regards Amendment No. 1. I certainly support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dean—indeed, I added my name to it—which confines itself to giving the same 1041 sort of freedom to airport bars that other countries give to theirs. I beg to move.
§ Lord Peston
In attaching my name to the first amendment let me say first that, although I am sympathetic to the other amendments mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, it seems to me that the key amendment is Amendment No. 1.
I do not expect on most issues in this Chamber to be on the same side as the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, but I am delighted to agree with him on this matter. The reason I support the amendment is not that I am averse to interfering with market processes, so to speak. Apart from markets operating within a correct framework of law and order, I believe that particular markets have to be scrutinised especially with a view to protecting the consumer and ensuring that there are no adverse social and environmental consequences. In other words, I am certainly an interventionist but I do not believe in interfering for its own sake. That seems to be the crux of the matter. I certainly do not believe in intervention which does harm rather than good.
I am bound to say, looking at the licensing laws in general, that they seem to be altogether irrational. The restrictions on Sunday opening, as the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, pointed out, are illogical to the point of absurdity. It can hardly be a matter of religion, as has been implied, because licensed premises would have to be closed all day on Sunday. Clearly they are not and they are not going to be.
It is also worth making the additional point that other countries which are recognisably more religious than this country do not have such restraints on Sundays. It is also worth recognising that it is simply not the case that easier licensing hours cause excessive drinking. Research evidence does not show that at all. In any case, it is illogical and a fallacy to regard a specific form of access to alcohol as a cause of alcoholism. It is a mistake to believe that. What is apparent is that Sunday closing is annoying to holidaymakers, to foreign visitors and to ordinary people, all of whom are respectable people. There is no issue here concerning respectability.
It may be that such restrictions were appropriate at some time in the past but today they serve no useful purpose. In my view they are an affront to a liberal democracy. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, says that he understands the Government's difficulties. I do not understand them at all. The Government ought to be more courageous and it is about time they let us grow up.
§ Lord Soper
In attempting to seek the rejection of these amendments, it may be convenient for the Committee if I indicate briefly the reasons that I shall not attempt to adduce. I am a committed teetotaller. I was brought up to believe that alcohol is the devil in solution. I no longer hold that view and I am not going to argue the teetotal case. Neither am I prepared to argue that essentially the Christian point of view should be adduced as a reason for the total closing of such premises on Sundays.
I prefer to start by saying that I believe, from evidence to which I am prepared to give categorical 1042 affirmation, that drinking of alcohol has increased, is increasing and should be diminished. In particular, I believe that the case rests quite surely and profoundly on the effect of increased alcohol indulgence among young people. Over the past 40 years I have had a great deal to do with alcoholism in its more rampant forms. Our evidence is, I believe, substantial and irrefutable that the age at which many youngsters being to drink is much earlier than it was and that the casualty rate among those who take to drink when they are very young, particularly in the adolescent stage, tends to increase.
I wish to make a simple plea if I may. I am quite sure that one of the elements in increased drinking among young people is the availability of continuous drinking. It is almost a sign of one's masculinity to carry a can around with you and continuously to imbibe from that can or other cans. In my judgment it is one of the most dangerous assumptions that though you would not necessarily say that youngsters today are taking more alcohol spasmodically, the accustomed habit of repeatedly and continuously taking alcohol by the availability of a can and the opening hours of the public house creates a very great moral danger.
I am quite sure of one fact; namely, that the ability to continue to drink would be a very strong contention and a very strong incentive for those who can remain within the public house over the hours of the afternoon. Perhaps I may make it a personal matter. Surely there is something to be said for other forms of public pursuit and entertainment rather than those which have been argued rather too conspiciously in terms of the family. There are a great many youngsters who do not belong to a family; there are a great many youngsters who will now be inclined to spend their time on Sunday afternoons in the pub if it stays open rather than coming to heckle me in Hyde Park which I would much prefer.
Therefore not specifically on the grounds of a Christian argument I say that this kind of attitude contained in the amendment is a measure that is dangerous particularly to those who are most susceptible in encouraging a continuity of drinking throughout the day. I shall not expand that in any greater detail. However, for that reason, I hope very much that this Committee will not agree to the amendments.
§ Lord Broxbourne
I rise at this moment only to make a very brief intervention in order to clarify the position as regards Amendment No. 3 which is standing in my name on the Marshalled List. My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls was obviously surprised when I indicated that this amendment was not being moved. I could not fail but to note the puzzled expression which momentarily clouded his distinguished features. I hasten to reassure him and the Committee in general that this does not indicate any change of heart on my part. I do not resile at all from the sentiments conveyed in Amendment No. 3. It is purely a matter of form and drafting. Amendment No. 3 follows precisely the wording of the amendment moved in the other place by my respected friend Anthony Steen. It was drawn to my attention by the Minister and his ever helpful, expert 1043 and agreeable advisers that it would be more appropriate to get the same sentiment into the pattern of the proceedings now before your Lordships' Committee.
The substance of Amendment No. 3 now appears, I hope, more appropriately. If it is thought that the drafting is not more appropriate, then do not blame me but blame my noble friend the Minister. It appears in the fasciculus of amendments standing in my name; namely, Amendment No. 13 et sequentes. Those Members of the Committee who have the stamina to remain until then will hear me at a little greater length (but I hope not wearisomely so) when I shall clarify the thinking behind that proposition.
§ Earl Attlee
As I put my name down to the first amendment, I should mention that I thought I had put my name down to the second amendment but I see that it is not there.
The Minister at Second Reading said that this is a simple Bill and it should be kept that way. I certainly agree with him. I do not think one could get anything more simple than suggesting (in speaking to Amendment No. 2) that instead of pubs closing at two o'clock in the afternoon, they should close one hour later. I went across to my local, which is a family pub, because I was slightly worried about what the licensee felt regarding staying open another hour. Basically, his reply was that he would be delighted to open for a further hour on Sunday because he had lots of trade. He said that opening the rest of the week all through the afternoon would not be any good to him because there was not sufficient trade. Time and again the noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke about boys and men having cans of beer which had been bought from a pub. I said at Second Reading that I believed that these people do not buy their beer from pubs in cans; they buy it from supermarkets.
§ Earl Attlee
The noble Lord is quite right. They buy their cans of beer from corner shops and off-licences. I do not believe that pubs opening for one more hour on Sunday is going to turn anyone into a drunkard. It is going to alter the normal drinking pattern of people. As the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said, it is a family affair. Families go out on a Sunday and they may even go to church first. Then they may go to the pub and they go as a family. All we are asking for is one more hour.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said: young people drink much more today. The reason is that they have more money. That is a good thing. In Scotland you can drink pretty well the whole day. In some areas you get more drunkenness. I remember the medical officer for Argyll telling me that on the island of Barra there is, per capita, the highest alcoholic content in the world. In the winter it is understandable, I suppose. Before the war I was once stationed in the Army in the Gorbals at Mary Hill barracks. The drunkenness there was appalling. It 1044 was not necessarily due to alcohol. What some people used to do was to put gas into a milk bottle. That makes you completely roaring drunk in a very short time. It is also very cheap. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, while I agree that young people drink more, I do not really think that it affects the licensing laws.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
Perhaps I may say a very brief word on this matter. I agree with the logic of what has been said in support of extending licensing hours on a Sunday. The logic is that there will be more people who will benefit from it. They will not be only tourists, young people or the unemployed because they are the people who will most benefit during the week. There will be families and those who got up rather later and wish to have a later lunch.
The logic is very strong in support of Sunday opening. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said how people would arrive in their cars. This point shows the reverse of the argument. One of the fears that many of us have had about this Bill is that there will be a greater amount of drink and driving problems. This argument is certainly very strong in relation to those who visit pubs on a Sunday. They will go with their families in a car. This is the only note of anxiety that I have about Sunday opening. It may well be a way of increasing the number people who will drink and drive at the same time. I do not share the worry that I believe the Government have about this being a danger to Sundays. I think there is a danger of a possible extension of drinking and driving.
In supporting the amendment spoken to so ably by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls I should like to take up one issue. He used the hotel analogy. I may be quite wrong, but I think he need have no fear in that respect because it is covered by the Private Member's Bill of my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
My major reason for supporting the amendment is that Sunday is the only day of the week when in the vast majority of families the mother is relieved of the appalling chore of preparing the daily lunch for the children. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, may not know it, but for many families which would not dream of going to the pub on a Sunday the pub may be the only club that men have experience of, and to deprive those families of the opportunity of going out en famille as the French, the Spanish and so many Continentals do would be very sad. As for the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who suggested that he was speaking for Christians, I understand that the Church of England supports the Bill.
§ Lord Ardwick
I should like to know more about the families which go out to lunch. What ages are they? What kind of families are they? During the debate there has been a singular lack of understanding of ordinary life in the industrial areas of this country. The time of two o'clock was originally imposed to get the men home from the pubs at a reasonable hour so that the family lunch could take place. That is the origin of two o'clock closing. There is also the question of the small licensee's little bit of 1045 freedom. If he manages to close at two o'clock it is the one afternoon in the week when he can take out his car. For all those reasons I strenuously oppose the amendment.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
As one who has burnt many a lunch waiting for my husband to come back from a pub, I welcome the Bill. Unfortunately, as the Committee will know, I am not married now and therefore I have nobody to burn a lunch for. I try very hard to provide a good lunch when my friends come. However, I see this as a welcome extension of the freedom of the family to go out together. During the winter one cannot always have a picnic lunch with one's family because of snow or rain or other ghastly weather. What could be nicer than to go out to the local pub to have a meal together with a drink?
The noble Baroness said that she thought it might encourage excess drinking or more drinking. I hesitate to cross swords with her, but I think that I must. If a father, a mother and children go out together and have a meal, whoever does the driving will not be drinking. Therefore, with the family together, there will be less drinking rather than more. My experience during my slightly political life and all the things I have organised on a Sunday afternoon shows me that the family wants to go out together. At this time in the history of our country when so many families are breaking up I would submit that this is one of the ways in which we can encourage families to stay together.
I should like very briefly to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. Those of us who listened to the Second Reading speeches will remember the strong words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely in favour of the Bill. Those of us who support it welcomed all that he had to say. It is important that the Churches recognise that one can be a Christian and also go to a pub for lunch.
§ Baroness Phillips
I should like to support the amendment and to follow the points made by the noble Baroness and the mover of the amendment. I always feel slightly hypocritical when we discuss alcohol in this place. In this building one can drink for almost 24 hours a day. I say to my noble friend Lord Soper that that proves that availability does not mean that people drink more. Otherwise all the Members of the Committee would be lying about in a state of alcoholic stupor. I know that some people say we do, but it is not true.
I am amazed how out of date some noble Lords are. I took my family out last week. Where did we go? I must not name the place, but the company has a lovely restaurant in each of its pubs. I was the only one who had two glasses of wine, and I say to the right reverend Prelate that I had been to Mass first. I do not think that the Almighty forbids that. As I recall, He changed the water into wine, a point which always consoles me when I think of heaven; otherwise it sounds a rather boring place. My son, my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren do not partake of alcoholic beverages but they like the restaurant.
What is now happening, to follow up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, is that the closing time of the restaurant is being geared up to 1046 the time the pub ceases to serve alcohol. One is in the position of hurrying to get there before 1.15 p.m. in order to get in the last order, not for alcohol but for food. We are much more civilised than we used to be. We are more like the French.
§ Baroness Phillips
This is the only time that I would say it. We like to eat together outside the home. The lovely idea which my noble friend seems to have of everybody rushing home for Sunday lunch is a thing of the past. Young people have a joint meal on Sunday evening at six o'clock because the children all want to do different things. For heaven's sake, let us bring ourselves a little up to date.
What is the passion we British have about hours? We must do this up to seven o'clock but not after eight. I once asked whether the lights could be turned on in the Royal Gallery. I was told, "Not after nine o'clock, my Lady". What is the magic about these times? They were invented many years ago. For heaven's sake, let us bring ourselves into the 20th century.
§ Lord Renton
Like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely, I am not opposed to the Bill in general but I am opposed to these amendments. Perhaps I may be allowed to say why. In mentioning families, my noble friend Mr. Harmar-Nicholls and other noble Lords who have spoken—
§ Lord Renton
I am so sorry. I have known him for much longer as Mister and as Sir than I have as a noble Lord. We had adjoining constituencies for many years; in fact, for a generation.
When we talk of families, I think that my noble friend and other noble Lords were assuming that families visiting the pubs would include children. I have sometimes visited pubs on Sundays and I have often seen children there. The children generally seemed to be utterly miserable. While their parents were drinking they were out on a limb in a corner. I did not think that it was a form of happiness for them. To the extent that any of these amendments were accepted, the children would be the principal sufferers, but not the only ones, as has been said.
In spite of what my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve said about when a married couple, or any two people, go out drinking in a pub, hotel or restaurant, one of them will drink less and so will drive, that has not stopped there being casualties on the road through drinking and driving. The question is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, said, whether the acceptance of any of the amendments would lead to an increase in drunken driving. I fear that it would. We also know that there is a good deal of child alcoholism these days. Alas, it has increased in recent years. I think that before we accept any of the amendments we should consider whether it will lead to or reduce child alcoholism. I cannot escape my own conclusion that it would lead to an increase in such alcoholism.
1047 As regards the amendments, I agree that it is somewhat dangerous and difficult to generalise too much because the position of families going to hotels and restaurants is perhaps a little different from that of those going to pubs. After all, even in hotels and restaurants people will be allowed to drink under the present law, as I understand it, until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. That is not a bad drinking time; it is a fairly reasonable one.
I now turn to the reference made by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls to Mothering Sunday being spent and enjoyed in an hotel. Well, yes, I suppose that is so, but I should have thought that the best place for children to spend and enjoy Mothering Sunday is in the home, and preferably with a visit first to church.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
Am I to assume from what the noble Lord has said that he is going to vote against the Bill as a whole? I say that because if there is any point at all in the argument that extra hours will encourage drunken driving—which none of us want and which anyone with any sense is opposed to—the rest of the Bill means that from Monday to Saturday people will have the entire afternoon. Therefore I find difficult to understand how one can produce an argument that that danger is there but that it only happens on a Sunday, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon.
§ Lord Renton
Of course the circumstances for the community at large are quite different. For most people weekdays are working days, whereas Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday are not.
§ Lord St. John of Bletso
There is little that I can add to what has already been said on the subject. However, I wish to express my support for the amendment. There is the anomalous position which was pointed out on Second Reading that one can drink on a moving boat, train or plane for 24 hours a day. I merely wish to raise the point, which the Member for Romsey and Waterside mentioned in Committee in another place, that in keeping with the efforts that are being made to encourage tourism, especially in the rural areas, surely licensees should be given the opportunity to respond to the demands of customers.
The Viscount of Falkland
I am very much in agreement with both amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. However, on the other hand, one is in a difficult position because the underlying fact is that an enormous amount of alcohol is consumed in this country. An enormous amount of that alcohol is consumed responsibly, but, unhappily, large quantities are consumed irresponsibly, dangerously and often with tragic results.
I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, or the noble Lord, Lord Soper—who are perhaps on either end of the argument this afternoon—have a different view about the world 1048 they would like to see as regards alcohol. But perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, takes the long term-view which I share—I sense that in his speech—that we should like to see a change in social attitudes and a change which results in responsible drinking. I think that the family is probably as good a place as any to start responsible drinking, as it seems to me that nowadays a lot of irresponsible drinking starts in the home. The small change proposed in the amendments is probably a small price to pay for this, although I also agree with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I sense from his speech that we may see in some areas a slight abuse as a result of those amendments.
Nevertheless, if we are going to tackle seriously the long-term issue of alcohol abuse in this country the major factor, the underlying factor, is the attitude of people. They drink to get drunk. Young people drink because they think it is macho to do so. I agree to the extent that I do not think the young man goes to the pub to buy his can of longlife lager; he goes to the supermarket. The extension I should like to see in the best of all possible worlds—at any rate in the United Kingdom—is that there should be no licensing laws at all. Everyone would go out and drink alcohol responsibly and it would be a cohesive factor in family life. I think that is the goal that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, is aiming for.
Having said that, I must stress that I have the greatest respect for the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and I take great cognisance of his fears. However, I tend to prefer to take the small risk in the hope that we can change public attitudes by encouraging people to drink in a more leisured and responsible way. Therefore I marginally support the noble Lord's amendments.
§ Lord Monson
I wholeheartedly support Amendment No. 1. I should gladly have added my name to it if I had thought that there was any realistic possibility of getting it through the other place in the teeth of pressure from the Government Whips. It seems to me that the Government are being extraordinarily insulting towards the English and the Welsh people. They are telling them, in so many words, that they are not as mature as the Scots, not nearly as mature as most other Europeans, and cannot be trusted to drink sensibly on Sundays once archaic restrictions are lifted; but, on the contrary, the rigid and indeed somewhat draconian controls must be maintained south of the Border, although not north of the Border.
I do not believe that the Government really want to insult the English and the Welsh. The only possible explanation is that they are scared stiff of the Lord's Day Observance Society. That society represents 1 per cent. of the population, if that. Therefore if the Government were to sum up all their reserves of courage, I suggest that they could successfully defy the Lord's Day Observance Society and live to tell the tale. Failing that, of course there would have to be a compromise. If the Minister is able to indicate that the Government are open to the idea of a compromise, I think that those of us who support some or all of the amendments will respond in kind. Otherwise I for one shall certainly follow the four 1049 noble Lords who tabled the amendment into the Division Lobby.
I am in something of a quandary. I was given to understand only four hours ago that the Committee was taking Amendment No. 1 separately from the amendments which follow. It is obvious that something has happened during the interval to change the position. Therefore, before speaking to Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, which are consequential upon Amendment No. 1, I should prefer to hear what the Minister has to say.
§ Lord Hooson
I am in a dilemma over the amendments. It seems to me that the only reasons for having any licensing laws are entirely practical ones. If everyone was a responsible social drinker there would be no need for licensing laws at all; but the truth of the matter is that that is not our situation. Over the past 25 years, alcohol-related problems have multiplied enormously throughout the country; and, I regret to say, more so in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Anyone who thinks that, if continuous drinking is available, that will result in less drinking rather than more is absolutely deluding himself. We know that that is true. For example, the argument has been put forward in this Chamber many times and in every civilised legislature in the world that the more available the drugs are the greater the drugs problem becomes. Therefore the truth is that the more readily available alcohol is, the greater that problem will become. This is because a minority of people in this country, and in other countries, will overindulge.
