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New Clause—(Provision Of Alternative Accommodation Where Licensed Premises Acquired)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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(1) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) of section five of the New Towns Act, 1946 (which relates to the provision of accommodation where land is acquired by a development corporation) a development corporation shall not have any duty to afford, to a person formerly carrying on a business of selling intoxicating liquor by retail on land in a State management district, any opportunity of obtaining alternative accommodation for such a business.

(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of the last foregoing subsection, where licensed premises in a new town are acquired by the Secretary of State under section five of this Act, and in consequence of the acquisition the resident tenant or manager quits the premises, the provisions of subsection (2) of section five of the New Towns Act, 1946, shall have effect, so far as relates to the provision of living accommodation for the resident tenant or manager, as if the premises had been acquired by the development corporation under the said Act of 1946.

(3) In this section the expression "resident tenant or manager," in relation to premises acquired by the Secretary of State as aforesaid, means a person who, immediately before the acquisition thereof by the Secretary of State, was residing in the premises and was either the holder of the justices' licence in respect thereof or was employed as manager of the premises by the holder of the licence.—[Mr. Ede.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.30 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Under Section 5 (2) of the New Towns Act, 1946, development corporations are under an obligation to secure so far as practicable that persons living or carrying on business on land acquired by a corporation shall have an opportunity to obtain on land belonging to the corporation accommodation suitable to their reasonable requirements. In view of the extension of State management to the new towns, Clause 8 (2) relieves the corporations of this responsibility so far as business accommodation is concerned. When we were considering this matter in the Standing Committee it was pointed out that where licensed premises are acquired by the State, neither the Secretary of State nor the development corporation would be under any obligation to secure domestic accommodation for a licensee who does not enter State employment but still wishes for some reason or other to stay on in the new town. I undertook to endeavour to meet this point and I believe that the new Clause does so. I have had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the development corporations and they at once agreed that they would do their best to assist in cases of the kind in question. I believe that the Clause will redeem the pledge which I gave in Committee.

As the Home Secretary said, the Clause meets the pledge he gave, but while I acknowledge that quite readily, it does not go as far as we should wish. In considering this matter it is as well to look at the background. Through this Bill the Home Secretary is saying to a man, "I am going to turn you out of your tenancy of your public house or out of the managership, but I will find you alternative accommodation to live in." That is rather like an executioner saying to a man, "I am going to cut off your head, but you have nothing to complain about because I will provide you with a good coffin." We have an Amendment on the Order Paper in which we propose to take this a stage further. It should be clearly understood that in such a case a man finds himself in this unfortunate position of being turned out of a job, through the action of the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has partly met the hardship by bringing back a part of the New Towns Act which was originally taken away. I reserve further remarks until the discussion of the Amendment. We thank the Home Secretary for redeeming his pledge to the extent indicated in the new Clause.

I agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston). The Home Secretary has perpetrated two wrongs by his action and he has attempted to put one of those wrongs right while leaving the far more serious wrong of depriving a man of his livelihood at his whim or the whim of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am not quite sure whose whim T should choose. I am in some doubt as to how far the Home Secretary has succeeded in righting one wrong. Under Section 5 (2) of the New Towns Act the responsibility devolves upon the development corporation to find alternative accommodation. That is the relevance of the citation of that subsection in the Clause.

That is quite simple so far as the development corporation carries responsibility itself for its own actions in new towns, but we have rather a different set of circumstances here. I am not quite clear what will happen in the event of the Home Secretary not exercising his powers immediately during the life of the development corporation but exercising them to acquire the premises after the development corporation has ceased to exist and the local government is handed over to a new local authority. I cannot trace anything in the New Towns Act which in itself would cover that point, but if there is anything in the Act, we are leaving a gap in this Clause in not quoting the section which refers to such a situation. It is a very embarrassing situation for the development corporations and the right hon. Gentleman. He is taking steps which will place a liability on the development corporations. The problem now is how a development corporation can transfer that liability to the new local authority when it is set up. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to resolve my doubts, but I see no means in the Clause of making sure that that liability will be willingly undertaken by the local authority when it is born.

