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First Schedule—(State Management Districts)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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I beg to move, in page 27, line 1, to leave out from "provision," to the end of line 4, and to insert:

"of entertainment or recreation at premises in a State management district provided by the Secretary of State for the sale of intoxicating liquor, meals or refreshments."
There was some anxiety in Committee that under the Schedule as it now stands it might be possible for the Secretary of State to go in for large-scale forms of entertainment, such as the provision of cinemas, merely because alcoholic liquor was sold on the premises. This part of the Schedule has been redrafted so as to make it clear that this form of entertainment can only be provided at premises themselves provided for the sale of liquor, meals and refreshments. It will permit the reasonable provision of incidental entertainment at premises whose primary functions are those which I have mentioned.

I think this meets the point we raised in Committee, that the Secretary of State should not be able to use the sale of liquor as a peg on which to hang a far larger enterprise. I take this opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 27, line 7, after "and," insert:

",in the Carlisle district specified in Part I of this Schedule."—[Mr. Younger.]

I beg to move, in page 27, line 13, at the end, to insert:

"(2) The Secretary of State may by order declare that, during such period as may be specified in the order, the last foregoing subparagraph shall have effect as if the words in the Carlisle district specified in Part I of this Schedule' were omitted.
(3) The power of the Secretary of State to make orders under this paragraph shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament."
I think I ought to explain this Amendment to the House. In Standing Committee I promised to consider a proposal that, while I should be still able to continue to manufacture mineral water at Carlisle, I should not start a new factory for this purpose elsewhere except as the result of an order laid before Parliament. This Amendment gives effect to that promise, and I make it clear that, except by a Statutory Instrument subject to annulment by Resolution of either House of Parliament, I cannot start a mineral water factory in any other part of the country.

As I raised this matter in Committee upstairs, may I take the opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for making this gesture. The discussion earlier ranged round the right of the Minister to set up State breweries, and the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that unless there was a boycott of State public houses he did not propose to utilise these powers. We then raised the question of mineral water manufacturers, when he said that he had had conversations with their representatives and in consequence was prepared to put this machinery into operation whereby he retained his rights in Carlisle, but would only set up mineral water factories elsewhere by Resolution of this House. He added that, of course, he would safeguard himself in the matter of a boycott, as in the case of a boycott by breweries.

There is one point that I put to the right hon. Gentleman upstairs and which I should like to repeat now. In Carlisle there was a brewery, with an ancillary which manufactured mineral waters, which was taken over under the 1921 Act for the purposes of convenience. I asked in Committee whether, in the event of a similar case elsewhere, should there be a brewery with a mineral water ancillary which boycotted his public houses, he would realise that that is no reason for descending with all the force of his machinery on mineral water manufacturers as a whole; that merely because a brewery with ancillary mineral water manufacture engaged in a boycott, he would not regard that as a reason for his wrath descending upon mineral water manufacturers as a whole provided they acted reasonably regarding State public houses. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give me some information on that point.

I think the procedure for the soft drinks side of the matter laid down in the Amendment is as satisfactory as possible, but it does serve to underline the curious discrimination in which the right hon. Gentleman is indulging. He takes power to brew and to make soft drinks, and in the latter case says he will not do it save by Statutory Instrument, a rather curious method of manufacture; but he says he will not indulge in this unless he lays before the House a Statutory Instrument. I think the House is entitled to some answer why this curious discrimination is made.

May I say, in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite), that I never descend in wrath upon anyone, and if I did have a dispute with a brewery company which had an ancillary mineral water undertaking, I should proceed about the matter in the utmost calmness, and remember the pledges which I have given to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and to other hon. Members of this House. It might be necessary to take over that mineral water business in conjunction with acquisition of the brewery, but I would not regard that—and I am quite sure that no successor of mine would regard it—as a reason for nationalising the mineral water industry as a whole, or for taking steps to compete with it. I gladly give that assurance.

It is a curious thing that the Opposition have never apparently realised the difference between a brewer and a soft drinks manufacturer. Having met both of them, during my negotiations in connection with this Bill, I can assure hon. Members in all parts of the House that they are quite easily recognisable apart. The power of a brewery company in a particular area is very much greater, in my opinion, if it were decided by that company to bring a State management scheme to a standstill than is the power of a mineral water manufacturer. In the later stages of our negotiations, the brewery companies have met me in a way which indicated that they realised that we had moved a great deal since 1908, and that the power of the trade in many matters is not as great as it was then. In my view, it is still so great that a Secretary of State in the future may need to have the opportunity of acting very quickly if he should be threatened with a boycott. It would be part of his administrative duty to deal with it. It is not the kind of thing that can be done in a corner, and if it were felt that he was acting unjustly or oppressively, he would always be accountable to this House. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) should know that so far the salary of the Home Secretary has not been challenged.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is not inviting that challenge, but will he not agree that the challenge to his action by a Motion to annul a Statutory Instrument is a much more expeditious method of Parliamentary control than persuading the Lord President of the Council to provide time to move a Motion to reduce the Home Secretary's salary?

I would not think so. The hon. Gentleman himself is the only member of the Opposition in this Parliament who has succeeded in a Prayer, and that was a Prayer against myself, which I commended to the powers who in this House answer Prayers. Therefore, as far as he and I are concerned, I am quite sure there is no feeling that I shall be oppressive or dogmatic on these occasions. I believe that the power of the House over administrative action of Ministers ought never to be belittled, and I am quite certain that that is a more effective answer to an oppressive action by a Minister. We must presume that an action is held by the Opposition to be oppressive if there is a Motion to annul the order. Sometimes it is impossible to amend an instrument which is not wholly condemned, whereas in the other case the charge of discrimination can be made and the appropriate remedy applied at the point where it should be applied.

The right hon. Gentleman has never given any satisfactory explanation of the distinction between the powers he takes with regard to the soft drinks industry and the brewing industry. I do not think that the answer he has made now is any more satisfactory than those which he gave before. The right hon. Gentleman says, in effect, that he must safeguard himself against being held up by the brewing industry. First, that is an unjustifiable charge, because the industry has never given any indication that it intends to hold up the right hon. Gentleman. Secondly, the way he deals with this is to say that if they wish to do such a thing he must have power to act in order to be able to have his own brewery and supply his own public houses. He cannot really believe that he could complete a brewery, start producing beer and supplying the public houses quicker than he could lay a Statutory Instrument on the Table of this House. There seems to be something more sinister behind it. This is a threat of blackmail which is to be kept hanging over the brewing industry.

10.45 p.m.

I cannot let the Home Secretary get away with the arguments he has just used. We all know that the power to pray is a very important one, but from what the right hon. Gentleman said one wonders why it was put in at all, if it was equally easy to deal with his administration by seeking to reduce his salary. The fact is that the House can pray at any time, but the opportunity to seek to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary is provided on only one of the 20 Supply days in the year, when it is well known that the matter would be treated as a question of confidence in the Government, which is not the case with a Prayer. The right hon. Gentleman is too old a Member of the House to get away with that.

Amendment agreed to.