§ Lord Hooson
Yes, I shall give way in a moment. Anyone who thinks that the fact that alcohol is available within the precincts of this place and is not abused is a good example is wrong. We are not a normal cross-section of the population. We should be fooling ourselves were we to think so.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
I wish to mention Scotland, because the point that the noble Lord was making has not been brought out in Scotland.
§ Lord Hooson
Scotland, like Wales, has its own problems in relation to drink. We do not know how the provision, or non-provision, of licensing laws is related to our present alcohol-related problems. No one knows. We know that since alcohol became more available, alcohol-related problems have increased. There could obviously be a connection.
The nationalisation of public houses in Carlisle during the First World War arose entirely because of the drunkenness problems in the area. The legislature reacted—people have since said over-reacted—by proposing not only stringent licensing laws but by nationalising the public houses. The Government must be cautious. I believe that people should be trusted to act responsibly. That is the premise upon which I approach these problems, and yet I cannot ignore any more than the Committee can the overwhelming evidence of increased alcohol-related 1050 problems in our country. They are greater at the moment than drug and cigarette-related problems. The Government must be cautious before accepting the amendments.
§ Lord Peston
Before the noble Lord sits down, he referred to those of us who disagreed with him as deluded. Is he aware of the research evidence that shows we are not deluded? There is no evidence to show a causal connection between licensing hours and alcoholism. If he were merely to use his common sense—if I may be as robust as he was when he referred to delusion—he would see that the provisions of alcoholic beverages in off-licences and similar places is a response to a demand. It is not causal. It is not remotely connected with the opening hours of licensed premises. The noble Lord is entitled to his view of the problems of society connected with alcoholism, but he is not entitled to mislead the Committee about what we know. It is not a matter of doubt. It is a matter that has been studied and shown not to be the cause.
§ Lord Hooson
I suggest that the noble Lord should read the report dealing with alcohol problems in Wales published in 1987 by the Education Health Advisory Committee for Wales. He will find that the committee thinks that among other matters involved—it is not the only one—is the availability of alcohol. All I am saying is that we do not know the relationship between those factors and therefore our approach must be cautious. Any government who did not take a cautious approach to this matter would be acting irresponsibly.
§ Baroness Phillips
I wish to make a historical point before the noble Lord sits down. Does he agree that during the time of strict prohibition laws in America there was more drunkenness than at any other stage in its history?
§ Lord Hooson
I do not in any way advocate strict prohibition; all I am saying is that we would not need licensing laws if everyone was responsible. The only reason we have licensing laws is that we recognise that many people are not responsible.
§ Lord Auckland
Having, as I do, family in the hotel and public house trade, I agree that the amendments contain implication which give rise to some concern for family life. After all, Sunday is a family day, and Sunday lunch in the home is desirable. However, one thing that the amendments seek to do is to maintain standards in public houses, which have improved so much over the years.
There was a time when the pub was a pretty degenerate place. Food was almost non-existent, and therefore it is true that at that time alcohol problems were rife. Many pubs now serve an extremely high grade of food, which makes it possible to take families to them. On Sunday mother occasionally needs a day away from the kitchen stove and the kitchen sink. On balance I believe that these amendments are desirable.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Vaux of Harrowden
I admit to having had 47 years in the liquor trade. I have also visited Australia a great deal. In the early days when I visited Australia, they closed the pubs at 6 p.m. The Australians had what they called "swill time" before 6 p.m. and everyone became absolutely plastered. When they changed the time to 10 p.m. there was little drunkenness and they all drank in a far more civilised manner.
I felt sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, because all he did was to advise the Government to proceed with caution, and he then proceeded to get the stick. I am grateful to him for his advice. We are quite happy to take good advice from any quarter of this place.
My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls was persuasive when he introduced the amendments. He said that it was illogical to have restrictions on Sunday. He must have temporarily forgotten what happened to the Sunday Trading Bill, which stirred up a hornet's nest of emotions. The Government do not wish this Bill to do that.
My noble friend said that it is absurd to put up the covers at 2 p.m. and that that is carrying legislation too far. Legislation at the moment permits the covers to be put up—or drawn down—at 2 p.m. He asked whether the Government were certain that 2 p.m. was the right time. The answer is that no, of course we are not certain that it is the right time. We are aware that the subject is highly controversial. The debate has shown the levels of controversy produced by the subject of Sunday opening.
The question of Sunday hours is always a vexed one. I wish to make the Government's view clear. The Bill is intended to be a modest, non-controversial measure. The amendments are controversial. The Bill is an important step towards making life easier for people in general by allowing them freedom to choose when to drink. Throughout the Bill's passage the Government have always made it clear that they have no intention of using the Bill to change Sunday hours. The amendments that we are debating all seek, in varying degrees, to relax the present Sunday restrictions.
The amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls and the two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, upon which he would like me to comment, impinge upon the hours of church services and so go to the heart of what one might call "the specialness" of Sunday. I am bound to say that I cannot commend those amendments to the Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, was right when he said that if the Committee were to pass the amendments, we should then have the problem of trying to get them through another place. The Bill has been seen as one which would not interfere too far with Sundays. Amendment No. 1 seeks to allow the sale of drinks throughout the whole of Sunday afternoon. It is the most controversial of all the amendments. It represents a fundamental change to Sunday hours. In addition, there is a serious risk—the matter has been put forward by the noble 1052 Lord, Lord Soper, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland—that it could result in increased alcohol consumption.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would also affect the opening of pubs during church service time. I find it hard to suggest that the Committee should accept the amendments.
The second amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, would permit pubs to close an hour later on Sunday afternoons. This is a rather different matter. Many Members of the Committee have said that people enjoy a mid-day drink as a matter of social convenience; they take their families to the pubs and the pubs produce food. I have little doubt that with an added hour many pubs would become even more attractive venues than they are at the moment, not just for drinking but for Sunday lunch in general. It may be that some people now find the 2 o'clock closing an irritant and a social inconvenience.
In any question of Sunday hours it is difficult to know where to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Everyone has different views over where that line should be drawn. The extra hour until 3 o'clock is probably unlikely to lead to higher levels of consumption, nor would it interfere with Sunday services or the non-commercial nature of that day.
However, having said that, I am bound to add that I personally cannot support even this modest extension of the licensing hours for the simple reason that the Government have made plain their intention to leave the Sunday hours unchanged in this Bill.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
That was a very adept and satisfying reply from my noble friend. He said that it was a modest and uncontroversial Bill and I agree with him. Within this modest and uncontroversial Bill Amendment No. 2 is certainly a modest and uncontroversial amendment. If I have the agreement of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, because of the tone of my noble friend's reply I would beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 1. However, I understand that that is not agreeable to the noble Lord, Lord Peston.
§ Lord Peston
If I may intervene, my difficulty is that I do not fully understand the noble Earl's reply. As best I understand it, it was, "We won't do it, full stop. We have decided not to do it and that's it." I do not regard that as a reasoned reply. I do not like to be a nuisance but I personally would prefer to divide the House if I am simply told, "You can't have it, full stop." I do not know what the noble Earl thinks?
Perhaps I may help the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I think that he must have misunderstood the nature of your Lordships' Committee. What I said was that the Government said that this was a Bill in which they did not seek to alter Sunday licensing hours. I said that I could not recommend that noble Lords accept Amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5. I think noble Lords should reject them because there would be difficulty in another place.
1053 As regards Amendment No. 2, I said that the Government would not advise the committee to accept that amendment because they have said that they would not interfere with Sunday trading. If your Lordships have a different mind, that is up to noble Lords but I can only tell you what the Government's advice would be.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I should like to thank my noble friend. It is a matter of translating the real meaning of parliamentary exchanges. If I interpret correctly the exchanges this afternoon, it looks as though the Government could not support in any way Amendments Nos. 1, 4 and 5. But the language used by my noble friend—and it was as far as he could go in view of the commitment in another place—was that the Government do not recommend in quite such strong terms against Amendment No. 2. If that translation of what was meant is correct, the suggestion which I was making to the noble Lords who joined with me in putting down Amendment No. I was to be grateful for small mercies and to say that we recognise that we shall not get the support likely to make Amendment No. 1 a winner.
However, I sensed that providing we showed the same impartiality as my noble friend has shown, there is just a chance that we might get Amendment No. 2. The reason why I think we have a duty to follow that through and to try hard to get Amendment No. 2 agreed is the words used by my noble friend when he said that the Government had decided not to interfere with the hours because of pledges they had made.
Fortunately for Amendment No. 2, the Government have a boss, they have somebody who will tell them that whatever their views are as the Executive, as the Government, there is somebody who has the power to alter them, if they think, generally speaking, that the alteration is one which does not go against the principle of the Government's wishes. The boss which the Government have is Parliament. Part of Parliament is the House of Lords. The only chance we can give to the other half of Parliament is for us to pass this amendment so that it can have second thoughts on what is, as I said, a modest, uncontroversial amendment. I hope that with that in mind and with the indications which we have had, we can agree to withdraw Amendment No. 1. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 11, at end insert—
("( ) In section 60(1)(b) of the principal Act (permitted hours in licensed premises on Sundays etc.), for the words "five hours beginning at two" there shall be substituted the words "four hours beginning at three".").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]
Lord Monson had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 27, lease out ("five and a half") and insert ("seven").
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment was to bring the law regarding clubs into line with the law on pubs, in the event of Amendment No. 4 being passed. Now that Amendment No. 2 has been carried, Amendment No. 5 is obviously not correctly worded so I shall not move it at this stage with a view to bringing it back in an amended form at the next stage.
§ [Amendment No. 5 not moved.]
§ Lord Dean of Beswick moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 8, at end insert—
("( ) In section 87 of the principal Act, at the end there shall be inserted the following—
( ) At an airport where this section is in operation, the permitted hours on Sundays, Christmas and Good Friday for those licensed premises situated outside the examination station approved for the airport under section 22 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 but within the parts of the airport ordinarily used by persons travelling by air to and from the airport shall, notwithstanding the provisions of section 60(1)(b) of this Act, be those hours specified in section 60(1)(a) of this Act.".").
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move this amendment because it deals with a particular section of our society where a licence to serve drinks is provided. I am hoping to get some sympathy from the Government on the basis of extending the relaxation to international airports. At present there are no restrictions, and drinks are allowed airside 24 hours a day because airports are operating 24 hours a day. But landside drinking is restricted to normal licensing hours.
§ That may well be the argument which was put by the Minister in another place: the landside drinking restrictions were all right and should not be interfered with. But I and quite a number of other people—certainly all those involved in running the airports—feel that people should be able to buy a drink on the landside of international airports during the afternoons. I say that because airports are unique environments. People leaving the country, either for a holiday, or possibly for much longer periods, may wish to have a drink with their friends or relatives who are not travelling. I must emphasise that it is not the travellers who dictate the times of flights and when they should leave the country or arrive. Travellers are bound by flight times which are outside their control. Sunday afternoon is one of the busiest afternoons in the week for travellers. Those arriving (often business passengers meeting their English contacts for the first time) probably expect to be able to get a drink. They are able to do so abroad. They are surprised and sometimes disappointed when their first impression of England is that they are unable to have a welcoming drink.
§ Of necessity, additional jobs will be created in organisations such as airports if this licensing law is relaxed. It is a fact that when we fly into European or other countries we land at airports that have a full 24-hour licensed service. That is not just the case in Europe but anywhere that one goes. But here when people fly in they are restricted to licensing hours as soon as they clear the customs and other regulations.
§ It was said in another place by the Minister dealing with the Bill—I thought it was a pretty weak plea—that if the Government did relax the rules at 1055 the international airports and allowed the 24-hour licensing system it would increase drinking by habitual drinkers who would travel out to the airports to take advantage of that provision. I think that that view is a bit lighthearted or a little nonsensical. Because of the activity in which they are involved, most airports are situated pretty substantial distances away from the centres of population. Manchester Airport, for instance, is about 10½ to 11 miles away from the centre of Manchester. Members of the Committee probably know better than I do how far London and Gatwick Airports are from the real centres of population.
§ It is a well-known fact that car parking at airports is usually very expensive. I do not believe for one moment that people would get on to the tube in London and travel out to Gatwick or to London Airport or, in the case of Manchester, go out to Manchester Airport in their cars just to take advantage of these licensing hours on a Sunday afternoon.
§ We are in a business situation in our airports of trying to provide comparable services to those of our partners in Europe in such fields as the provision of alcohol. I should have thought that it would be quite safe to lift the restrictions on Sundays because airports are among the most heavily policed environments that exist. That in itself would be a safeguard against any excessive behaviour caused by alcohol. If a person really wanted to drink on a Sunday afternoon he or she would not need to go to an airport. All he would need to do would be to go to an off-licence, where he could buy what he wanted.
§ I did not speak in the debate on the previous amendments because of this amendment which I have tabled. But the fact is that the places where alcohol is mainly purchased and where abuse occurs as a result of that purchase are the supermarkets. That is mainly because alcohol is cheaper there. I deplore the sight of youngsters on the tube trains in London swigging beer from cans which they have bought from supermarkets. It has not been bought from other places such as bars—
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Sainsbury
Does the noble Lord agree that it is totally unfair to blame the supermarkets without blaming the many small corner shops which are equally in the wrong if anybody is to blame?
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
The noble Lord makes a very strong point which I accept. I think that it would be wrong not to admit that the control in some supermarkets is not as firm as it should be, any more than it is in some corner shops. But I believe that, if the Government were to look kindly at this particular relaxation, it would do no harm whatsoever. It would bring us into line with other airports. On that basis, I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
I strongly support this amendment because of an unfortunate experience which I had only about five years ago. I caught an aeroplane from Glasgow to London on a Sunday at 1056 12.20 p.m. I must admit that I was surprised to find that there was no provision for the bar to open early. That regulation was enforced particularly strongly in Scotland. I was rather surprised by that but perhaps when I had been in airports before on Sundays I had usually been abroad.
Come 12 o'clock when the bar was just opening and I was about to queue up, we were bidden like sheep to go and wait for the aeroplane. So we climbed into the aeroplane and it took about an hour to fly to London. We arrived in London at about 1.20. A lot of aeroplanes arrived at the same moment and it took quite a long time to get through the basics and a great deal of time to get to the luggage. I remember very clearly that we finally collected our luggage at five to the hour. There was not time to go to the bar at London Airport before it shut again.
I genuinely mean it when I say that such a situation is not funny. One must think of all the visitors who come to this country and who could be subjected to the same treatment. It is absurd that this system exists in airports in particular, where one loses all sense of time and where on the whole one will not be a problem to people on the roads because once one is there one will probably not drive one's own car. Some people do drive their own cars but the vast majority of the visiting public will not be a problem in that way.
If I have understood it correctly, the amendment is only asking for what one might call "weekday rules" to be applied to Sundays. Even with the amendment that we have just discussed this amendment would not add a great deal to the existing provisions.
On the whole I think that this kind of provision is absolutely vital to the success of our tourist trade alone, quite apart from anything else. I do hope that my noble friend the Minister may be able to relax what he said were his very strict rules on this particular point. I also hope that those in another place can understand that some things really are ridiculous and that an example of that is the present Sunday rules as they apply to airports.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I am, strangely, happier about supporting this amendment than I was about the previous one. I feel that a different public is being served at an airport. My reservation about the other amendment—that there would be more drivers going to public houses on a Sunday—does not apply to this one. Sundays are like any other day at an airport except that possibly there are more people there. Therefore I should have thought that the situation in an airport presented a special case. I shall be very interested to see how the Minister feels about this because I think that the logic which led me to support the earlier amendment means that I must support this one even more strongly.
§ Baroness Phillips
I wish to support this amendment because it highlights the total hypocrisy of the British people in this matter. I was once taken on a trip round London which showed that one could drink for about 24 hours a day. Certain laws are relaxed in the case of premises situated near docks even when the docks are no longer there. The point 1057 is that, if one wishes to, one can go right through the night drinking.
I am all for any provision which will civilise our airports. Alcohol is one thing but I would say that I have met people at London Airport at seven in the morning who were unable to get even a cup of coffee or tea because there was nothing available. But why do we still have these archaic licensing laws? If we can cut through them in this way that is splendid. I salute the Government for trying to do that but I think that we must look at this matter sensibly and recognise that there will still he a minority who will abuse any law. Nevertheless, we do make things difficult. One needs a little rule hook to know whether closing time is two o'clock or three o'clock. Wherever one goes there are all kinds of rules which make life difficult if one just wants to enjoy oneself for the day. I heartily support this amendment and I hope that it will be the first of many.
The amendment seeks to provide another, albeit limited, exception to the general licensing hours. Bars and off-licences in the areas of airports which are open to the non-travelling public are subject to the controls on hours in just the same way as any other licensed premises. If this amendment is accepted, airport bars which are used not only by passengers and their friends and relatives but also by any other visiting members of the public, will be able to serve alcoholic drinks from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays. In other words, there will be different licensing arrangements for these premises, which can be frequented by the ordinary members of the public, than there will be for licensed bars and pubs. The restrictions on Sunday trading at airports have been lifted and, as a result of the Licensing (Restaurant Meals) Act 1987, restaurants may serve drinks with meals at any time of the day, seven days a week. To a significant extent, therefore, the needs of the airport authorities and the travelling public have been met. I am not persuaded that a case has been made out for removing entirely the distinction between Sundays and weekdays at airports as compared with anywhere else.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I thank the Minister for his reply. He has given an indication that the Government are only interested in the status quo. I and a lot of other people who use airports extensively, believe that they are quite different establishments. I do not for one moment believe that if the Government were to accede to this request it would lead to any increase at all in drinking on the land side of bars in airports. We ought to come into line with our compatriots in Europe and in the wider world. We are budgeting in this country for a continual increase in airport passengers from abroad. I used to have some connections with Manchester airport (not of a pecuniary nature) and I know that the increase there is pretty dramatic year by year. I am sure that the situation in the South-East is the same.
I believe that it is a rather short-sighted policy of the Government to stand with the present situation and say that there is no need for change. I and other Members of your Lordships' House have flown into airports in Europe where the bars are not restricted in 1058 that way. You do not see people lying about in a stupor. I have never seen anything like that in Spain, France, Germany or wherever else I have been. For the Government to draw the inference that that is the situation and to suggest that British people cannot he trusted on an issue like this is a little bit sad. On that basis I cannot withdraw the amendment.