My hon. Friend has said that the Home Secretary has kept his word on this matter which was discussed at considerable length in the Standing Committee, but I still think that these men are being treated most unfairly. If we take a man probably at 60 who has been a publican most of his life, acquire his property and tell him that he must get out and that he will be given a cottage or some other home, what is he to do for a living? How is he to pay his rent and keep his family? It is a most serious situation. I ask the Home Secretary to look at the matter further to see if such men can be given manager-ships of the State-owned houses, or some form of compensation. There will otherwise be real hardship for men who are to be turned out of their homes at fairly short notice.

I am surprised to hear such a suggestion coming from the Opposition. I have in mind what happened 20 to 30 years ago. When textile and steel workers lost their work in their hundreds there was no question that alternative work should be found for them; they were left to find their own jobs. I am not suggesting that the Minister should not do something about it now but I cannot understand the change of face of the Opposition on such a matter.

The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fairhurst) gave rather a different example from that with which we are dealing here. The Home Secretary is taking power to dispossess people of their living, and that does not happen in ordinary life. We feel strongly that if we give anyone in the Government power to dispossess people of their means of livelihood, whether in England, Wales or Scotland, they have a definite grievance against the State. It is up to the State to be the model employer, but far from preventing grievances, the State seems to be creating them.

Although I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has gone some way to help us in this matter, yet some of us feel there are difficulties. After all, he is creating the grievance, he is depriving a man of his livelihood. I am not sure whether the new corporation or, eventually the new local authority, will be responsible for finding the man a livelihood. These men, or possibly women, may be faced with a difficult position, and I add my voice to what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). Might it not be possible for the Home Secretary to use his influence so that these men could be found at any rate temporary employment quickly under the corporation?

I am glad that hon. Members who have spoken have acknowledged that I have redeemed the pledge which I gave in Committee, and therefore I gather they have no real grievance against me but are suggesting that this Clause does not go far enough. I dealt with that point also in Committee. These new towns will have an expanding population, and in every case there will be an increase in the number of licensed houses. Therefore my problem will be to get sufficient people to manage these public houses, where they are houses under State management, in order that the work can be carried on efficiently. I do not think any large number of people will come into the category which hon. Members have described. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) talked as if for the next few years I should be engaged in taking over public houses, throwing out the tenants or managers, and putting in new people. My problem will be precisely the reverse. In the majority of cases the existing tenant or manager will be found employment by the State management scheme.

However, there may be a few, for their own reasons, who desire not to pass over to the new scheme. I recognise the hardship there would be in a new town if a man were placed in the position that, because of the change in management of the licensed trade, he was deprived of his domestic accommodation. He might be perfectly willing to give up his trade, but he would not want to move out of the district because he has friends and acquaintances there, his local bowls club is there. He might still want to go round to the place he had kept and see how it was being run under the new management. That would not be possible unless domestic accommodation was found for him. I have undertaken that the development corporation shall be responsible for finding him that domestic accommodation if he cannot find it for himself, and I think that deals sufficiently with the matter.

3.45 p.m.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) asked what would happen when the development corporation disappeared. That will be some years ahead, but I shall have that point examined because I do not want to ride off on this and leave some unfortunate fellow in 10 or 12 years' time up in the air, any more than I would desire to do so within the next few months. If it is necessary to deal with this point, I shall arrange to have it dealt with in another place.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, at the end of subsection (1), to insert:

But the Secretary of State shall as far as practicable secure that any resident tenant of licensed premises in a new town, which are acquired by the Secretary of State under section five of this Act, shall have the opporunity to remain the tenant of the said premises under conditions not less favourable than those under which he was tenant thereof immediately before the premises were so acquired.
This covers a slightly different point from the one which we have just been discussing. Perhaps I can best make it clear to the House by quoting from the remarks of the Home Secretary in Standing Committee on the point. The right hon. Gentleman said:
"I said that so far as it is practicable it would be my desire to see that persons who became dispossessed in this way were in fact made the tenants and managers of the houses in the new towns. I admit that that is only a Ministerial statement and can, of course, be evaded by anyone who wishes to evade it under the exact terms of the Bill. Between now and the Report stage I will consider whether it is practicable to find a form of words which would enable the point of view that I expressed to find some appropriate expression in the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 3rd March, 1949; c. 413.]
I want to be perfectly fair to the right hon. Gentleman. He went on to say that he did not want it to be thought that he intended to do other than to make an attempt to find words. I presume that he has made that attempt and has failed, and therefore we have put these words upon the Order Paper to meet the point.

It makes it slightly better if an undertaking can be embodied in the statute that the Secretary of State must, if possible, find for a man who is dispossessed, a job as a manager or a tenant of a State owned house. It ameliorates the position of that man to some extent, and the Home Secretary intends by administrative action to give such people the opportunity. As he has said, however, it is only a ministerial undertaking and may be evaded by a successor, and we are seeking here to put the intention in words. I suggest to the House that these words cover the point and are perfectly reasonable because we use the words of the Secretary of State, and the effect of putting these in words what the present Secretary of State intends to do will be made mandatory on a successor.

While I have every sympathy with the idea that a dis- possessed man should be found a job, what would the hon. Gentleman say if it was found that a man who had been dispossessed or had lost his job was a person totally unfitted to take on the responsibility for a modern public house?

Exactly the same point arises out of the undertaking which the Home Secretary has given. I presume that in that case it would not be practicable to put him in. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that in such a case it would not be proposed to do anything for the individual. The Amendment suggests that the Home Secretary shall do it for everybody where practicable, and that is exactly what the Home Secretary has said he will do. We are only seeking to put the undertaking into the Bill.

This point often arises in this Parliament: a Minister gives an undertaking, which is accepted from that Minister by the House, but the House often says quite rightly, "We want to see that undertaking, which would not be given unless it could be carried out, put into the Act." That is what we are seeking to do here. I very much hope that I shall carry the Home Secretary and the House with me in the introduction of the Amendment, and that in view of what he has said, and as the words of the Amendment follow so closely his remarks in Standing Committee, the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Perhaps I may refresh the memories of hon. Members about the origin of the discussions upstairs on this matter. In view of the new Clause which the Home Secretary has introduced, there is really not a great deal between the two sides of the House, but the Amendment is definitive and, therefore, useful. The whole matter arose through the Government's lack of foresight and planning. What we had to do upstairs was not to repeal or review some ancient statute. What we had to do—we had a long discussion about it at the time—was to go back on certain provisions of the New Towns Act, 1946, which was only three years of age. It must be unusual for any Parliament so soon to have to retrace its steps owing to the introduction of an entirely new Measure which could not have been contemplated when the New Towns Act was passing through the House, otherwise these matters, presumably, would have been dealt with or planned for at that time.

The words of the Amendment will tidy up the whole situation. They will enable future Home Secretaries to know exactly what was the intention of Parliament at the time the Act was passed, and, what is far more important, will enable the intentions of Parliament to be written into the Act. I see, sitting opposite to me, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who more than once has emphasised to the House that certain matters have to be interpreted by the courts. If the courts are to function without dubiety, as the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree, it is the task of Parliament to make its intentions as plain as possible. For these reasons I hope that the Home Secretary and the House will be prepared to accept the Amendment.

Before the House proceeds with this Amendment we ought to get a little more clearly from the party opposite what are their views about security of tenure for publicans generally. What they are saying now is that there ought to be security of tenure in regard to State houses. I think there is a good deal to be said for this; there is a good deal to be said for the new Clause, and also perhaps for the Amendment; but are the party opposite prepared to see these same conditions imposed upon private enterprise? Perhaps we can have some indication about this from one of the hon. Gentlemen who are putting forward the Amendment?