Perhaps I could persuade the noble Lord of one thing before he thinks too heartily about having a Division. He says that the Government do not trust people and that the travelling public are going to and from the airports. It is perfectly true that on the air side of the airport the travelling members of the public can get drinks at all times of the day and night. But ordinary members of the public who come and go in an airport can use the airport facilities in a way that they would not be able to use pub facilities.
I accept the noble Lord's difficulty in thinking that there is something different about an airport. Where we draw the line, if I may say so, is when people pass through customs and then go on to travel. That is where it becomes internationalised. But where ordinary members of the public can go and get a drink, licensing hours must be the same on that side of the airport as they are in pubs.
§ Lord Mottistone
My noble friend makes that point, but if as a tourist from the other side of the Atlantic you are travelling from Glasgow to London you do not go through customs. Therefore, it does not apply to you. The thought that there is going to be a great swarm of people going to the airports from the surrounding district is absolute Cloud-cuckoo-land. Airports are horrible places for the ordinary person. The only people who want to be in airports are the people who are going somewhere. Although there might be the odd person, he would only overcrowd the bar and would soon drift away somewhere else. The Government are much too cautious in believing that because the public can get there, therefore, it must not be allowed to happen. I think that is absolute nonsense.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, on this point. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, says that airports are horrid places and no sane person would wish to go to one unless he was using a plane. As we all know, certainly from the experience of Heathrow, at the moment large numbers of members of the public go to airports. That is fact. I certainly believe that the noble Earl is right in saying that, were the licensing regulations to be wholly different at airports compared with the situation away from airports, it would attract a significant number of people to airports. With great respect to the noble Lord, I think he is mistaken on this point. I believe that that would be the result were the Bill to be amended in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, is suggesting.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I am sorry that I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris. We are only talking about five hours on a Sunday. The fact is that Sunday is one of the busiest travelling days of the week. Many people who are flying out or flying in 1059 are inevitably accompanied by relatives and friends, whether they are going out on business or whether they are coming back. If it is Mum and Dad who have been away, very often they are met by sons and daughters who bring the car to drive them home. It is a little short-sighted to say that the bars cannot be open in those five hours so that they can have a drink together. On that basis I am not prepared to withdraw the amendment.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 60; Not-Contents, 97.1060
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Ailesbury, M.||Listowel, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Barnett, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Monson, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Carter, L.||Munster, E.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Cromartie, E.||Peston, L.|
|David, B.||Phillips, B.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L. [Teller.||Raglan, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Foot, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Glenamara, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.[Teller.]||Taylor of Hadfield, L.|
|Turner of Camden, B.|
|Gregson, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Leatherland, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Derwent, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Arran, E.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Ferrers, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Gainford, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Grey, E.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Halsbury, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Harvington, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Henderson of Brompton, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Hesketh, L.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Hives, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Hooson, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Hunter of Newington, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Killearn, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Kimball, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Slim, V.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Stedman, B.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Strange, B.|
|Long, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Marley, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Middleton, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Tranmire, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Trumpington, B.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Pender, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Pym, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Rees, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Richardson, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Rodney, L.||Young, B.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Extension of period for consumption of intoxicating liquor outside permitted hours]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
the Committee will be aware that the effect of exclusion of the clause will be a reversion to the provisions of Section 63 of the Licensing Act 1964 with regard to drinking-up time. At present drinking-up time is 10 minutes after time. Last orders are called about five or six minutes before time, be it 10.30 or 11, and there follow some 10 minutes of drinking-up time.
It is the contention of those who support me outside the Chamber that 10 minutes is quite sufficient time to drink up that which remains in the glasses before last orders and—if I may so put it—throwing-out time. If there is a 20-minute drinking-up time, that will enable people to think that they have between last orders being called five or six minutes before time and the end of drinking-up time some 25 minutes of drinking time left. They will therefore order as last order sufficient drink to consume in the time available to them 25 minutes after drinking-up time.
The hassle that now occurs at the end of 10 minutes is merely delayed by a further 10; that is, 20 minutes. It is a well-known fact that in those crucial 10 minutes between time being called and chuck-out time the customer gets control of the drinking time; the licensee in fact loses it. On challenge by the licensee the customer says. "Oh, but I have 10 minutes, so for my two drinks I have plenty of time". A worse position will obtain if there are 20 minutes.
It is interesting that the outcome in another place was the subject of quite considerable debate, which ranged over whether drinking-up time should be five 1061 minutes, remain as it is at 10 minutes, go to 15 minutes or to 20 minutes. It therefore appears at the outset that another place was in some difficulty in deciding what it wanted.
I am advised that the Committee of Registered Clubs Association supporters—these are the so-called non-profit making organisations representing the International Union of Labour Clubs, the National Union of Liberal Clubs, the Royal British Legion clubs, the Royal Naval Association clubs, the Working Men's Club and Institute Union and the Royal Air force Association's branch clubs—sought support of Members in another place for this. Not one licensee, however, supported it or was represented.
It is the licensees who have the problem at the end of the session. I suggest to the Committee that the problem will be exacerbated by extending drinking-up time to 20 minutes. I urge the Committee to reject the suggestion that has come from another place and is contained in the Bill and to oppose Clause 2 of the Bill.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for explaining his concern about drinking-up time. However, I am hound to say that I think that he is making one fundamental error.
At the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, the Government were persuaded that an extended period of drinking-up time would assist licensees in clearing their premises in a more orderly fashion. By allowing customers time to finish their drinks in a leisurely manner rather than being hurried off the premises, we took the view that the tensions, which can arise between customer and landlord and can sometimes lead to violent incidents, will be reduced.
I know that the amendment to allow a slightly longer drinking-up time has not been universally welcomed, and my noble friend has said that it is not welcome to him. But where my noble friend makes an error—if I may say so with the greatest respect—is that the extended period of drinking-up time is not compulsory; it is an option. By introducing this clause we have increased the options which are open to the licensee in deciding how best to clear his house in an orderly fashion. If he wants the drinking-up time to be one minute he can have it; if he wants it to be 10 minutes he can have it. If he thinks it is more orderly for it to be 20 minutes, he can have it. So I really think that my noble friend is misguided.
§ Baroness Sharples
I should like to support my noble friend on the Front Bench. I was a pub licensee for two years. I entirely agree with him that 20 minutes is far preferable to 10 minutes because people rush their drinks. I support the Government entirely.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Clause 3 [Restriction orders]:
§ Lord Morris of Kenwood moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 3, line 5, at end insert—
("( ) the licensing justices;").
§ The noble Lord said: After the weighty and controversial matters of the last hour or so I hope that my modest little amendment will be totally uncontroversial.
§ On the extension of the general licensing hours on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Clause 3 will provide a procedure which empowers the justices to restrict the afternoon hours only, according to the present subsection (6), on a formal application made by the chief officer of police, an occupier or any resident in the neighbourhood. There is no express power for the justices to restrict the afternoon hours of their own Motion and as the Bill stands it is doubtful whether they have an inherent power to do so.
§ It seems to me that that puts the justices at a great disadvantage. For instance, it may be that having heard an application for the renewal of a licence they may consider it desirable to restrict the afternoon hours in order to avoid or reduce any disturbances and so on. As the Bill stands they cannot do so without the intervention of a third party.
§ It could also be argued that where there is a sole licensee the justices may consider that he is unable to exercise sufficient control for the full period from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and consequently may wish to restrict the opening period. Again, their hands are tied.
§ For those reasons it is felt by the licensing justices—of whom I am one—that they should be specifically empowered to make an order of their own Motion. I beg to move.
Clause 3 provides a safeguard against unforeseen problems which may arise from the afternoon opening of particular premises, whether on-licence premises or registered clubs. It is primarily intended to protect those who live and work in the vicinity of particular premises from the disturbance or annoyance which may arise, but it also provides a locus for the police to prevent the occurrence of disorder which can be associated with particular premises in the afternoon.
I do not find it easy to see what additional role the licensing justices might play in this process as applicants. Since restriction orders are intended to prevent disturbance or disorder in the immediate vicinity, it is unlikely that the justices would be aware that a disturbance was occurring. If someone in the area informed them of the disturbance then that person or his representative would be entitled to apply for an order on his own behalf.
The person who applied for that order could himself be a justice. If the justices, by some other means, become aware of a problem associated with particular premises but receive no complaint from anyone living or working in the vicinity or from the police, then it would seem unnecessary and somewhat oppressive for an application for an order to be made.
Ultimately it is the residents or those working in the area who must decide what is an intolerable level of disturbance or annoyance, and the police must assess the seriousness of any disorder. I am not persuaded that the licensing justices (or the magistrates generally for that matter) should have a similar entitlement to apply for an order.
1063 If the problems associated with particular premises give rise to serious concern, then it would of course be open to the licensing justices to initiate proceedings for the revocation of the licence as opposed to a restrictive order. That is provided in Clause 9 of the Bill. But that is designed to counter different problems and not those arising solely from afternoon opening.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
Perhaps I may support my noble friend. As a magistrate many people were brought before me in cases relating to nuisance. The cases had nothing to do with the premises concerned; the people in the premises might have caused a nuisance but that was a criminal matter.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I was very interested by the presentation of the noble Lord, Lord Morris. His proposal seems a very sensible idea. I wonder whether he can give the Committee an example of how it would be beneficial to the neighbourhood if licensing justices were given such power.
§ Lord Morris of Kenwood
I cited a second instance, that of a sole licensee. That is a point to which the noble Earl failed to address himself, which I find regrettable. It is not suggested that such a power would be exercised to any extent but it is a power which I think the justices ought to have. It is for that reason that I put down the amendment.
§ Baroness Phillips
I too should like to support my noble friend. After all, he is a licensing justice and speaks with some experience and reason. I do not believe that he is looking for more work—the licensing justices, like all justices, are unpaid and do the work because they believe in it. He is simply trying to tidy up the position, if that is not the wrong expression to apply to a Bill.
An application for a restriction order may be made by—".It seems not unreasonable that the licensing justices should be included in that subsection.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I am certain that the Government are right from the point of view of how the licensing laws are applied. Like the noble Lord, I was a licensing justice for something like 35 years until age ruled me out. I had to preside over many cases of the kind to which the noble Lord referred. I never felt that it was my job as a licensing justice to provide the complaint. I felt that it was my job to adjudicate upon the complaint by the people who were being injured perhaps by noise, for example. If there is a disco or something of that kind on licensed premises which is a nuisance to the surrounding area and there are complaints to the police, the police have to do something about it. They do something about it normally by trying to get the noise stopped at once. If the noise is persistent the police, with the support of the local residents who are the victims, lay the complaint and the licensing justices have to listen to both sides in the case and adjudicate upon it.
I feel that there would be some conflict if I were both the judge and the complainant. The Government have to be right. The licensing justices 1064 are there to adjudicate upon the complaints of people who feel injured and the police and local residents are those who are most likely to complain.
§ Lord Hooson
On the balance of argument I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Kenwood, is right. When magistrates adminster the licensing laws they sit in a different capacity from their normal judicial capacity as magistrates. They have the right to move for the revocation of a licence and it appears to me that they should not be prevented from moving for a restriction order.
As regards the initiative of the local police, it is many years since I was in a licensing court although at one stage I practised extensively in such a court. I found that there was often a difference of opinion between the police and the magistracy as to the introduction of an order. One also found that the business or ordinary residents in a neighbourhood were often reluctant to initiate an order because they thought that they might be victimised for having taken upon themselves such an action. The magistracy would sometimes be aware of that reluctance. On balance I think that there is something to be said for the Government looking again at this matter.
Earlier on I had the audacity to thank and compliment the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, on his wisdom in saying that the Government should move with caution. I hope that that compliment did not go to his head. I fear I must say that he is wrong on this occasion.
A licensing magistrate may be in a big country town and the premises concerned may be some distance away, let us say 12 miles or so. Let us say it is a pub or whatever in a village. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, seeks to give to that magistrate, who happens to live in the country town, the right to say to those premises, "You may not open between the hours of three and six in the afternoon because we, who happen to be 12 miles away, think that it would be unsuitable". The fact that nobody else around the premises has thought it unsuitable or sufficiently noisy to make a complaint is disregarded.
The whole purpose of this Bill is to allow opening from 11 o'clock in the morning to 11 o'clock at night unless there is some specific reason why the premises should close in the afternoon. I suggest that that specific reason must come from the locality. That is why I was glad that my noble friend who sits behind me said that it was right for the justices to be the adjudicating authority and not in this case the promoter of the restriction when those who live locally do not think that it is necessary.
§ Lord Hooson
Perhaps the noble Earl will forgive me but I think that his argument is illogical. To take his example of the licensing magistrate who lives 12 miles away, that magistrate can take initiating action by revoking a licence, so why cannot he act by restriction order?
Because if nobody in the locality thinks that the premises are disorderly, making a noise or being in any way untoward, it is the right of the licensee to be able to hold his pub open.
§ Lord Shepherd
It seems to me that in this respect the logic lies very much with the Government. On the other hand I have a good deal of sympathy for the purpose that lies behind this amendment. I did not intervene on the first amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, although some 18 to 20 years ago I was the deputy chairman of the Erroll Committee, which looked into the licensing laws of England and Wales. Among other matters, we came to one very firm conclusion, that we should liberalise, if cautiously, the licensing laws of our country. There was enough evidence that such liberalisation would not have the grievous impact that some people thought at that time.
When the Erroll Committee was looking at the extension of licensing hours it was very clear that those who were likely to be most affected by noise or other disturbance as a consequence of such extension ought to have very firm protection. That protection clearly lay with the licensing magistrates who granted the licence. I well remember many people asking, "If we have a complaint, to whom do we go?" Therefore in a sense I have sympathy with the amendment, because it means that if licensing magistrates are aware of a nuisance they themselves can take the initiative to deal with it.
I am not sure whether licensing magistrates, who I believe sit in a quasi-judicial capacity, ought to be the promoters of possible actions against licensees. However, I hope that the Government can give a very firm undertaking that account will be taken of the genuine anxiety about possible implications of this legislation and that the rights of people who may be affected by the extension of the licensing laws will be made very clear especially as to the procedures to follow and the people to whom they can appeal. I know that the Government have tabled an amendment which will shortly he considered by the Committee. To me at least it is clear, although I find it extraordinary that what may be clear to us in Parliament may be very unclear to the people who may be affected by legislation.
I support the Government in regard to this amendment but certainly on the condition that there is an undertaking given that ways and means will be found by which the general public, and particularly those who may be affected by the new extension of the licensing laws, are made aware of their rights and, more important, the procedures under which their complaints can be heard.
§ Lord Morris of Kenwood
I regret that in his comments the noble Earl did not take up the point that I made about sole licensees, because it is a rather important one. I hope that the Government will be prepared to look again at this matter and come back at Report stage. I do not wish to press my amendment at this stage and beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1066
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 8:
§ Page 3, leave out lines 7 to 10 and insert—
- ("(b) any person living in the neighbourhood, or any body representing persons who do;
- (c) any person carrying on a business in the neighbourhood or managing or otherwise in charge of it in the neighbourhood; or
- (d) the head teacher or other person in charge or any educational establishment in the neighbourhood.").
§ The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 8, with the leave of the Committee I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 9, 30, 31, 32 and 33.
§ Clause 3 provides a safeguard to protect those who live and work in the vicinity of on-licensed premises or a registered private members' club from any unforeseen disturbance arising from the addition of the afternoon break. At present it enables the chief officer of police for the area and residents and occupiers in the vicinity to apply to the courts for a restriction order preventing the premises in question from opening during the afternoon. The grounds on which an order may be made are that it would reduce or prevent annoyance or disturbance to occupiers or residents in the area or the occurrence of disorderly conduct associated with those premises. Although we do not expect its provisions to be often used, the clause reflects an obvious need to ensure that the greater freedom which the Bill will give to those using pubs and clubs does not inhibit the freedom of other citizens to go about their lawful business.
§ In view of the concern to protect young people from the harmful effects of alcohol in the widest sense, a view which I know many Members of the Committee share, we think it particularly important that head teachers should be able to apply for restriction orders to curtail the afternoon opening hours of particular premises if their opening is disrupting the orderly running of the school. We recognise too that businesses may also need protection from the disruptive impact which may stem from the afternoon opening of some premises.
§ The amendment makes clear that head teachers and people in charge of businesses and shops in the neighbourhood of licensed and club premises may make an application for a restriction order. It also makes clear that they make applications as the representatives of their staff, residents or customers. The amendment does not add anything new to the Bill but I believe that it provides an important clarification of our intentions.
§ The amendments to Schedule 2 to the Bill are consequential on the amendments to Clause 3. They will ensure that if a restriction order has been made following an application by, for example, a head teacher or a manager of a business, he or his successor will be notified in the event of a subsequent application to vary or revoke that order. Without these amendments to the schedule there was a risk that if a head teacher or a manager moved on, his successor in that post would receive no warning that the restriction order was subject to challenge. I beg to move.1067
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
The safeguards incorporated in these amendments were introduced by my honourable friend Mrs. Taylor in another place. I am therefore very happy that the Government have accepted them and have seen fit to bring them forward in the Bill on this occasion.
§ Lord Shepherd
Perhaps I may ask a question of the Minister. Referring back to the committee on which I served, there was some anxiety expressed by those who attend the local church. The extension of the drinking hours on Sundays may interfere with the church service. The amendment is limited to those who live in the vicinity, who have a business in the vicinity, and who are teachers. It does not provide for anyone else who may be affected.
When one considers some churches with the little green sward and the small local pub in fair proximity to them—they are now becoming very attractive to those people coming from out of the towns—some nuisance and inconvenience is created. While supporting the provisions in these amendments, I wonder whether they are not drawn a little too tightly so that bodies such as the churches may well be excluded.
§ Earl of Arran
I would point out with respect to the noble Lord that the amendment provides for,any person living in the neighbourhood".Therefore the point is already covered.
§ Lord Shepherd
The local priest—who is not "the church"—may be living there. However, if such nuisance and inconvenience affects the church service does it mean that the local priest can make the application on behalf of the church?
§ The Earl of Arran
Yes. He can make it on behalf of the church in question.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 3, line 14, leave out ("occupiers or residents in the neighbourhood") and insert—
- ("(i) persons living or working in the neighbourhood,
- (ii) customers or clients of any business in the neighbourhood, or
- (iii) persons attending, or in charge of persons attending, any educational establishment in the neighbourhood.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Discretion with respect to grant, and limitation, of special hours certificates]:
Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 5, line 22, leave out ("sections 77 and") and insert ("section").
§ The noble Lord said: This is one of those glorious occasions when I am certain that I speak for the whole Committee—the bipartisans, the Cross Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and also the Government Bench—because I am convinced that the present wording without my amendment was inadvertent from the Government point of view.1068
§ I do not think that anyone will dissent when I say we all recognise that the leisure industry is now a major industry which is very important for the successful economy of this country. I do not think that anyone will dissent when I say we all recognise that if we are to regain our economic strength it is vital for people to invest in the leisure industry. I do not think that anyone will dissent when I say that we all want the Government to be able to control the general situation. All those points are covered in my amendment. It also rectifies an omission.
§ At the moment, if anyone in the leisure industry wishes to build new premises—a new dance hall and so on, all of which are part of the leisure industry that necessitate a licence—he goes to the licensing justices. Provided that they are satisfied with the plan and the general control, and that the layout is in accordance with the high standards that we require, the licensing justices give their approval. Under the present law that approval carries with it the right to have the licensing hours as set out, from 10 in the morning until 12 o'clock that night. At the moment, if they approve the plans and conditions, not only will the normal licensing hours be included but also what is known as the special hours certificate. The special hours certificate means that they can continue their leisure business, in this case for licensing bars, from 12 until two o'clock. Those are the special hours. At the moment, when the licensing justices give their approval it is mandatory that it carries with it all facilities including the special hours certificate.
§ Under the Bill which now amends the existing licensing legislation, one cannot have the special hours certificate until the building is built. One can apply for the special hours certificate for the extra two hours only after the building is built. I emphasise the extra two hours because if one is arranging a banquet, or a dance, and all the facilities that go with the leisure business, one knows that those extra two hours are when most of the business is done, with latecomers and so on. If one is considering spending £1 million, £0.75 million, £0.5 million, or whatever it is—and this is where the important investment ingredient comes into it—on premises to meet that need, before one lays the first brick and commits oneself to the financial outlay one wishes to know what use the building can be put to when one has spent that amount of money. Under the present law one has the benefit of the normal licensing hours, and the special hours certificate. If someone deviates from the high standards that one ought to adopt in looking after one's premises, my amendment would in no way interfere with the power to deal with such people.
§ I hope that my amendment is in keeping with what is generally desired in all parts of the Committee. When one applies for permission, which means one will spend £1 million on the new premises, the licensing justices must satisfy themselves that the plans fit the granting of a special hours certificate. At that stage they can impose any conditions they like to ensure that what they consider is the proper way to conduct the premises is carried out. My amendment provides that before the investor commits his money, and builds the building, he knows exactly what is expected of him. He knows that if he deviates from 1069 what he has agreed to do, he will lose his right to the special hours certificate.
§ At present if one first applies for normal licensing hours—there could be some doubt about whether it would be granted when the building is completed because of something that has been overlooked—then no company or individual will risk spending the amount of money that is involved nowadays in building those premises without knowing the full use that they will be allowed to be put to.
§ My amendment does not remove the right not to grant from the licensing justices or the powers that be, if there are deviations from the standards that we want the special hours certificates to be put to and used. It merely means that at the time the premises are approved the conditions are laid down regarding how the premises are to be built and how they are to be conducted for a special hours certificate to be granted so that there will be no doubt in the minds of the people spending the money and making the investment. We all want to help the leisure industry. Investors do not want to be committed to all that expense while the building is being built only to find at the end of the day that, because of unforeseen circumstances, they will not get their special hours certificates.
§ The reason I said that this was a glorious occasion so far as I am concerned has nothing to do with licensing laws, nothing to do with whether it is good to drink, nothing to do with whether it affects somebody driving a motor car if he has had too much to drink. This is a case where we want to encourage people to invest so that the general economy can benefit from everything that flows from the investment. But before people invest, they are entitled to know exactly the conditions that the premises they are investing in can be put to.
§ I truly believe that the words in my amendment meet the description that I have just given. If for any reason the words in the amendment do not quite meet the point as I have tried to describe it to the Committee, I should be most happy to withdraw it now, perhaps find acceptable words and return with it at Report stage. But the general principle is that if we want to encourage investment and give the go-head to the development of the leisure industry (which is so important) we ought to give to the people who will take the monetary risks the satisfaction of knowing what they can do without in any way removing the ultimate power to regulate it if they deviate from what they promised to do.
§ I hope that my noble friend will see the point of that and that he will tell us whether the words are satisfactory and acceptable to him. Then away we go. We can get on with our investment and encouraging the growth of this extra industry. But if the words are wrong, I shall withdraw the amendment at this stage and find words that are more satisfactory to all concerned.
§ In the hope that I carry Members from all parts of the Committee with me, and because I believe it reflects what they truly feel, I am happy to move the amendment. I beg to move.1070
My noble friend said that this was a glorious occasion. Despite the fact that it is my noble friend's amendment, I should not have pitched it quite as high as that. He refers to special hours certificates. What his amendment refers to are essentially late night drinking licences. They allow the sale and supply of alcohol up to two o'clock—sometimes up to three o'clock in parts of the West End of London—as an ancillary to music and dancing entertainment and to substantial refreshment. The justices have no option, as the law now stands, but to grant a certificate if certain criteria are satisfied. The existing provisions in Clause 5 give the justices discretion to grant or to refuse a certificate, even though the criteria are met. This will have the result that no longer will it be possible for the night club owner, who finds his certificate revoked on grounds of noise and nuisance to nearby residents, to apply at the next session of the justices for a certificate which then has to be granted as of right simply because the statutory criteria remain satisfied.
Under the Bill the intentions of local district councils, who impose conditions on music and dancing licences in order to curtail noise after, for example, 11.30 at night, will not be frustrated by finding that the sale of drinks until midnight is automatically allowed.
It was those anomalies which caused us to review the existing arrangements for special hours certificates and to propose that the justices should have over these discretion as to their grant and as to the limitations which could be imposed on them to prevent late night disturbance to local residents.
My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls said that the risk involved in putting a sum of money into new premises without any guarantee that a late night drinks licence would be granted is too great a gamble. Instead his amendments envisage a provisional grant of a certificate to premises in the course of construction. I do not wish to make too much of a point about this, but the amendments are defective. The principle is that the difficulties are in the proposed power to enable licensing justices to grant a provisional special hours certificate for premises which are in the course of construction. It does not seem to me to be reasonable to expect the justices to make a decision, even if it is only provisional, which nevertheless carries some form of automatic entitlement with it, when the essential prerequisites for a full certificate are still very much in a provisional form. It is not reasonable to expect members of the public and the police to comment on or to object to the provisional grant of a certificate if the eventual nature of the premises is no more than speculation.
I understand the problem which my noble friend has and I realise that those who invest in an expensive night club or dance hall—I do not know whether that is what my noble friend does and it would certainly be an interesting occupation if he did—would find it helpful on commercial grounds to have a degree of certainty that a late night drinks licence would be available. I doubt whether justices should be put in the position of looking to the future and assessing the likely consequences.
1071 Despite what my noble friend has persuasively said, I do not recognise the need for the facility proposed by the amendment. My feeling is that the would-be licensees of late night ventures would be better advised to have an informal talk with the local court as to the attitudes of the justices and the police to discover their likely reaction.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
It is my fault I suppose, but my noble friend still does not have my point. Indeed, the department he represents did not have the point when I argued this by letters. I hope we can clear it up.
I am not suggesting in my amendment that the provisional special hours certificate should be given without any question. I do not mind if the local justices, when they are looking at the plans and listening to the case when the first application is made, say "In our judgment there ought to be a licence only up to midnight and the special hours certificate will not be allowed." It would then be up to the investor to decide whether or not it was worth carrying on with his investment. But if from the beginning it is made clear that for it to be viable at all it must have all the facilities that our licensing laws give including a special hours certificate, and if the investment is such that in their judgment it needs that to make it an economical proposition, all that I ask is that if they submit a plan of management and the justices lay down that providing the plans submitted and the undertakings given at that stage are adhered to, then they will know that they have that extra special hours certificate which will justify the size and the type of their investment.
The main point in favour of my request is that that is what has been happening until now. I do not think my noble friend can find anywhere details where what now happens—that is, where approval in the first place automatically carries the licensing and the special hours certificate—has caused any trouble. I know of no case.
In his present capacity my noble friend may not be aware that the only reason why the Government have joined in this amendment, which deals with the point I have tried to describe, is that, for another reason to which I do not object, the power to grant a dancing and entertainments licence has been taken away from the justices and given to a local authority committee. That committee has caused this alteration which has brought about what I believe to be a real discouragement to the kind of investment that we should like to see.
My noble friend said that the words of my amendment left room for improvement and I accept that view. I listened to advisers who should know what they are doing and I did my best to find the right words to cover the point as I have described it. If the Government's view is that my words are not good enough, I am perfectly happy to change them, provided that I can have an indication that the general principle of encouraging investment and the extension of the leisure industry—which we should all like to see—is likely to figure.
1072 I can assure my noble friend that if the situation is left in its present position there will be many instances up and down the country where ideas that would be developed in line with the extension of the leisure industry will be jeopardised, and an amendment on these lines should be adopted.
I made no attempt to say that the amendment could not be accepted because the words of my noble friend were defective. They may be defective in some small part but that is of no great difficulty.
I believe that there is a point of substance and I realise my noble friend's desire to obtain investment. However, it is important to note that at present, where permission is given for music, dancing, entertainment and substantial refreshment, the justices have no option other than to permit an extended licence. We consider that they should have an option. With the greatest respect, I can understand that my noble friend likes to have his cake and eat it. He wishes to be able to produce plans and say, "If we build this night club, provided that we have entertainment and refreshments, can we know, before the building is complete, that we have an extension until 2 a.m.?". We take the view that the licensing authorities should be able to consider that matter when the building has been erected.
It may be that on completion the night club will create an awful noise and it will be an offence to the community. We consider that it is going a little too far to suggest that an organisation should have in advance, as of right, the knowledge that it can have an extension until 2 p.m. before the building has been erected. I see my noble friend's point and his anxiety and I shall investigate whether there is any way in which it can be met. At the moment I do not see where it will be.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
Perhaps I may press my noble friend a little further. I should like to ask him to look at the practicalities of the issue. Let us suppose that a company or an individual is contemplating building a leisure centre and calculates its potential before spending the kind of money involved. It may be that a good part of the money must be borrowed from the bank, which must be satisfied that the necessary income from the investment will be met. We are talking of bricks and mortar and not something which can easily be put up and pulled down.
One may say to the justices: "Here are the plans for a building which may cost £1 million or more. In order to justify the investment and pay for it we need to hold banquets and the kind of entertainment which is nowadays part of our business. If you grant a licence we want you to know what will take place". If at that stage the justices refuse the special hours licence the businessman can make a judgment as to whether to proceed with the investment and build the centre.
However, at the present time, one must first spend the £1 million and build the establishment. Then if for reasons which should have been known at the first application one is not allowed to generate the 1073 business which will provide the income to make the repayments on the investment, it is much too late. One is then left with a building which cannot be used in an economical way. I am proposing that, instead of the justices making their decision after the completion of the building, after the money has been invested and after the full commitment has been made in the hope of being granted the extra hours, they should make a decision as to whether such a building and its management justifies a special certificate on the first application and then they can carry on. What is the difference between the justices making their decision before the building is completed as compared with afterwards? It is then too late to do anything other than to make the individual or the company bankrupt because the laws have not allowed them to use the building.
At this stage I should like to withdraw my amendment in the hope that the explanation I have tried to give will cause my noble friend and his colleagues to look at the matter again. I hope that by Report we shall have reached a point where the practical common sense issue can be faced. That will mean that in respect of many buildings the situation will remain the same. There is no evidence to show that there is anything wrong with granting permission for a special hours certificate at the time of approving the building. We have the experience of having done so. In the hope that by the time we reach the Report stage we shall have second thoughts from the Government, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 11 not moved.]
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 12:
After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Power to vary permitted hours in on-licensed vineyard premises.
§ . The following section shall be inserted after section 87 of the principal Act—
§ "Power to vary permitted hours in on-licensed vineyard premises.
§ 87A.—(1) Licensing justices, on an application by the holder of a justices' on-licence for any premises which form part of a vineyard, may make an order varying the permitted hours in those premises on weekdays, other than Christmas Day or Good Friday, if, after hearing evidence, they are satisfied—
- (a) that the sale of intoxicating liquor on the premises is ancillary to the carrying on of a business of producing wine from grapes grown in the vineyard; and
- (b) that it is desirable to make an order under this section for the accommodation of persons visiting the vineyard.
§ (2) An order under this section may vary the permitted hours either generally or for such days or part or parts of the year as the licensing justices think fit.
§ (3) In making an order under this section, licensing justices may not so vary the permitted hours as to make them exceed in total more than twelve hours on any day.
§ (4) A person intending to apply for an order under this section shall give notice in writing of his intention to the clerk to the licensing justices and the chief officer of police at least 21 days before the commencement of the licensing sessions at which the application is to be made.1074
§ (5) Licensing justices shall not hear an application for an order under this section unless notice under subsection (4) of this section has been duly given.
§ (6) Licensing justices may revoke or vary an order under this section; but, unless it is proved that the holder of the justices' on-licence had notice of the revocation or variation, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 59 of this Act in doing anything that would have been lawful had the revocation or variation not been made.").
§ The noble Earl said: With the leave of the Committee, I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 34 and 35. This new clause has been tabled to honour a commitment made in another place that we shall consider how best to meet the particular needs of vineyards which sell samples of their products to visitors. In many areas vineyards have become increasingly popular tourist attractions, drawing large numbers of visitors throughout the week from the time when they open in the morning. Approximately 100 vineyards are open to the public.
§ The Government have much sympathy with the proprietors of vineyards who have become increasingly frustrated by restrictions on licensing hours which prevent them at certain times from complementing a tour of a vineyard by selling to the visitor a glass of their product. Although the main provisions of the Bill will remove most of the difficulties which are at present experienced by vineyard proprietors on weekdays in that it will allow them to sell wine throughout the day from 11 a.m., we accept that there remains a problem as regards the first visitors of the day.
§ The new clause provides a specific power for licensing justices to exercise their discretion to allow bona fide vineyards to sell wine for tasting from the time when the vineyard opens in the morning on weekdays, subject to a maximum of 12 hours trading per day. In making the orders, licensing justices will be required to satisfy themselves that the sale of samples is ancillary to the main business of growing grapes and making wine and that the hours are necessary to accommodate visitors. We believe that this discretion which is available to the justices and which is accompanied by a power to vary or revoke the additional hours if circumstances change, provides adequate safeguards against misuse and should bring substantial benefits in terms of promoting tourism and encouraging a promising new industry. It may be convenient if, at this stage, I also say a few words about the amendments tabled to Schedule 3 of the Bill. We think it sensible and desirable that, if the licensing justices have made an order varying the permitted hours for licensed premises at vineyards, a notice is displayed in a conspicuous place on the premises explaining the effect of the order. This is achieved by the first amendment to Schedule 3.
§ It is also important, in terms of enforcing the law, that there should be a requirement on the licensee of the vineyard premises to produce the order granted by the licensing justices if this is demanded by a magistrate or a police officer. This is achieved by the second amendment to Schedule 3.
Lord Broxbourne moved as an amendment to Amendment No. 12, Amendment No. 13:
Line 6, leave out ("on weekdays, other than Christmas Day or Good Friday").
§ The noble Lord said: There are three categories of amendment. First, there is a wrecking amendment, which is not usual in this Chamber but not unknown in the other place; secondly, there is the exploratory amendment; and thirdly, there is the helpful amendment. I am glad to say that my amendment falls within that third and, it is to be hoped, favoured category.
§ I support the Government's amendment moved by my noble friend and I do not seek in any way to diminish it. On the contrary, I seek to complete and fulfil it. The amendment which has just been moved would give the justices power to vary the permitted hours within the specified limits for weekdays. However, it leaves a gap in that it makes no provision for Sundays and the amendment which I now venture to commend to the Committee seeks to fill that gap. In substance it reproduces the amendment moved in the other place by my very respected friend Anthony Steen and which was brought to my attention by another old and valued friend Sir Geoffrey Finsberg. Although the wording is now different, the substance is the same.
§ I shall now seek, however inadequately, to support the proposals put forward by those two eminent Members of the other place which received the support of many other respected Members there. I do not own a vineyard and I have very little experience of them, although I am not wholly averse to the consumption of their end products. However, I have received some helpful information from the English Vineyards Association and also from Mr. Anthony Steen.
§ The present law with regard to the consumption of these products in vineyards is that on Sundays visitors to vineyards can taste the product only between the hours of 12 to 2 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. If I have that wrong then I am sure my noble friend will correct me. Of course, as the Committee will appreciate, the second category of permitted hours is of little practical use because people do not normally visit vineyards during that period and therefore that is not of practical help. Visitors cannot taste the products between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. which is precisely the period when they are most likely to be at the vineyard.
§ My amendment would give a permissive power to the licensing justices to vary the permitted hours for Sundays. It would give the power to permit flexible hours subject to the restriction that the permitted hours as varied could not exceed five and a half hours and could not start earlier than 12 noon. I venture to submit that the advantages of this change are considerable. Perhaps I can brieflly specify four advantages. First, it is not mandatory; it is only permissive. Secondly, it introduces reality and 1076 permits tasting at the hours when people may wish to taste and be there so to do. Thirdly, it does not add to the maximum permitted hours in that it would be subject to a limitation of five and a half hours. Fourthly, it does not inhibit or prejudice Church attendance.
§ In support of the last proposition perhaps I may make a Proustian evocation. The school which I attended—and I shall not say how many years ago—in conformity with the period of its founding, which was the very beginning of the Victorian era, reflected the ethos of those days. We had—and the right reverend Prelate will be glad to hear this—three Church services on a Sunday in accordance with the rites of the Church of England. If my amendment commends itself to the Committee and reaches the statute book it would not prejudice or inhibit attendance at any or all of those three services. If any Member of the Committee attends more than three Church services on a Sunday—and I am not including the right reverend Prelate in this—then no doubt he will rise in his place and identify himself. In the absence of anyone doing so, Members of the Committee can take it as conclusively shown that these permitted hours would not inhibit attendance at three Church services let alone at one.
Therefore, in conclusion, the proposed changes that this amendment suggests make sense where the existing law does not. That the existing law does not make sense is on record in the discussions in the other place where the Under-Secretary of State Mr. Douglas Hogg, with the hereditary sagacity to be expected of the son of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham said:
There is a Certain amount of nonsense in the existing law".