That is an entirely different point. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh; I shall develop that. A tenant of a tied house or any other house has entered into an agreement voluntarily. In this case the State is by law saying to a man, "Out you go !" The position is entirely different. That man has not put himself into that position voluntarily, as the man with a tied house has done. He is being picked up by the State and thrown out of his job. The cases, therefore, are not parallel. Where this compulsion is exerted by the State, the State, should provide compensation.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. Now let me give him a case that is exactly parallel—that of the widow, somebody who enters into a property. How is she treated? What are hon. Gentlemen opposite going to do about this kind of case? Let me read a letter from one such widow. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House have had the same pitiful sort of letter. It might be all right if the widow was connected with a new town, but if she is not, she cannot look for much sympathy from hon. Gentlemen opposite. In her letter this widow describes how, after her husband had been there for 29 years, she had been asked to stay on—she never signed an agreement—to keep the business going, and later a new tenant was found. What happened? The bailiff and manager of the brewery arrived, and she says this:

"I was turned out into the street without a home, a living or a husband to support me. Thanks to my former gardener I have a room in his cottage for myself and my dog."

What in the world has this to do with the Bill? It seems to me to be miles and miles away.

I am very sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to make the point that there has been a failure to mention the person who could be turned out but who, after all, should have the same right of protection, whether the public house is State-owned or privately-owned.

We must confine ourselves to State ownership. Private ownership does not come into the Bill.

On a point of Order. If the Opposition bring forward an entirely new principle which is now to be applied only with reference to new houses in new towns, is it not in Order to argue that a comparison can be made with the fact that they have accepted all these years the right to dispossess a tenant of a public house without making the least attempt to provide him with any sort of compensation? Would it not be correct to argue that as a reason for pressing for more information from the other side as to why they have now become enthusiastic about this principle for public houses in new towns?

The Government are responsible for this Bill, and not the other side. We must keep to the Bill. We cannot go back and discuss what happened 30 years ago.

The hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) appears to be unable to distinguish between those misfortunes which are the common lot of everyone in life and those far worse misfortunes which are created by the present Government. What has happened here is a very real problem. The Government have taken upon themselves a position where they are going to dispossess a working man of both his residence and his business. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt in the new Clause with the question of residence. In the Amendment we are concerned with what is to be done to safeguard him in his business. The Amendment is directed solely to this end.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) pointed out that even as recently as 1946 when dealing with the New Towns Act, the Government had failed to foresee this problem. That it is a very real problem is made even clearer when it is realised that this position was not even foreseen by the Lord President of the Council on the Second Reading of this very Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said then that this problem did not exist. He committed himself during the Second Reading when, referring to this matter, he said that there was no such problem and that it did not exist. Let me read his actual words:
"My right hon. Friend"—
that is, the Home Secretary—
"and the Secretary of State for Scotland are really in a great difficulty about this. They were in the difficulty that the public houses do not exist in these new towns, because the new towns do not exist. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 1136.]
Of course, that was a perfectly untrue statement of the position. These public houses do exist in the new towns because they exist in areas which will be designated as new towns under the New Towns Act. Therefore, these public houses did exist, although the Lord President of the Council led the House to believe that they did not exist at all.

We come to a very real problem when we find that the Government are legis- lating in such a way that they attempt to bring in a Bill to deal with a problem which they do not even know exists, and it becomes highly necessary for us to try to find some solution to get them out of the difficulty into which they have got themselves. That is what we are trying to do by the Amendment. The Home Secretary has agreed, I think, that he accepts its principle. He said that he is likely to be short of people to employ in the State Management houses and that he is agreeable to the general idea of taking on those who become dispossessed by the operation of the Bill.