He also said that if Ministers could resolve the problem then they would do so. The chance has now arrived and I invite my noble friend to seize it. I beg to move.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
I strongly support this amendment. We have vineyards on the Isle of Wight which suffer from the present law and which will benefit from the new clause. However, as he said, and as we know, it deals only with weekdays and not Sundays.
We are referring to tastings, as my noble friend the Minister said. As I understand it, on Sundays (assuming that the Committee accepts Amendment No. 12) tastings cannot be given from licensed premises, let alone sold, outside permitted hours. However, it is legal to give tastings at any time on premises that are not licensed. The effect is that visitors who arrive early in the day on Sundays or who arrive on Sunday afternoons have to be ushered out of the licensed premises to be given a tasting. That is absolute nonsense.
My noble friend the Minister said earlier that the Government were being very cagey about Sundays; but I believe that tastings, which are a part of promoting vineyards, do not come in the same category as pub opening hours. Therefore, having gone so far in Amendment No. 12, the Government could perhaps go a little further and accept the 1077 amendments of my noble friend Lord Broxbourne. I hope that the Government will agree that the amendments are in a very different category from the aspects he was cautious about earlier.
§ Lord Monson
I, too, support this amendment, which I have not previously studied. I have absolutely no interest in any English vineyards; but I am aware that they labour under considerable difficulties, both fiscal and otherwise, as opposed to the Continental vineyards. I believe that the amendments would go some way towards encouaging their very commendable enterprise.
These amendments give greater flexibility to vineyards in respect of Sunday hours. They are not entirely without precedent. Registered private members' clubs, though they are required to take an afternoon break of at least two hours, are otherwise free to fix their own Sunday hours starting from 12 noon and subject to a maximum total of five and a half hours ending at 10.30 p.m. The amendments seek to extend a similar privilege to vineyards in recognition of the problems they face in catering for visitors, and in view of the fact that they cannot normally take advantage of the evening opening hours allowed by law.
I have explained to the Committee previously (and I shall do so again) that the Government have always said that they will not seek in this Bill to tinker with the Sunday licensing laws. We therefore take a neutral stance. The Government neither accept nor resist these amendments. I have outlined the arguments which lie behind them, and I leave it to the Committee to decide on whether to accept them.
§ Lord Broxbourne
I am obliged to my noble friend. I hope that we can interpret his declaration of neutrality as benevolent neutrality. In that confident expectation, I commend the amendments to the Committee.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 13 agreed to.
Lord Broxbourne moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 12, Amendment No. 14:
Line 19, after ("section") insert ("with respect to permitted hours on weekdays, other than Christmas Day or Good Friday").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Broxbourne moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 12, Amendment No. 15:
Line 20, leave out ("permitted").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Broxbourne moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 12, Amendment No. 16:
Line 21, at end insert—
("(3A) In making an order under this section with respect to permitted hours on Sundays, Christmas Day or Good Friday, licensing justices may not so vary the hours as to make them—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Amendment No. 12, as amended, agreed to.
The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 17:
Before Clause 8, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Provisional grant of new licence or removal.)
. In section 6 of the principal Act (provisional grant of a new justices' licence or removal in the case of premises about to be or in course of construction etc.) after subsection (4) there shall be inserted the following subsections—
(4A) The holder of a provisional licence may also apply to have a provisional grant declared final before the premises have been completed if it is likely that they will be completed as mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section before the date appointed for the next licensing sessions; and the licensing justices, if they are satisfied that the premises are likely to be so completed and are further satisfied of the matters mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection, may direct that the declaration may be made before the next licensing sessions by a single licensing justice.
(4B) In a case where a direction has been given under subsection (4A) of this section, a single licensing justice, after such notice has been given as he may require, shall declare the provisional grant final if he is satisfied that the premises have been completed as mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section.
(4C) Until a provisional grant has been declared final under subsection (4) or (4B) of this section it shall not be valid.").
§ The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 17, with the leave of the Committee, I speak also to Amendment No. 36. The purpose of this new clause, which inserts new subsections to Section 6 of the Licensing Act 1964 is to ease some of the logistical difficulties which may be experienced by those who are opening new licensed premises. It stems from an undertaking given in another place that we would consider how best to simplify present procedures. At present, someone building a new supermarket, renovating a corner shop or opening a new pub may apply in advance to the licensing justices for a provisional licence. Before he can begin to trade, however, that licence must be delared final at a licensing sessions when the justices will consider the fitness of the applicant to hold a licence and will check whether the building work has been completed in accordance with the approved plans. Because of the need to check whether the building work has been properly carried out, the final order can only be made when the licensee is ready to begin business. The timing of the licensing sessions may be such that the applicant may have to wait for several weeks from the time he is ready to start trading to the date he can actually start trading.
§ This amendment is designed to simplify the procedure. It will enable a person to apply to a licensing sessions for his provisional licence to be declared final if the premises are on the verge of completion and will be completed before the date of the next licensing sessions. The licensing justices will at that stage be able to consider all the relevant questions; in particular the fitness of the prospective licensee to hold a licence, leaving only the question of whether the finished building conforms to the approved plans. The amendment provides that the responsibility for establishing this may be delegated by the licensing committee to a single licensing justice who may decide the application outside the licensing sessions. It will thus no longer be necessary for 1079 provisional licence holders to have to try to arrange their construction timetables to coincide with the date of the licensing sessions or find themselves unable to sell alcohol for several weeks after their premises have been completed. We should hear no further stories of supermarket owners trying to explain to their mystified customers that, although the store intends to sell beer and wine, it may not do so for another three weeks. This amendment represents a sensible streamlining of licensing procedures without sacrificing any of the safeguards which the licensing process provides.
§ The amendment to Schedule 4 of the Bill is purely a consequential amendment. It repeals a few words at the end of Section 6(4) to take account of the new subsections added by the new clause. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Revocation of justices' licences and canteen licences]:
Lord Morris of Kenwood moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 8, line 23, leave out ("at any licensing sessions") and insert ("once a year in the year when there is not an application for renewal").
§ The noble Lord said: Following my previous intervention, it seems to me totally incongruous that under this Bill justices may revoke a licence of their own Motion but are not to be permitted to make a restriction order under their own Motion. That appears to be nonsensical. Be that as it may, under the present Act objectors may be heard on an application to grant or renew a licence.
§ Clause 8 provides for the extension of the duration of a licence from one to three years. Clause 9 allows an application to be made to revoke a licence at any licensing session. In other words, objections can be made to the continuation of a licence on a separate application and not only in the course of an application for renewal.
§ That provision would far exceed the present annual right to object to renewal. It would allow applications almost monthly and would be likely to cause a considerable increase in the work of the licensing justices and their already overburdened staff. It is for this reason that I seek to limit the number of occasions on which any objection may be made to once a year in the years when there is not an application for renewal. I feel strongly that Clause 9 would have a most detrimental effect and I urge the Government to think again on the subject. I beg to move.
Clause 8 provides that the licences shall be renewable as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, said, on a three-year basis instead of the existing annual basis. To balance this, and to provide a safeguard to protect the community from premises which give rise to serious complaints, Clause 9 provides a new power which allows the licensing justices to revoke a licence at any licensing sessions on the same grounds as they may now refuse to renew 1080 one. The present system which enables the continuation of the licence to be challenged only once a year at the time of renewal, is open to criticism. It protects the licensee from complaints which are made in the course of the year. For instance, complaints may arise in April from the police or members of the public, and they may not be fully aired until the following February.
With the move to a three-year system of licences, it would be quite unrealistic to allow a licence to remain beyond challenge for anything up to three years. The annual general licensing meetings, at which renewals of licences are now dealt with, will not remain in the public mind as the occasion to lodge objections. It was for all those reasons that we concluded that the only practicable and fair solution was to allow a licence to be challenged, by means of an application for revocation, at any of the licensing sessions. There is no reason to think that this new provision will lead to a particular increase in the number of complaints against licensees or their premises. Only a very small proportion of licences are the subject of objection now in any event. I think it unlikely that more will come under scrutiny as a result of the new provision in Clause 9.
The amendment would reduce the opportunity for complaints to be lodged on only one occasion in the year. I do not believe that to be right and I hope that the noble Lord will think again and not press this amendment.
§ Lord Morris of Kenwood
I must be honest and say that I do not find that answer to be very satisfactory. I believe this provision will create a great deal of additional work. It may be only in a small number of cases that objections are made but some of them can be quite vociferous. As a result of this Bill, I expect that we shall find a heavy increase in the number of objections. Be that as it may, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 19:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Provisional grant or removal of off-licences.
§ . In section 6 of the principal Act (provisional grant or removal of licences) after subsection (6) there shall be added the following subsections—
§ "(7) On granting an application for the provisional grant of a new justices' off-licence for any premises or for the provisional removal of an existing justices' off-licence to any premises, the licensing justices shall attach to the licence conditions to ensure that—
- (a) intoxicating liquor shall be displayed out of the physical reach of customers,
- (b) payment for intoxicating liquor sold on the premises shall be made in the same part of the premises in which the liquor was selected by the customer,
- (c) in a case where a substantial portion of the premises is to be used for the sale of commodities other than intoxicating liquor, the premises shall be arranged in such a manner as to secure that the intoxicating liquor is displayed and paid for by customers in a part of the premises which is physically separate from the remainder."
§ (8) Licensing justices may vary the conditions specified in subsection (7) above in the case of any premises comprising a self-service store in which no more than five persons will be employed, if it can be shown to the satisfaction of the justices that the methods of sale, display, security supervision and staff training are adequate to prevent the theft and illegal sale of intoxicating liquor.").
§ The noble Viscount said: One of the features of retailing in this country over the past 30 years has been the growth of supermarkets. Within that retailing environment there has been the burgeoning of off-licences which have doubled within the past 13 years and many of those have been within the areas of supermarkets. This amendment seeks to address some of the problems which have been realised and recognised by many bodies who are concerned with alcohol abuse in this country. These bodies are in addition to the police, the nursing profession and many others.
§ The licensing committees have generally contributed to the growth of these forms of off-licences because the criteria which they bring to bear when they decide whether or not to permit a licence do not include the criterion of need. What often sets out to be an across-the-counter retail service of alcohol has often converted itself to the self-service sales with all the problems of security and ease of access to people who are not entitled to purchase alcohol that self-service suggests. As the Committee knows, there has been an enormous increase in the consumption of alcohol. Generally speaking, I do not believe that there is any disagreement that consumption and abuse go together in the same proportions.
§ I do not say this in any perjorative sense, but supermarkets provide a service which has increased the quality of life of the community. I am very pleased that my noble friend Lord Sainsbury is here sitting behind me. I can feel him watching me very carefully as I speak. The majority of supermarkets in my experience (in the London area, at any rate) do responsibly supervise the sale of alcohol. But there are notable exceptions. Probably about 50 per cent. of alcohol sold within Great Britain—within England anyway—is sold in supermarkets. Supermarkets have themselves been responsible for a large increase of total alcohol consumption. I would not go so far as to say that the proportion of abuse necessarily follows in that ratio.
§ Responsible supermarkets and those responsible bodies who have expressed anxieties, all agree that with the change of habits and the increased taste for alcohol among the young in many areas of the country, that has led to quite an alarming increase in alcohol abuse. Whether that intoxication results in immediate criminal activities, damage to property, and so on, or whether it has effects on the health of young people, alcohol abuse has increased enormously. There is a general recognition that we have to look carefully at how the methods of sale in these outlets are controlled with special emphasis on display, security and supervision.
§ As I have mentioned before, the police are very concerned about this aspect. Recently, I spoke to one of the officers who was responsible for dealing with the unfortunate disturbances on the Broadwater Farm Estate. He told me that one of the main 1082 problems concerned with violence among young people of the kind that suddenly escalates is that many of them are armed with cans of lager which has high alcohol content. Those are not cans which they have bought from a public house, they are cans of beer which they carry in packs (usually six, I believe) which have been purchased from some outlet or other. That could be from a supermarket which is not properly controlled.
§ The number of children in Scotland who are getting drunk is alarming. I believe in Scotland that they are thinking very seriously of some quite dramatic changes in terms of separating alcohol from other merchandise which is available in these kinds of outlets. A serious picture of drunkenness was outlined in the Scotsman of 27th November last year. It stated that there was a serious picture of drunkenness among children which mainly affects 15 year-olds. That in itself is a horrifying picture. A boy aged 10 and three girls aged 12 were reported by the police as being drunk and incapable.
§ The publication Licensing Law in the Eighties which came out in 1983 and was published by the Justices' Clerks' Society, dealt with an important matter that we have to consider when looking at this particular amendment. The publication said that there is no power to attach conditions on the grant of an off-licence, and nor is there power to ask for legally enforceable undertakings. The inability to attach conditions to regulate the operation of this fastest growing type of licence and business is a considerable handicap to licensing justices. Licensing justices know more about the difficulties and the dangers than anybody else because they see them every day but they are not in a position to bring about the kind of changes which I am seeking in the amendment.
§ The Justices' Clerks' Society has since recommended that licensing committees should adopt various changes and policies for premises engaged in the general purveying of foodstuffs. As a result of their experience, justices prefer the shopwithin-the-shop type of operation. We can see that in the London area and in many of the major cities. Where that method has been adopted there is generally better control, display and security. The counter service methods of sale to the exclusion of self-service methods are generally preferable if they can be arranged. I know that there is some resistance from the trade to the suggestions in the amendment but the enormous escalation in alcohol abuse makes it imperative that those people overcome their difficulties. After all, many responsible outlets do it satisfactorily and maintain very good sales. I hope that my noble friend Lord Sainsbury will agree with me on that point.
§ When intoxicating liquor is out of the physical reach of customers it is more difficult for theft, especially theft by young people, to take place. A policy of all purchases of intoxicating liquor over the counter being paid for at the point of selection is generally in line with what the Justices' Clerks' Society feels is appropriate in this ever-growing form of retailing of alcohol. The amendment seeks to take cognisance of the fact that society is extremely aware of the alarming increase in alcohol consumption 1083 among the young. Alcohol consumption among those over the age of 25 happily appears to have levelled out but it is still increasing among the young. As we said when discussing previous amendments, attitudes are changing for health and other reasons. However, there is still a long way to go. It would probably shorten by at least two or three years the period when we would expect to make changes in the attitude towards alcohol if the supermarkets and off-licences which have not already been responsible enough to do so were compelled to make the changes proposed in the amendment.
§ Premises where open shelves of alcohol are adjacent to food or clothes and where there are no separate tills make pilfering and spontaneous impulse buying easier. This adds to the difficulty of controlling alcohol abuse which after all is one of the major concerns in society today. I beg to move
§ Lord Sainsbury
It may not be altogether inappropriate if I follow my noble friend Lord Falkland. First, however, obviously I have to declare an interest because the business which is associated with my name has 270 licensed premises, opens approximately 20 new stores per annum and would be very affected by the proposed restrictions.
A typical new store will stock some 500 to 600 off-licence products of which 250 will probably be table wines. Most supermarkets have well-established systems of supervision in the off-licence departments. There is rigorous staff training where great emphasis is placed on the need to avoid inadvertent sales to people under the age of 18. While paying tribute to the good intentions of my noble friend Lord Falkland and also to my noble friend—but not in a party sense— Lady Ewart-Biggs, I believe that their proposal is retrograde and discriminatory.
The proposal will force a major change in the way in which off-licence sales in this country are currently operated and will progressively restrict sales in a totally unacceptable manner. It can be expected to damage the market and given the volume of sales involved is a wholly intractable suggestion to operate in large supermarkets. In a typical large supermarket some 20,000 bottles of wine are purchased per week. Approximately one customer in seven purchases off-licence products. At peak times, which I need not enumerate, those numbers increase significantly. It will discriminate between different types of trader, between stores large and small, new and old. The choice of the figure of five as the number of staff is arbitrary and would lead to confusion. Does it refer to part-time or full-time staff? What will happen if the number of staff increases? Therefore for all those reasons, if the new clause goes to a Division, I shall vote against it in the hope that the majority of the Committee will do likewise.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
I too wish to speak against the amendment. I should first of all, like the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, declare an interest as a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer. The concerns of Marks & Spencer are very much the 1084 concerns that were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. It is believed—I am sure it is correct—that the amendment is discriminatory in that it is imposed on outlets employing more than five people.
It does not follow of course that those outlets employing fewer people are able to exercise more vigilance than those employing a larger number. It would also be administratively cumbersome in that it requires large units to employ a dual system of payments as well as a dual operating system within the chain of stores; that is to say, those stores in existence would have one form of operation, and others coming into existence would have another. Therefore the system is confusing and one which I think could be regarded as much more difficult for customers.
However, having listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland—I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, will make the same points—I think we are all agreed that it is undesirable and of course illegal that young people should be able to buy alcoholic drinks under the age of 18. There is no possible reason for a reputable store to wish in any way to connive in the breaking of the law. Points have been made about that.
That is why Marks & Spencer put great emphasis on the training of management and staff in their stores. I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said on the subject. That is something which is very well known. Indeed, the girls at the till, who may suspect that a young person is trying to buy alcoholic drinks, are trained to call immediately for the help of a supervisor so that a responsible person can deal with what could be seen as a possibly difficult situation for them. A great deal of trouble is taken on that point. A responsible management will do all that they can to ensure that the law is being upheld and that young people are not able to obtain alcoholic drinks.
We all have sympathy with the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland; namely, that we must do something to prevent young people being able to obtain alcoholic drinks. I think that that is the responsibility of a great many people, not least the parents of young people involved. It is right that stores should train their people to be responsible and to exercise great responsibility in this important matter. I believe that the amendment ought to be resisted for the reasons that have been given: that it is administratively cumbersome, discriminatory and it would unquestionably be a nuisance for customers. Furthermore, it does not help those stores that are aiming to act responsibly and have always done so.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I rise hoping that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and those who support his point of view, will accept that although the intention to control the sale of alcohol (especially to young people) in a responsible way is accepted, he should, nevertheless take into account the views expressed by the noble Baroness who has just spoken from her position of authority and information, and by his colleague with his unrivalled experience of running a business. We are all in fact aiming to hit the right target. But with the greatest respect, I do not think that this attempt to bother or interfere with the 1085 internal structure of a supermarket or a store is the way to go about it.
Most of us rely upon information that is given to us. The noble Baroness has just mentioned the point that there are a great many people who have responsibility, not least government agencies, education authorities and parents, to ensure that young people are better educated in this connection. The noble Viscount used the illustration of Broadwater Farm. I live within two or three miles of that area. However, that example was just used as an illustration to show that people can go into places and easily buy six-packs of beer. The inference from that might be that one of the places from which they could buy alcohol would be a supermarket.
I can tell the Committee that when one looks at the experience, for example, of co-operative and multiple outlets from studies which have been done by reputable research people, less than 1 per cent. of the customers who visit those places are below the legal age limit at which alcohol can be bought. In other words, there are a great many other places where people, who could well be under the age limit, can purchase alcohol.
I should stress the point that when one looks at the wording of the amendment, one sees that it will ban self-service alcohol sections from future new stores. That provision immediately creates two classes: the present stores—to use the phrase—that will not be inhibited from the new regulation, and those that will. When that issue is raised, one will have an opportunity to see whether that is indeed contrary to the interests of fair trading, because one is creating not an artificial but a real difference between the terms of trade under which an existing supermarket and a new store may well wish to operate.
However, more especially, I think we have to accept the overwhelming responsibility felt by the large supermarkets. I do not think that there can be any doubt, as the noble Baroness said, that they are desperately anxious not to fall foul of the law. They not only support the law but they also support the amendment to the Bill which was made in Clause 15; that is, in no instance will it be legal for someone below the age of 18 to sell alcohol unless they have a supervisor or a management colleague in the place. I shall quickly read out to the Committee what one of the larger chains does to ensure that the supervision of checkout operators is properly carried out. It provides that:The Wines and Spirits Department must be exclusively supervised at all times by a person over 18 years of age.The supervisor will be identified by special clothing or a badge. When this person leaves the store for any reason his/her designated relief supervisor shall be similarly identified.Badges will be kept in the Branch manager's office to prevent loss.The badge wearer must prevent any person under the age of 18 from serving themselves and must refer any difficulty or doubt about the age of a customer to the Branch Manager or Deputy Manager.No person under the age of 18 may be involved in the check-out operation unless under the direct supervision of check-out/cashier management or another member of staff who is 18 years of age or older.Notices must be displayed in a prominent position to remind staff and customers that it is an offence for any person under the age of 18 to buy or attempt to buy alcoholic liquor.1086 Reference has been made to the training efforts which are made by reputable companies. I have information here from companies. I would not of course wish to identify the companies; but I hope the Committee will accept from me that they are of the highest repute. The companies endeavour time and time again to ensure that the law is observed and carried out. If the amendment were to be carried, it would be against the wishes of the trade, based upon their experience. So I hope that wiser counsel might prevail.
I should like to put another point. The economics of business in 1988 are very fine. If today one says to any business (even a highly successful one) that we must begin to compartmentalise and separate, then expenses are incurred. That in itself is a factor that needs to be borne in mind.
Therefore I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that we are at one in wanting to ensure that young people shall not easily be able to gain access to alcohol. However, this Bill is not the way to go about it. The Committee can rest assured that I shall be with the noble Viscount on many of the other points that he wishes to raise. However, as I have already said, this is not the best way to deal with the present issue that he has referred to.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I have my name to the amendment, which has come in for a great welter of opposition, so perhaps I could make a couple of brief points. All Members of the Committee who have spoken have an interest in the sale of alcohol. I do not say that they do not have an interest in safeguarding young people and so on, but their primary interest is in the sale of alcohol. The only speakers who do not have that interest are the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and myself.
The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said that strict procedures are followed in the shops that bear his name. I am sure that that is so, but what about the others which perhaps do not reach such high standards? We are concerned with them. It has been said that the consumer will be disadvantaged by the amendment; but the consumer has been advantaged a great deal by the increased outlets in supermarkets. It is forgotten now that the consumer has been enormously advantaged over a short period of time. I should have thought that consumers would accept a balance to safeguard and protect young people whom we know are somehow getting their hands on increased amounts of alcohol. I should have thought that consumers would accept some restrictions to compensate for the greatly increased accessibility that there has been over the years.
Many people have said that it is up to parents to stop their children getting into trouble. Of course it is; but parents need all the support that can be given to them by the law and by the shops that sell alcohol. Worry has been expressed about the wording of the amendment. I am sure that the noble Viscount and I are not concerned with the wording of the amendment; we are concerned that it should be a signal. There is considerable anxiety over the increased accessibility of alcohol. We tabled the amendment with a view to having a restriction and safeguard to balance the greater accessibility of alcohol that has come over the years.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
The case against the amendment has been put cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and by my noble friend Lady Young. Their evidence, if it can be described as such, was impugned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, because it was said that they both spoke with an interest. I have always been brought up to believe that people who know most about the subject on which they are talking are those who are most worth listening to. I hope that it will never be regarded as a disqualification from expressing a view that one may be concerned with the trade in question.
However, I hasten to reassure the noble Baroness that my concern is solely that of the consumer. From time to time my wife is rash enough to entrust me with the supermarket shopping. It is not an experience which I especially enjoy, but it is educative. The supermarkets that we patronise are those which have the widest range of goods on their shelves. That is what customers increasingly want now.
I had to administer the planning law. There is a great deal of planning dispute about the role of superstores and out-of-town supermarkets, but the noble Baroness was right when she said that that has brought enormous advantages to the consumer.
The question is not whether alcohol should be sold in supermarkets but how it should be sold. From my observation—I confess freely that it is a limited, almost anecdotal experience—I should have thought that there were better ways of controlling the misuse of self-service alcohol in the generality of superstores, where there are long, open passages which are regularly policed by the staff (shelf fillers and others) than in what one might call a hole-and-corner shop—the shop within the shop about which the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, talked.
I do not accept that it is self-evident that the control of alcohol sales is better done against that background than in the broader, open corridors and the effective check-out systems which the vast majority of superstores have. I question seriously the basis of the amendment. Like my noble friend Lady Young, I speak as a former Social Services Minister. No one can be in the least complacent about the problems of alcohol and the young, but I share the view put forward a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, that the new clause is not the way to deal with the problem.
If there are superstores which do not properly control the sale of alcohol from their open shelves, the remedy lies with those who are concerned about the matter. They can go to the licensing justices and seek to have the licence revoked. The remedy is not to impose the requirement upon every new superstore, which is what the new clause does, however detailed the planning may already have been, that it should have an entirely separate outlet for alcohol.
I respect the motives of those who tabled the amendment, but I hope that the Committee will agree with those who have argued that it is misconceived and should not reach the statute book.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, has made out a substantial case against the amendment; but there is also a substantial case for it. I remember that as counsel 25 years ago I made many applications for licences for supermarkets. They were unusual in those days. One had to satisfy the licensing justices on all the requirements set out in subsection (7) (a), (b) and (c) of the new clause. One had no hope of obtaining the licence without satisfying them.
Let us look at the problem as it emerges today. We all know that throughout the country there is a great problem of teenage abuse of alcohol. We have abundant evidence of it. There have been a number of special studies about it in Wales. When children are investigated, it transpires that much of the alcohol is obtained by theft from supermarkets and from illegal sales. When one goes into a supermarket these days—I have in mind a supermarket that I use—one sees alcohol displayed on different shelves just before one goes out by the cash desk. It is available for sale.
Some of the cashiers are under age. That is an important point when considering who is to impose a sanction on a child who takes alcohol off a shelf and passes someone at the cash desk. If one considers the changes in public habits over the past 25 years—I am the first to concede from the consumers' point of view that there are enormous advantages in the supermarket, the hypermarket and so on—there is a social price to be paid. I can understand that the trade sees the provision imposing considerable inconvenience, but there comes a point at which the social price is too high. We must consider whether the lack of separate provision, such as is set out in the amendment, would inconvenience supermarkets and hypermarkets. It would be contrary to the trends of recent years, yet the trends of recent years include the gross abuse of alcohol by children and teenagers. We have to consider the contribution made by the free access to alcohol in the supermarkets in the way described.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
; I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, for giving way. I should like to point out that very often when someone below the age of 18 serves at a supermarket checkout, the inference is that he or she is free to serve alcohol. But they can only take the purchases from someone if there is a supervisor to whom they can refer.
§ Lord Hooson
That may be the theoretical proposition, but the practicalities of life in a supermarket are totally different. I am not disputing that the best run supermarkets and hypermarkets try to ensure completely adequate supervision but we have to cater in our laws for the average, not the best. Therefore, I think that there is a very substantial case to be made for this amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
I will, if I may, say a few words on this amendment. First of all I think it is extremely valuable that my noble friend Lord Falkland put it down because there has been an extremely interesting though brief debate. I very much agree with some, though with not all of the 1089 views of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, when he drew attention to the problem of alcohol abuse—a problem which he recognised as being particularly significant when he was Secretary of State for Social Services.
The only thing which I felt was slightly disappointing in the noble Lord's speech was what precisely he was suggesting we as a society should do about the problem. I am not saying that on the basis of the speech made by my noble friend Lord Falkland we should necessarily pass this amendment, but I have so far heard no significant contribution by those opposing it putting forward any set of proposals for dealing with the problem of alcohol abuse among young people.
Let me speak as a former chairman of a parole board. These statistics have been given in the past but they should be repeated: 50 per cent. of murders in this country, including murders committed by young people, are committed when the person concerned is under the influence of alcohol. Also in 50 per cent. of cases of unpremeditated violence, which distinguishes a fight at a football ground from a bank robbery, the assailant is drunk at the time.
We also know that crime is a young person's problem. The age group in which there is the highest degree of likelihood of people coming before the courts is the 15 to 18 year-olds. One only has to recognise that fact to see the relevance of this issue—the question of alcohol abuse which we have been debating tonight.
I certainly should not fight for every element of my noble friend's amendment and I suspect that he will not press it this evening in any event. But I think that those who are in the retail trade have the responsibility for looking at what can be done in those areas of the trade, which do exist, where no adequate steps are being taken to prevent young people acquiring liquor. Of course, what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said is true. They were speaking as directors of two companies which have a particularly good reputation in this country. I do not doubt for a moment everything the noble Baroness said about the instructions given to Marks & Spencer staff. Both of these are very well managed organisations. But I am afraid we also have to recognise that there is a very large number of other concerns whose reputations are not quite so spotless.
Let me come back to an issue which we debated not long ago: the question of disturbances at football matches. What was the cause of those disturbances? In the overwhelming majority of cases it was alcohol abuse; young people who had drunk far too much.We all recognised that when we were debating the Bill in this House. Despite that legislation, I may say that the disturbances in and around football grounds still take place. The young people concerned are still in many cases heavily under the influence of alcohol when they are involved in these disturbances.
Inevitably, like that of others, my evidence is anecdotal. But from talking to senior police officers who are responsible for the management of public order around many football grounds in this country, I am repeatedly told that young people have been 1090 acquiring alcohol illicitly from retail outlets. I know it may displease the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, to say this, but sometimes it has been made quite clear that these children obtain it from supermarkets where there is no adequate supervision by members of the management. That being so, we look to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, when he replies to the debate, to tell us what precisely is to be done about the situation.
Many of us accept that there are responsible people in the retail trade who are as concerned about this issue as the rest of us. But I think they also have to recognise that on the basis of consistent advice from the police about what has been taking place in the country over the last few years when there have been serious breaches of public order, there is no doubt whatever that one of the principal reasons has been that significant numbers of young people have been acquiring liquor illicitly.
§ The Earl of Onslow
I think it is worthwhile remembering that in this country we have the lowest alcohol consumption of most states in Europe. It is also worthwhile suggesting to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that separating alcohol sales in supermarkets would have no effect on the murder rate whatever. I know the noble Lord did not say that it would do so, but he brought in as some minor suggestion that murders were all caused by alcohol. That may be so, but I do not think that where alcohol is displayed in supermarkets will have any effect at all on that.
It has been explained that this amendment is designed to combat several problems associated with alcohol, particularly those which arise at self-service outlets. I think all of us are acutely concerned about where alcohol is abused, and where it is used illicitly, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, or is purchased illicitly. I should point out to the noble Lord that this will not alter any illicit purchasing of alcohol.
Noble Lords will be aware that my noble friend Lady Masham produced a report at the end of last year which provided a comprehensive analysis of the problems which surround young people and alcohol. This is a matter about which I know, from what we have heard this evening, most noble Lords are very concerned. Lady Masham's report contained a list of recommendations to help us to combat some of these problems. Oddly enough, those did not include legislating to increase the physical security of off-licence premises.
When we consulted the interested parties on our proposed response to my noble friend's report, we floated the idea of enabling licensing justices to attach conditions to new off-licence supermarkets in order to confine sales of alcohol, as my noble friend Lady Young said, to a shop within the shop. The responses which we received convinced us that such a move would be oppressive and furthermore it would not immediately address the problem which we were trying to tackle. The interested parties said that we needed to strengthen the law on sales to young people. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, was concerned about. He asked what we 1091 were going to do about that. That matter is addressed in Clauses 13 and 14 of the Bill. These will make the licensee much more responsible for ensuring that his drinks are not sold to those who are under age.
We have also introduced in Clause 15 a new requirement that all off-licence sales which are made by somebody under the age of 18 must be supervised by an adult. I think that the new measures will represent a considerable tightening of the law in this area and they should have a real impact on the problem, which is of such great concern.
The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and my noble friends Lady Young and Lord Jenkin all said that if we were to accept this amendment it would have a severe effect upon the ability of individuals to shop in a way which they consider reasonable. I think that my noble friend Lady Young said that the amendment was discriminatory and would be administratively cumbersome.
The Government have a duty to protect the vulnerable, but that has to be balanced against the need to avoid unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of the majority. I respect the intention of this amendment but I am bound to say that I do not believe that it is correct to put it in the Bill because it disturbs that balance.
§ 7 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
I must confess that I felt somewhat friendless at the beginning of this debate but help came like the United States cavalry. I can confirm the prognostication of my noble friend Lord Harris that I do not propose to push this to a Division. It has been an interesting debate.
It is curious that, having taken the trouble to consult a number of police officers, social workers, people in voluntary agencies and others, I have not yet had any dissenting view to that which I put forward in my amendment. Therefore I was somewhat surprised that there was such a strength of opposition from those Members of the Committee who spoke, although I realise and accept that they spoke with utmost sincerity and honesty and that they wish to see alcohol abuse reduced as much as I do.
When the noble Baroness, Lady Young, stated her wish or her desire that parents should take more responsibility she mentioned something which we all share. But the reality is that across the social and economic classes parental control is sadly deficient today. I wish that we were in a perfect world where parents would take control. I agree with her in that regard. We touched on that area when we were discussing other amendments. But it is unrealistic to think that parents can suddenly now jump in, control their children and stop pilfering, violence, football hooliganism and other such matters.
Members of the Committee who spoke and declared their interests were, as has been said, connected with known, large and reputable organisations which have taken every step to see that proper safeguards are included in the way that the product is retailed. But there are many shops and outlets which do not have strict controls and the same 1092 standards. I cannot tell the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, how many murders have resulted from people going into corner shops and putting drink into their pockets because unfortunately in this couuntry we have not yet reached the stage where the attitude is such that we have proper statistics for such things. Perhaps in three years' time we shall be able to tell him precisely how many murders were committed, how many throats were cut or how many people were banged over the head as a result of other people going into supermarkets and taking drink; but at this stage I am afraid that I am as much in the dark as he is.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, said, we have put this amendment down as a marker. It has been a useful debate and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 20:
After Clause 10, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Garage Sales.
. After section 9(3) of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following subsection—
(3A) Premises shall be disqualified for receiving a justices' licence if their primary purpose is the retailing of petrol or derv to motorists or other users of motor vehicles or the sale and maintenance of motor vehicles."").
§ The noble Viscount said: We now come to an amendment that deals with a subject which should be sensitive, although I deal with it with a little more trepidation than I had when I approached my previous amendment. This seems to me and I think to many of the Members of the Committee on these Benches to be one of the most extraordinary contradictions and anomalies in alcohol consumption today. The anomaly is that outlets which dispense petrol and diesel fuel and which supply the needs of motorists, commercial or private, should supply alcoholic liquor, bearing in mind the quite appalling tally of road accidents each year and the enormous amount of public concern that there is in every area that it is possible to buy alcohol where one stops in one's motor car and where one purchases petrol or diesel fuel.
§ It seems to me that everybody realises now, no matter how much they feel that it may encroach on their habits in driving from place to place, that alcohol and driving are a mismatch. That is something of which people are becoming increasingly aware although perhaps not as aware as some of our neighbours in other countries. However I always hesitate to mention other countries in the Chamber because it seems to create such an extraordinary rise in temperature.
§ Nevertheless others view as very curious the fact that we do not get to grips with this mismatch between the driver and alcohol in a more positive way. They also view as curious the fact that we do not make up our minds about random testing and how people should be dealt with when they seriously endanger life through irresponsible purchase and consumption of alcohol when in charge of motor vehicles.
§ The licensing of garages has taken place in a way which is quite alarming, but one must say also that 1093 many licensing committees refuse to grant licences to garages. However 150 licences have been granted in England and Wales. Many benches are under enormous pressure to grant more of these licences because of the precedents that have been set. It seems to me that it is time that we set down a clear standard of approach to the retailing of alcohol alongside that of petrol and fuel for motorists.
§ My amendment has support from the police. I have mentioned the police a good deal tonight and I am happy that they support this amendment. It is the official policy of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, as adopted in 1987, to prevent sales of this kind. Policemen have to deal with the results of the consumption of alcohol, which leads to accidents either fatal or otherwise. They have to pick up the pieces and they know what they are talking about
§ If the Committee agrees to this amendment it will be a very considerable step in the right direction. Apart from being a step in the right direction in terms of the law it is a very good educative step. If one makes it quite clear to young people by a step of this kind that it is unacceptable to drink and drive, and if one makes it more difficult for people to buy drink if they are going to be in control of a vehicle, it brings it home to young people who are starting to drive and who unfortunately have caught on to what I and many other Members of the Committee consider the very equivocal attitude to alcohol in this country that this is a serious matter. It has the dual function of being educative and being a practical step in immediately reducing the possibilities of accidents and fatalities. I do not think that this amendment would cause an enormous inconvenience. Other Members of the Committee may feel differently. It seems to me to be in tune with the way people are beginning to think about the anti-social behaviour of people who consume drink and go out and drive a motor car.
§ Everyone knows the statistics. Each year more than 5,000 people are killed in motor accidents; 300,000 are injured in road accidents each year; alcohol is directly implicated in 1,500 of these deaths and in no fewer than 30,000 of the injuries; almost half of all drivers killed on the roads have been drinking. I need not continue with the statistics because we are familiar with them. I seriously commend this amendment to the Committee. It is sensible. It is easily implemented. It does not cause inconvenience and I do not think it has any serious economic effects. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
I feel very very strongly about this amendment and agree with it wholeheartedly. I wonder why so many licensing justices have been persuaded in 156 cases that we know of to allow the sale of alcoholic liquid with one hand and putting petrol in a motorbike or a car with the other. It seems to be completely against everything that we are trying to do in his country; in other words, to stop people from driving under the influence of drink. It is so amazing that I am afraid words have almost failed me.