I should be grateful, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman will explain his objection to incorporating that principle into the Bill. We have had a great deal too much legislation in this Parliament by the method of Ministers saying, "Do not bother to put it in the Bill; I shall see that it is carried out." We on this side of the House are not fully satisfied that it is a sufficient safeguard for the future and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment so that the principle can be incorporated in the Bill and his successors will be bound by his declaration.

4.0 p.m.

The mover and seconder of this Amendment have submitted that the words are perfectly reasonable. Some of us had already come to regard the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) as the champion of the soft drinks industry. If he persists in his assertion that the words of this Amendment are perfectly reasonable, I can only assume that soft drinks have, possibly, gone to his head. In all fairness, I submit that the Home Secretary is entitled to secure certain safeguards in the matter of some of the tenants who, according to the wording of the Amendment might occupy the

"premises under conditions not less favourable than those under which he was tenant thereof immediately before."
It is quite conceivable that many of the tenants may have been life-long opponents of the whole principle of the State holding of licensed premises. Assuming that they were installed as tenants in the new towns, it is more than likely that they would draw unfavourable comparisons between the conditions under which they were now working and those under which they were working for private employers. They might even draw unfavourable comparisons between the quality of the beer sold and the furnishings and equipment of the new licensed premises and those of the old. In all reasonableness the Home Secretary is entitled to certain reservations so as not to be compelled to re-appoint all the tenants.

I think the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) has cast a wholly unfair aspersion on the present licensees. If the hon. Member had had experience of the doings of licensing justices he would know that the personal calibre and quality of a publichouse licensee has to be of the highest, because only a man of the highest personality and integrity can get a licence. Indeed, His Majesty's judges have often expressed themselves to the effect that if a man is a licensee of a publichouse he is, ex hypothesi, a man of very high personal character. It would be unfair to suggest that such a man would be deliberately disloyal to his new employer. There is not the slightest scintilla of evidence to support that view. If the hon. Member is to adopt that principle, its application throughout the whole widespread gamut of nationalised industry would result in removing manpower in hundreds of thousands throughout the industry.

I will give way but let me come to a semi-colon. As the hon. Member has seen by the test taken by the National Union of Railwaymen, it would take 45 per cent. off the railways.

In all fairness, may I say I made no such assertion. I said that in the event of such a matter arising surely the Home Secretary was entitled to provide himself with certain safeguards which ought to be inserted in the Bill.

The suggestion of the hon. Member was perfectly clear, that the Home Secretary could not rely on the loyal service of these men if he took them over. That was the suggestion if not, there was no point in the argument of the hon. Member. It should be clear to the hon. Member, if he has any experience of these gentlemen, that they are not the class of persons who would be disloyal to their employers. If he had done my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) the courtesy of studying the Amendment, he would have seen that there is provision for the exceptional case in the word "practicable." All that the Amendment asks for is that some protection for these men should be put in statutory form. I thought it was a principle accepted on both sides of the House that when Parliament, deliberately by Act of Parliament destroyed someone's source of livelihood, some attempt—adequate or inadequate in some cases—should be made to provide some form of compensation.

All this Amendment seeks to do is to provide some protection. I think it arguable whether more protection should be given but, at any rate, some protection should be given to those whose livelihood this House is engaged in destroying. I am not casting any reflection on the Home Secretary by saying that his undertaking is not so strong as an Act of Parliament and I do not see why he should not go a stage further and embody the undertaking in an Act of Parliament. There is no doubt that there is genuine anxiety on the part of licensees in the new town areas and in areas which may be designated as new towns. If they could see in the Act by which their employment was removed some provision inserted for their protection, that would do a great deal to diminish their apprehension and ease their minds as to the future. I am sure the Home Secretary is not the man deliberately to leave this worthy section of the community in unnecessary anxiety as to their future. If he is to look after them, why should he not do so in the Act of Parliament?

I am sure the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) would agree that he was saying that the new licensee will be more liable and apt to criticise and compare unfavourably the new system with the old system, and that the Home Secretary should be able to retain certain rights. That is a very back-handed support to give to this Measure. Surely it is an admission that not only is this a bad Bill, but that it is going to be very unpopular as well and that the beer is going to be worse than formerly and the atmosphere in the pub will compare unfavourably with that which existed previously. I suggest that the hon. Member cannot have it both ways and cannot use the argument to support the Home Secretary in respect of this Clause and at the same time support the Bill, because one cancels the other.

The hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) referred to the possibility of a lack of loyalty on the part of the new tenant. There may be other attractions, such as working for the Government, less work and longer holidays—

Or the Guillotine—and it may be attractive to him in his advancing years. I foresee one difficulty. If a licensed house is taken over, it may be extended or rebuilt, and a man who is getting on in years may be unsuitable to continue in the job. Probably he would be too old to learn the art of catering. I suggest that in such cases an undertaking should be given that he would be found a smaller house. If the Home Secretary is here at the time—and I do not think he will be—he will carry out his undertaking, but perhaps others would not do so. Laws can be amended and changed and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bring something into the Bill to put a definite responsibility on whatever Government is in power at the time, to see that these men are taken care of.

I made a very genuine effort between the Committee stage and this stage of the Bill to find a form of words I could put into the Bill which would put into statutory form the assurances which I gave in Committee. One of the difficulties with regard to the form of words of the Amendment is that under it, if it was desired to close a house, it would not be possible to do so because it would be practicable to continue the existing house although that might be quite inimicable to the scheme as a whole. I do not take the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Dr. Segal). I hope that if there are any defects in the State management system those employed in the system will feel they are perfectly at liberty to point out the defects through the appropriate channels and to get them remedied.

In fact I did indicate in the Committee stage that I hope there will be representatives of these people on the advisory committees who will have the opportunity of putting forward any defects that they find. When I went round the Carlisle houses I had conversations with some of the managers, and they indicated to me certain ways in which slight improvements could be made to bring these houses even higher above the ordinary public house than they already are. I hope that that spirit of ambition will not be less in any of the State management districts, but there is the difficulty that if these words are put in it would in some cases hamper the appropriate development.

With regard to conditions of service, those are now governed by the regulations made under the Catering Wages Act. Those regulations will be scrupulously observed by the State management scheme in the future, as they have been in the past since they came into operation. I say quite frankly that I would have liked to have put something definitely into the Bill, but I hope that my repetition here today of the pledge which I gave in Committee will be an indication of the way in which these houses will be administered when it comes to dealing with the existing tenants and managers.

I realise what I said in my reply in the discussion we had on the Clause, but we shall have so many additional houses for which to find tenants that I do not anticipate that there will be any real difficulty in this matter. Certainly we shall endeavour to carry out what the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) suggested. If a man is incapable, or we do not consider him capable, of dealing with an enlarged house we shall find him a place in one of the smaller houses. In fact, the opposite and more understandable method already works, whereby a man starts in a small house and as he reveals a capacity and a vacancy occurs he is given the opportunity of a larger house. It may well be that in the kind of case the hon. and gallant Gentleman envisaged it might be advisable to transpose two men. A man in the house to be enlarged might take over a small house managed by a man we regard as capable of taking over the larger house. I should have liked to find a form of words to meet his point, but while I regret the difficulty which as I have pointed out, exists in this form of words, it has not been possible to find an alternative.

4.15 p.m.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, and it does not need any reiteration from me, that it is not his personal intentions that we on this side of the House doubt for a moment with regard to this matter. But as he said, and my hon. Friends have pointed out, this is a matter which goes beyond his personal command over the situation. It is a matter which has worried hon. Members in all ouarters of the House. Therefore, I feel that today, we ought to apply, as we all tried to do in the Committee, an objective test as to whether it is right or wrong that some statutory safeguard should be put in for these people who are dispossessed.