This is the most important amendment in the whole Bill. I feel most strongly about it. Unfortunately I cannot stay because I have another 1094 engagement, but I had to remain to support the noble Viscount. I hope that the Government take notice of this. I raised this point on Second Reading and so felt that I was able to speak just for a moment or two about it this evening.
One knows that one can get alcohol practically everywhere, but why on earth one is encouraging people to buy it and then go off on the road, having filled the tank of their vehicle taking a swig of gin with one hand and pressing the accelerator with the other, I just do not know.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
There might have been a time when I should have had to declare an interest in that many years ago I ran petrol filling stations and in those stations sold a variety of goods. I never saw anybody taking a swig of liquor with one hand and filling the tank with the other.
While I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that drinking and driving are a mismatch, I am not proposing to enter into a road safety debate. It is wrong, as new opportunities for retail development occur, that one should single out a particular activity to disbar where there are adequate resources for objection not only from the public but from the police and from the justices. The fact that Members of the Committee may think that a mistake has been made in 156 known cases is, I suggest, immaterial. To have blanket refusal of applications for the sale of liquor by garage or filling station proprietors seem to me to be abundantly wrong. If the noble Viscount wishes to reduce the amount of liquor sold out of retail establishments, including the garage industry, which he has singled out, I suggest he looks for an alternative remedy.
§ The Earl of Onslow
One would certainly like to support the noble Viscount. I generally take the view that people should be allowed to do almost anything they want with the minimum amount of interference from the state. However it seems fairly silly to sell petrol and alcohol at the same time. We do not allow it at motorway service stations.
There is one possible place where it might be justified. I do not know whether Members of the Committee know the road which goes from Helmsdale across a chunk of the north of Scotland. It is a single-track road with passing bays. Right in the middle of nowhere there is a small garage; there is not another shop for absolutely miles. There is a very small community around it. Such places, which also serve as general stores to a community, should in some way be exempt from what otherwise strikes me as a very sensible proposal.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I add my support to this amendment. I stress that it seems to be the most paradoxical situation that with one hand and with a great deal of expense we try to suppress drink-driving and on the other we allow the garage, the home of the car, to sell drink. The licensing of garages undermines the message: if you drink you do not drive and if you drive you do not drink. Surely this is the message that we want to get out in every possible way.
1095 The noble Viscount said that this proposal had police support. Indeed I believe that the official policy of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales is to prevent such sales. The association has commented that many garage forecourts are supplying bulk amounts of alcohol to motorists and general shoppers and feels that this is in direct conflict with the duty of the police to reduce drinking and driving. This is the paradox that the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, was describing.
The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, made the point about the isolated shop in a small community. From my understanding, this amendment would not cause any difference there. It is worded so as to allow hypermarkets to continue to sell both drink and petrol. Selling petrol is not the "primary purpose" of hypermarkets and normally the petrol sale point is physically separate from the rest of the sales area. Similarly, grocers' shops in isolated villages which may also have a petrol pump would not fall foul of the amendment. Therefore, this would be safeguarded.
There has been constant reference throughout the Bill to the worry about drink and driving and to the fact that it is innocent people, including children, who suffer. The noble Viscount said that this amendment will not cause any great inconvenience. Surely it should be supported. I very much look forward to hearing what the noble Earl says before he departs.
§ Lord Gisborough
My noble friend will give serious consideration to this amendment. The noble Baroness opposite mentioned the vital words, the "primary purpose". This leaves any bona fide shop able to sell, but it takes the alcohol away from those garages which virtually sell nothing else.
§ The Earl of Arran
There are few garages with off-licences. At the last count, in 1986, the total was about 150; so the sale of alcohol at petrol stations is not a widespread phenomenon.
There are no signs that where alcohol is sold at garages it causes any problems. The Government take very seriously the problem of drink driving, and I should not wish to oppose any measure that would reduce this problem. However, I do not share the view that the sale of alcohol at shops attached to garages will incite people to drink and drive. In the vast majority of cases people purchasing alcohol will do so in order to consume it when their journey is over, not en route. It is not unusual, for example, for shoppers to take their cars to supermarkets or off-licences and to drive home with cans or bottles. To that extent it is irrelevant whether the off-licence is a garage or other outlet.
Applications for licences from garages may be opposed by the police if they feel concerned about the possibility of drivers drinking their purchases. In these circumstances the justices would be reluctant to grant a licence. However, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Magistrates' Association have both expressed the view that the existing licensing controls are adequate to control the sales of alcohol from garages, and they would not favour a blanket ban. Such a ban would have an unfortunate effect on 1096 those general stores in rural areas which are attached to garages, but which also sell all kinds of other goods, including alcoholic drinks, for the convenience of customers who may live a long way from other shops. For such premises, it is arguable whether their primary purpose is the sale of petrol with the general store as a secondary business or vice versa. The present arrangements allow the justices to examine each application on its merits and to exercise their discretion to grant or refuse applications from such premises.
It is the case that premises at service areas on motorways are prohibited under the Licensing Act from holding a justices' licence. In those places which provide parking places and exist for the purpose of enabling motorists to take a break from driving long distances there must be a risk that drivers will relax with an alcoholic drink and there is every reason therefore to prevent the grant of licences. The same considerations, however, do not apply to other garages.
In many respects there have been too many over-exaggerated dire warnings in the Committee of what may happen if alcohol is allowed to be sold at garages. For that reason I cannot commend the amendment.
The Viscount of Falkland
Although the noble Earl delivered his brief charmingly, needless to say I found the content very complacent and unsatisfactory. I think that this matter needs serious attention. The situation is illogical, nonsensical and dangerous. The noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, put it very clearly. She has had much experience in the matter and I know feels strongly about it. I fancy that many other noble Lords are of the same view.
The response is so unsatisfactory that I wish to take a different path from that which I had thought to take earlier. I should therefore like the amendment to be put to the Committee.
§ The Earl of Onslow
Can we not beg my noble friend to go away and reconsider this? He has no support other than his brief.
§ The Earl of Arran
I have of course noted carefully and seriously what has been said. I may have received a brief on the matter, but it happens to be what both I and the Government believe to be true. In those circumstances, I cannot recommend the amendment.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No 20) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 64.1097
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Carlisle, Bp.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Carter, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.|
|Blease, L.||David, B.|
|Brentford, V.||Davies of Penrhys, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Dean of Beswick, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Donoughue, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Falkland, V. [Teller.]||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Rea, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Salisbury, Bp.|
|Grey, E.||Seear, B.|
|Hooson, L. [Teller.]||Selkirk, E.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Stockton, E.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, I||Swinfen, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|McNair, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Nicol, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Onslow, E.||White, B.|
|Parry, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Arran, E.||Lindsay, E.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Attlee, E.||Long, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Boardman, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Marley, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Merrivale, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Monson, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Munster, E.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Orkney, E.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Oxfuird, V.|
|Dundee, E.||Pym, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Gisborough, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hives, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Trumpington, B,|
|Hooper, B.||Ullswater, V.|
|Inglewood, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Wise, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13 [Sale of intoxicating liquor on licensed premises to persons under 18]:
Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 11, line 33, leave out from ("offence") to end of line 35.
§ The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 21 and 23 embrace the same principle. These amendments are designed to strengthen the provisions concerned with under-age drinking. In my view—and I think that this view is shared by many Members of the Committee—this is a most important matter which we have to deal with in relation to this Bill. The scale of the problem presented by under-age drinking, which has been 1098 referred to continually during this debate, is enormous. It is a problem which arouses concern not only among the police and others who have to deal professionally with its consequences but also among the general public. The statistics referred to at Second Reading show that the increase in the volume of drinking among very young people is very alarming.
§ It has been said that the primary responsibility for preventing children and teenagers from drinking illegally must rest with their parents. All of us would agree with that. However, as I have said, the law must surely give support to those efforts. That is the reason for these amendments.
§ I recognise that the Government have now accepted that the problem of under-age drinking is extremely serious and that one of the causes is the inadequacy of the existing legislation—in particular the difficulties caused by the word "knowingly" in the present Act. Perhaps I may remind the Committee that Section 169 of the Licensing Act 1964 states that it shall be an offence for the holder of a licence or his servant knowingly to sell intoxicating liquor to a person under 18.
The Justices' Clerks' Society pointed out the problems that resulted from that provision. They said:
Experience has shown that it is difficult to obtain convictions in view of current legislation and the police simply hesitate to prosecute licence holders and young drinkers. In one police area in the South of England only two licence holders were prosecuted for selling to minors, which in the context of the problem nationwide demands action and effective action".
They asked what that should be.
§ For those reasons the Government decided in another place to remove the word "knowingly" from the section in the principal Act regulating the sale of alcohol by licensees to minors. That is to be welcomed. However, the Justices' Clerks' Society wish to go further. They wish the word "knowingly" to be removed and the selling of alcohol to the under-aged made an absolute offence. They speak with the authority of those who are mainly responsible for the administration of the law.
§ However, while I understand why the society takes that view, I believe that the Government are right not to make the offence absolute. To do so would be to place an unduly heavy burden on licensees and would almost certainly result in the unfair [...] of some entirely responsible licensees. I think that we all recognise how difficult it can be accurately to tell a young person's age in the best of circumstances let alone in the very difficult and crowded setting of a bar when there is also the necessity to serve people very quickly.
Therefore I believe that it is necessary and right to permit a defence. The defence suggested in Clause 13 of the Bill is:
That he [the licensee] exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence".
I cannot see that it places an unjustifiable burden on licensees to have to convince the court in cases where there was a reason to doubt the age of a customer that he made a genuine attempt to find it out.
So far, so good, but our concern lies wholly within the second alternative defence proposed in Clause 13:
That he had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18".
I am sure that many noble Lords will agree with me that the second defence almost totally negates the first. It seems that the burden of proof placed on the licensee is so small as to be negligible. In a disputed case a licensee would simply have to say that the person looked as if he or she was 18 and as he had no information to the contrary he was justified in making the sale. Assuming that the customer looks as if he or she might be 18, the second defence, unlike the first, does not put any obligation on the licensee to take any specific step to ascertain the customer's age, even simply asking what it is. In this sense the second defence is just a different version of the original "knowingly" clause and, in our view, will be equally unsatisfactory.
I can understand why some people with an interest in the licensed trade would be pleased to see the existing legal loophole replaced by—as I see it—another one. However, I think that the Government—whose duty it is to protect the pubic interest—should not have given into their demands. The second defence as it stands in the Bill at present almost totally nullifies the first. It puts at issue the whole point of the exercise, which is that young people should not be allowed to be served so easily in licensed establishments. It has indeed been proved that it is very easy for them to be served with drinks. For that reason the noble Viscount and I have introduced this amendment, which would delete the second defence so that the passage will read:
Where a person is charged … by reason of his own act, it shall be a defence for him to prove that he exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence".
In our view that is sufficient. It puts the onus on the licensee. The amendment also has the support of the Justices' Clerks' Society and the working party on under-age drinking chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I urge the Committee to support it.
I find the argument of the noble Baroness a trifle curious, if I may say so. Both she and the noble Viscount are concerned to ensure that young people do not drink when they should not and the Bill is designed to strengthen that intention.
The clause reflects the Government's view that the licensee should bear a clear responsibility to prevent the sale of alcohol to young people. That was done primarily by removing the word "knowingly" from the definition of the offence. We recognise the very severe difficulties that face the most responsible licensee in discharging this responsibility. Despite reasonable inquiries it may be difficult to decide beyond any doubt whether a customer is over the age of 18, especially if the young person in question is intent on deceiving. Short of asking him for his birth certificate, one simply cannot know.
I think that it would be unreasonable to expect a licensee to question a customer. The licensee has a real difficulty if he is to observe the law without giving offence also to the young adult. The second limb of the defence which this amendment would remove acknowledges those problems. It protects the responsible licensee who makes a genuine mistake. The defence that we adopted is taken from the 1100 Scottish licensing legislation in which it does not seem to have given rise to any particular problems. The defence protects the licensee who can show that he exercised all due diligence to avoid an offence. I think that that is reasonable.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
We are in total agreement with the first part of the clause but are worried that it is negated by the second part, which says that the licensee had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18. Therefore the licensee could always protect himself with that defence. The young person should perhaps be questioned. I see no reason why not. In America I have seen young people go into a pub and automatically produce some kind of identification which gives their age. If we are worried about underage drinking and wish to stop it, we may have to inconvenience young people a little, because it will prove an even greater inconvenience to them if they go along the road of heavy drinking.
Of course the licensee would be able to show that he had exercised all due diligence although he thought that the person was under the age of 18 and nevertheless sold him or her some drink. It is up to him to try to find out. However, short of literally asking a question and possibly being given a wrong answer, if he has shown all due diligence he is in the clear.
The amendment seeks to leave out the word "knowingly" because that puts the onus much more on the licensee to take reasonable precautions without being able to be fined.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I am not one bit convinced by what the noble Earl has said. We are merely trying to strengthen the position in regard to the young person being refused a drink. We are strengthening the possibility that he will be turned away because he is under age.
Under the clause as it stands the licensee may not go to very much trouble to ascertain that the young person is old enough to be served a drink. That is a very great worry. What is more, as the noble Earl knows, in another place the Minister suggested that he would put a greater onus on the licensee and when he came back at the next stage of the Bill he had again weakened it. Therefore, as I say, I am extremely disappointed that the noble Earl has not responded to the points that I have made. However, it is rather late and I shall not put the amendment to a vote. Nonetheless, I cannot accept any of the arguments that the Minister has put. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clause 14 [Sales to or by persons under 18 of intoxicating liquor on wholesale premises]:
§ 7.45 p.m.
Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 12, line 14, leave out from ("liquor") to end of line 16.
§ The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to remove what many of us consider is 1101 an absurd anomaly in the law which allows young people under 18 to sell in premises a product which they are not legally permitted to buy. In promoting greater consistency in the law, this amendment is entirely in line with what has been described as a main aim of the Bill. The Home Office Working Group on Young People and Alcohol, which was chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, examined the issue of under-age sales and its recommendations are in line with this amendment. The Justices' Clerks' Society has also expressed its dislike of the anomaly of under-age sales and wishes to see it removed.
§ The Masham Committee recognised that allowing the sale of alcohol by young people under 18 is an anomaly which could have very undesirable consequences. As the committee pointed out, it may be difficult for a 16 year-old to challenge a 17 year-old who seeks to buy alcohol. This anomaly in the law may help to undermine other legal controls on underage drinking.
§ I know that there has been a change in that a young person is not allowed to sell alcohol without being supervised by someone else in the store, but I do not think that that is a very satisfactory situation because it means that if an assistant is under 18 two sales people will have to be involved in every purchase of alcohol. There is an argument that maintaining young people under 18 to serve in such shops would have an effect on their employment prospects, but surely it is even more likely to hamper the job prospects of the under-18s since it means that they always have to be supervised when making a sale. I believe that the minimum age for sales staff should be the same in both off- and on-licences.
§ Of course responsible retailers already impose their own prohibition on under-age sales assistants. We feel that the less responsible ones should be made to follow their example. We also believe that the impracticality of the clause as it stands is likely to lead to the law not being obeyed, and inevitably the delays that will occur at busy check-outs while assistants call for supervision for the sale of every bottle or can of alcohol among a customer's purchases will lead to the law being disregarded. The amendment that we propose has the advantages of greater simplicity, straightforwardness, practicality and also, we believe, enforceability. I beg to move.
Although the law prohibits the employment of young people under 18 in bars we have not thought it necessary to extend the same restriction to those employed in premises which happen to deal in wholesale quantities of alcohol or in off-licences. In this matter we are supported by the Working Group on Young People and Alcohol.
Warehouses and off-licences are establishments which are different from bars. Staff employed in bars need a reasonable degree of maturity to cope with the situations that may occur there; the same considerations do not arise in a wine house or an off-licence. For many shops which hold an off-licence, the sale of alcohol forms only part of their trade. It does not seem reasonable to exclude 16 and 17 year-olds from the employment opportunities which establishments of that kind can offer simply because they might have to sell some drink. Although 1102 large supermarkets may be able to employ young people in functions where they are not required to sell alcohol, that may not be possible for smaller shops which would respond to such a restriction by employing adults only.
In considering the employment of young people in off-licences and wholesale premises, we believed that the main problem that they could encounter was the pressure to sell drink to other young people who may be their direct contemporaries. The requirement that they should be supervised by an adult provides the necessary protection in those circumstances without closing off an important source of employment to school-leavers.
I hope that the noble Baroness will realise that, while one understands the concern that she feels, the Bill is better without the amendment.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I am quite sure the Minister agrees that it is highly incongruous that people under 18 are allowed to sell a product which it is illegal for them to buy. I believe that no one can dispute this fact. We are worried that it seems very unlikely that someone under 18 would prevent the sale of alcohol to another minor. It seems likely that he or she would cast a blind eye at it and there would be the danger of an illegal sale. I believe that the arguments for our amendment are stronger than for having the Bill as the Government have written it. However, again it is rather late, and I do not seem to have had any spoken support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 23 not moved.]
§ Clause 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15 [Prohibition of unsupervised off-sales by persons under 18]:
§ [Amendment No. 24 not moved.]
§ Clause 15 agreed to.
The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 25:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
§ . The Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Transport shall monitor the effects of changes in licensing law on alcohol consumption and alcohol related problems concerning public order, road safety and public health.")
§ The noble Viscount said: This amendment seems to be a purely common sense amendment. It is difficult for me, and for those who I hope will support my amendment, to understand that in another place the Government did not see fit to approve of the idea as expressed in amendments in another place to monitor the effects of the Bill. With the very high level of alcohol abuse in this country it would be extraordinary if, with changes in the law, there was not a system of monitoring, reporting and publishing the changes and effects as they take place. Indeed, the principle was accepted with regard to a Private Member's Bill on liquor licensing in 1987, and both the Clayson Committee in Scotland and the Erroll Committee in England strongly recommended systematic monitoring of any licensing law changes. 1103 My amendment is therefore entirely in line with the Erroll Committee's recommendations, and it is only in accordance with common sense. I commend it to the Committee on those lines.
§ We have debated in this Chamber, in one form or another, alcohol abuse and licensing laws. It has always been very difficult for us to have a clear idea of the effects of the liberalisation of licensing laws in Scotland because of the inadequacy of the information coming from Scotland. It seems to me that it would be sensible now to set up proper monitoring systems so that we can keep closely in touch and amend the law as and when it is necessary in accordance with those findings.
§ The failure to monitor the Scottish change is very regrettable because it has slowed up legislation in England. We have not been able properly to identify those parts of that legislation that have been successful and those that have not. We do not even know whether offences of certain types have increased or decreased. That would seem to support my view that generally speaking information, properly communicated, is what is needed. The best body to sponsor the promotion of proper information on which one can base further action to combat alcohol abuse seems to be the Government. However, the Government have been noticeably willing to commission various bodies to study alcohol abuse and other areas which affect public health but seem to have been somewhat reluctant to accept the findings. I recall that the Think Tank produced some very interesting findings which were not published. They were extremely difficult to obtain; in fact my copy came from Scandinavia.
§ I suggest that this is a constructive amendment. I have no hesitation in commending it to Members of the Committee. I beg to move.
§ The Earl of Arran
The new clause and this amendment seem to assume that there is currently a dearth of statistical data relating to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. That is not the case. A range of information is collected from which it is possible to monitor trends of, for example, the incidence of road accidents in which alcohol is a contributory factor or the extent of alcohol-related health problems. My own department maintains records of public order offences and of offences in which alcohol is the primary cause, for example, drunkenness.
In terms of alcoholic consumption the Home Office has commissioned a survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, the field-work of which has been completed, to assess levels and patterns of drinking prior to the introduction of the Bill's provisions. This will provide a useful base against which to compare subsequent surveys. The Department of Health and Social Security will be commissioning such surveys as part of their regular pattern of monitoring alcohol consumption.
There is no suggestion that this range of statistical data will not continue to be available. To that extent, therefore, the new clause is unnecessary. However, that apart, I think that there is a danger in assuming 1104 that statistics relating to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems will tell us much about the impact of changes in the licensing law. We know, for example, that since the changes in the Scottish licensing laws, charges proved of drunkenness offences have dropped dramatically. I would not suggest that the decrease is the result of licensing changes. There are too many other variable factors at work, not least policing practices and priorities. What we can say, however, is that the Scottish evidence shows no adverse effects.
I would also suggest that it is inappropriate to include a monitoring requirement in this Bill. There are dangers that, in prescribing the matters to which monitoring should apply, it would be limiting the scope of future research. Clearly it is important that arrangements for monitoring and research should be sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing needs and circumstances. To the extent that the new clause imposes statutory obligations on the departments concerned, but with no means of enforcement, I would further suggest that it is defective. For those reasons I recommend that the Committee reject this amendment.
The Viscount of Falkland
At this late hour I do not intend to press my amendment. I accept in some measure what the noble Earl has said. It is correct that in the present climate there is a greater willingness to collect and collate proper information. It has not been done until now and I still maintain that it was a very sad business that the Scottish authorities did not see fit to have proper reporting of the effects of the changes of laws in their country. I should be very sad to see the same thing happening here.
The monitoring needs to be improved. There are all kinds of harmful and distressing results of alcohol abuse that need to be examined more closely. We need to draw more information from, for example, the crime statistics. I accept that the Government have access to the findings of the very excellent Wakeham Committee and so on. I accept the remarks and assurances of the noble Earl on this amendment and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8 p.m.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 26:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Definition of intoxicating liquor.
§ . In section 201 of the principal Act, in the definition of "intoxicating liquor", in paragraph (a), line 123, leave out "at any time".").
§ The noble Lord said: The amendment stems in part from the original Alehouse Act 1828, since when the legislation governing the sale of alcoholic drinks has always referred to the excise legislation to define the drinks to which it has applied. The amendment, which I suggest is very largely technical, seeks to remove an anomaly which exists in the Licensing Act 1964 under which drinks which have insufficient alcohol to fall within the definition of "intoxicating 1105 liquor" fall within this definition if they have been fermented at any stage during their manufacture and the original gravity exceeded 1016 degrees.
§ The present problem is that in order to produce a drink with all the body and taste of alcohol, but without an alcoholic content above 1.2 per cent. alcohol or the ability to intoxicate, certain sugary ingredients must be added during the manufacturing process. When producing low-alcohol or alcohol-free beers, which are now becoming increasingly popular, particularly among drivers, young people and others, the alcohol produced by the addition of these sugars is subsequently removed by distillation. However, in the process it is technically possible that at some stage the original gravity may exceed 1016 degrees, although it falls later. As a result of exceeding 1016 degrees during the processing, the finished product is regarded as an intoxicating liquor within the meaning of the Act and with all its attendant restrictions.
§ My amendment would facilitate the production of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks based on beer. I have described the need and it is important in a growing sector of the trade. It is socially desirable to encourage the production and manufacturers are understandably keen to meet the demand. But, if they are to compete on equal terms with producers of other soft drinks, it is necessary to remove the existing restriction on this sale which the gravity limit creates and which causes some confusion not only with the authorities, but with the producers and sellers.
§ So far as I am aware, there are no fiscal implications attached to the amendment and I have been advised that the industry has been continually in consultation, since 1984–85 particularly and more recently, with both Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and my noble friend's department, the Home Office. It is my understanding that neither the Home Office nor the Customs and Excise see any objection to it. I trust therefore that my noble friend will be able to join me in commending this technical amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hooson
It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has raised a substantial point. It arises from the modern process of producing non-alcoholic or very low-alcoholic beer from which the alcoholic content has been extracted at a certain stage. I am sure that the right thing in these circumstances is for the Government to look at it again because it may be necessary to provide a further safeguard by the definition of "intoxicating liquor" in the original Act.
It seems to me that something ought to be done to make non-alcoholic beers more readily available to the public and not necessarily through licensed premises.
§ The Earl of Arran
This amendment seeks to clarify the definition of "intoxicating liquor" found in Section 201 of the Licensing Act 1964 to remove any doubt about the status of low-alcohol and no-alcohol beers and wines.
The definition of intoxicating liquor used in that legislation is identical to that used in the Alcoholic 1106 Liquor Duties Act 1979. It is important, for the sake of consistency and clarity, that the definitions stay in tandem. I accept that inclusion of the phrase "at any time" in the definition is important in taxation terms since most low alcohol products start life as alcoholic brews and thus may fall to be treated as intoxicating liquor. It is argued that the term does not have the same significance in a licensing context and that for licensing purposes the assessment of whether a particular product falls within the definition of "intoxicating liquor" ought to relate to its nature at the point of sale. The antecedents might then, it is suggested, be difficult to prove and might not be strictly of relevance.
I am not aware, however, that the definition is at present causing any real difficulties. I am not persuaded of the need to change it and therefore I really cannot commend the amendment.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
I must confess to some disappointment at my noble friend's response. At the same time I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who has put his finger precisely on the point. I looked at the Alcoholic Duties Act and was advised that I could do nothing with that Act through this Bill because of the Short Title. I am not very much interested whether that Act is wrong or the present Bill is wrong. I am saying, however, that the authorities, and in some areas the police, will not and do not accept what my noble friend suggests is the right definition at the point of sale. It has led to a good deal of confusion in the retailing industry. It has led to a good deal of confusion in the manufacturing industry. I have sought to put the case as simply and shortly as I can in view of the hour and the fact that the Committee wishes to move as quickly as possible to other business—
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
—which I can well understand.
I shall study carefully what my noble friend has said. I give notice now that I shall return to this matter at the next stage, when I shall seek to persuade a wider audience in the whole House rather than the Committee of the correctness of the course that I put before the Committee. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 27:
Before Clause 16, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Sales of alcohol on weekdays.
§ . In section 60(6) of the principal Act (premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises), the words "half past" shall be omitted.").
§ The noble Lord said: I declare an interest as a director of the Enfield and St. Albans Co-operative Society. Quite clearly, in operating some stores from eight o'clock in the morning, the society will be affected by this, as will also the Retail Consortium, which represents the largest of the retailers. They support the basis of the amendment.1107
§ Briefly we are seeking to bring practice up to date. Very few off-licences which are not supermarkets are open at 8 a.m., but increasingly a great number of superstores and supermarkets are open at that time. If one is not legally allowed to sell liquor until 8.30 a.m.—and one is increasingly urging housewives and other busy people to shop as early as they can, particularly at the weekend—there is the frustrating point at a checkout where someone has purchased quantities of goods including liquor only to find that a purchase at 8.25 a.m. is illegal but a purchase at 8.35 is legal. That causes frustration not only to the customer but also to the staff. I believe that this is a sensible amendment and I hope that the Minister will accept it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
I should like to support the noble Lord in this amendment to which I have added my name. As he explained, it is a tidying-up amendment which will make shopping easier for the busy person and the housewife and it will also bring us in line with Scotland. I hope that my friend will give it serious consideration.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
Although my noble friend's argument was logical and his explanation makes sense, the amendment means one more liberalisation of the sale of alcohol. The only changes that have been made to the Bill, which in itself is a liberalisation of alcohol, have been to extend the availability a little more. This is yet another extension of that availability and it is on that basis that I cannot support it rather than on the logical arguments which he presented.
§ The Earl of Arran
The licensing law enables off-licensed premises to operate longer hours than public houses on weekdays in that they may sell alcohol from 8.30 a.m. The new clause seeks to extend those hours so that they may begin at 8 a.m, this being the time when many shops and supermarkets now open. I am not persuaded that the present restrictions seriously hamper the right of people to buy alcohol when they choose but I believe that it is important that we maintain a meaningful limit on the hours when alcohol may be bought.
I am aware that many in the off-licensed trade would like to be able to sell alcohol from 8 a.m. I am also aware that many shops with an off-licence would open even earlier. They would perhaps like to be able to sell alcohol from 7 a.m.
In the past three years my department has received only one letter of complaint from a member of the public about the restrictions on the hours for off-licensed premises. I understand the case that the trade is making but I think this highlights the fact that it is not a strong one. In the circumstances I am not persuaded that the present restrictions are such a serious impediment to trade as to justify licensing hours beginning at 8 a.m. In the light of that argument, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I hope that the Minister will accept the fact that the case is not put 1108 forward that there is a serious restraint on trade. We are trying to be logical and also meet the convenience of the customer. He will not have stood at check-out desks at 8.20 p.m. or 8.25 p.m. and experienced the frustration and aggravation. Nevertheless it is real. I accept that he is not persuaded but I have two more attempts tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 28:
Before Clause 16, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Off-premises sales on weekdays.
§ . In section 60(6) of the principal act (premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor off the premises) the words "or Good Friday" shall be omitted.").
§ The noble Lord said: I declare once more the same interest and explain that I am trying to be rational. Good Friday is increasingly seen by large operators as a day on which they open to meet the convenience of the public. However, there is the anomaly that stores may legally trade on Good Friday but may not sell alcohol at times other than between 12 noon and 2 p.m. and between 7 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. It often happens that the shelves in shops which contain the liquor are in some way prohibited except between those hours. Alcohol is sold between those hours and then prohibition is imposed in order to comply with the law. On Good Friday the difference is that there is no such prohibition in Scotland. We are asking the Minister to take into account changing habits and not least the need for the retail trade to be as competitive as possible in the interests of the consumer. I beg to move.
§ The Earl of Arran
At present the licensing law permits off-licensed outlets and most on-licensed premises only very restricted hours on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday. The Shops Act however, which in many respects imposes an even more restrictive regime on Sundays, does not impose any restrictions on Good Friday trading.
I understand that many shops now open for all or part of Good Friday for the convenience of their customers who want to stock up in preparation for the rest of the Easter break. For such customers it may be a source of annoyance that they cannot buy alcoholic drinks at the same time as they buy the rest of their groceries unless they shop during the licensing hours of 12 noon and 2 p.m. or during the evening.
I know that for many people the relaxation of Good Friday hours is the first step down the road which will lead to erosion, if not ultimately the destruction, of the specialness of Sundays. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will recognise the delicacy of the amendment and not press it this evening.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I was interested to note that the Minister introduced the general issue of Sunday trading, which I did not seek to do. In reality many of the stores which are open legally on Good Friday are prohibited from selling some of their goods. Why should England and Wales be different from Scotland? I know that the Minister will say that 1109 it is because the law is different. However here is an opportunity for him to take into account this marginal rationalisation of the law in the countries. I am disappointed with his response and I give notice of my intention to return to the issue at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.15 p.m.
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 29:
Before Clause 16, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Transfer of justices' licence.
§ . At the end of paragraph 8 of Schedule 2 to the Principal Act (application for a justices' licence), there shall be inserted the words "or in the case of a transfer where the applicant has already held a justices' licence within the past five years and there is no objection thereto."").
§ The noble Lord said: Third time lucky, although I fear the worst because the Minister is not looking at me. I touched upon this amendment at Second Reading. Whenever a licence requires transfer to relocate managers and fill vacancies created by retirements and resignations, not only must the responsible officer of the company attend court but invariably in the case of reputable companies a legal representative also attends.
§ I should like to give the Minister three statistics which are highly relevant. I am told that last year Tesco's required 146 transfers but that in more than 100 of those cases the officials of the company and their legal representative sat in court but were not called upon to do or to say anything. I am told that Sainsbury's required 150 such transfers and that 77 were required by ASDA.
§ I quote those statistics to illustrate that such situations are costly and time-consuming to the company and also at times to the court. In response to my statistics the Minister may reply that the cases did not take up much of the time of the court if the officers were not called upon. However, there is nothing more frustrating to a company than to have to pay out good hard-earned money when its officers merely sit in court while the matter is agreed.
§ The amendment provides for five years of an unblemished character and of no objection being laid. We believe that in those circumstances it is sensible to relieve the courts of the pressure now upon them and to save the expense to good companies. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
I should like to support the noble Lord in the amendment, to which I have added my name. It will ease the judicial burden created by the present arrangements and I hope that my noble friend will seriously consider this case of third time lucky.
§ The Earl of Arran
I can understand that many in the retail trade, particularly the representatives of large companies, may feel that a requirement to attend licensing sessions each time a named licence holder moves from one set of premises to another is unduly onerous. In many cases the nature of the new store will not be significantly different and the fitness 1110 of the applicant to hold a licence will have been established on an earlier occasion.
The law does not now impose a statutory requirement on an applicant for the transfer of a licence to appear before the licensing justices. It simply enables the justices to call him before them. The fact that many choose to do so confirms the importance which the justices attach to the grant of any licence, whether a new licence or its transfer to a different licence holder. I do not believe that we should allow transfer proceedings to become a mere formality. The amendment would have just such an effect, and would represent a weakening of control which I do not believe society would welcome.
The amendment would apply to transfer applications not only in respect of off-licensed premises, but also in respect of, for example, public houses. A licensee transferring from a small country pub to a substantial city centre establishment would no longer expect to appear before the licensing justices to demonstrate that he was capable of maintaining control over the new premises with, perhaps, a record for attracting young people, trouble-makers, or even drug pushers. The licensee may not be known to the licensing justices, particularly if he comes from another area, and I can well understand their feeling that they should see the person intending to run the licensed premises. The amendment would, however, effectively prevent that exercise of the justices' discretion.
The law at present allows the justices to call transfer applicants before them. It does not require them to do so. I cannot commend this amendment to prevent the justices from exercising their discretion in circumstances where they now see a need to question would-be licensees. Therefore, for the third time I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I recognise that I am a three times loser. I appreciate what the Minister has said. He has said some interesting things which will need to be read very carefully by those interested outside the Committee. The whole purpose of the amendment was to reduce costs on businesses. I understood that the Government were in the business of helping to reduce such costs and of relieving the courts of some of their burden. However, I take the Minister's point that a number of bad mistakes of the kind that he illustrated could be more ruinous and costly than the savings made. I shall consult with interests outside the Committee who may well persuade me to bring forward a similar but not identical amendment at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 agreed to.
§ Clause 17 [Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 17 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord Hooson
I shall only detain the Committee briefly on this point. One of the most interesting 1111 debates in Committee in another place was on whether this Bill should extend to Wales at all because of the particular alcohol problems in the Principality. The debate centred on various reports, the most important of which was probably the Health Education Advisory Committee for Wales Report which concluded:Compared with England, more alcohol is consumed per person; average expenditure on alcohol is greater; alcohol is cheaper; there are more alcohol licences per 100,000 population; and the death rate from liver cirrhosis is greater in Wales. The consumption of alcohol in Wales is on a par with the two heaviest drinking regions of England; namely, the North and the North-West.".I shall not go into details of why the Committee reached that conclusion but many reports were considered in another place in Committee. I draw attention to this matter because at present I am tempted to come back to that particular point; namely, whether this Act should extend to Wales in these particular circumstances or whether it should be separately dealt with at Report.
§ The Earl of Arran
I can only listen and take note of the comments of the noble Lord on this particular clause.
§ Clause 17 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Restriction Orders: Procedure]:
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 14, line 42, at end insert—
("( ) The reference in sub-paragraph (1) above to the person or persons on whose application a restriction order was made is, in relation to any person who applied by virtue of a position held by him, a reference to the holder for the time being of that position.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendment Nos. 31, 32 and 33:
§ Page 15, line 2, leave out from second ("to") to ("and") in line 4 and insert ("a person on whose application the order was made if that person is no longer entitled to apply for the making of a restriction order with respect to the premises or, if he applied by virtue of a position held by him, it is not a position which is any longer held in the neighbourhood").
Page 16, line 9, at end insert—
("( ) The reference in sub-paragraph (2) above to the person or persons on whose application a restriction order was made is, in relation to any person who applied by virtue of a position held by him, a reference to the holder for the time being of that position.").
§ Page 16, line 11, leave out from second ("to") to ("and") in line 13 and insert ("a person on whose application the order was made if that person is no longer entitled to apply for the making of a restriction order with respect to the premises or, if he applied by virtue of a position held by him, it is not a position which is any longer held in the neighbourhood").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendments Nos. 34 and 35:
Page 18, line 5, at end insert—
("8A. In section 89(1) (duty of licence to post notice where permitted hours modified), after the words "exemption" there shall
be inserted the words", an order under section 87A of this Act".").
Page 18, line 33, at end insert—
("15A. In section 185 (duty of holder to produce certain licences and orders on demand) after the words "canteen licence" there shall be inserted the words ", an order under section 87A of this Act" ").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Repeals]:
§ The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 20, line 5, at end insert—
("In section 6(4), the words after the end of paragraph (b).").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.