I should be very glad on a suitable occasion to take up the arguments which have been thrown out by hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to my own unworthiness and that of my colleagues, and about different circumstances which occur in other cases. But I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite are the last to try to burke this position, that here is a problem which must be judged on its merits, and that is what we must seek to do today. The Home Secretary has pointed out that he has met us to some extent, and of course we have admitted with great frankness that he has met us on the question of accommodation. But he has not met us in the Bill on the question of the business that these people affected should carry on. In Committee the right hon. Gentleman said:
"I hoped that I had made the matter clear when I said that so far as it is practicable it would be my desire to see that persons who became dispossessed in this way were in fact made the tenants or managers of houses in the new towns."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 3rd March, 1949; c. 413.]
When the right hon. Gentleman said that, we on this side gave him credit for meaning it, and that what he said was his intention. Therefore, when we drafted the Amendment we put down:
"But the Secretary of State shall as far as practicable secure that any resident tenant of licensed premises in a new town, which are acquired by the Secretary of State under section five of this Act, shall have the opportunity to remain the tenant of the said premises ender conditions not less favourable than those under which he was tenant thereof immediately before the premises were so acquired."
Surely that is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman was intending to convey by the undertaking that he gave on Committee stage and repeated today. If there is any change as to the wording, the right hon. Gentleman is a very old hand and knows perfectly well that we should be only too willing to entrust any change of that kind, that is, a change of wording if not of substance, to him and his advisers to put right in the appropriate way. But that is not what is put against us. What is said is that it is not desired to put this in the Bill, and that I cannot under stand. Either it is right to give this undertaking, or it is not. If it is right to give the undertaking, then it ought to be in a permanent form and people ought to know that their representatives in Parliament have done their utmost to achieve the security which we desire.

I think I am interpreting the feelings of everyone on these benches and the feeling lurking in the backs of the minds of many hon. Members in all parts of the House when I say that we ought to see that people who are dispossessed by this Bill have their interests put permanently on record, and for that reason I should advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide on this Amendment.

I think that the whole House is unanimous in a desire to do what it has been indicated that the Home Secretary undertook to do during the Committee stage, and that is to protect the interests of the present landlords, the present tenants and managers of the houses which will be acquired under the State scheme. Personally, I hoped that he would have found a way. The form of words of necessity must be found by the lawyers. I would not profess to say that I could discover a form of words, but I would point out that neither has the Opposition discovered words which are suitable. If I have to choose between the Amendment and the pledge which the Home Secretary has given, even taking the risk that his successors may be of a different party, I prefer to stand by the pledge of the Home Secretary in the hope that it will be carried out.

I have a great admiration for the legal brilliance of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), but I would point out that the proposal by the Opposition only covers one section of those for whom I wish to get the pledge carried out. I refer to the tenants. A man who owns his own public house and who is at present the landlord, a man whom I wish to protect under the pledge given by the Home Secretary, has no protection under this form of words. Neither has the manager who is a manager on behalf of a brewery company. He has no protection whatever under the Amendment proposed by the Opposition.

That leads me to suppose that there must be considerable difficulty in finding suitable words. I hope, however, that the Home Secretary will persist in his efforts. It is clear that we cannot possibly accept the Amendment. If we did we should exclude two sections which I feel are safeguarded by the pledge of the Home Secretary. We should accept my right hon. Friend's pledge if the only choice we have is between that and the Amendment suggested by the Opposition which is totally inadequate.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I should like to say on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself that we would accept the addition of the words, "or manager." If the Home Secretary said that he would insert those words when the Bill goes to another place, that would meet our objection entirely.

I have expressed the opinion and the hope that the Home Secretary will find it possible to give further consideration to this matter. This is a liability which cannot continue for long. It can only be a liability in respect of the people who are there now, and they must be small in number. I hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to reconsider the matter. If hon. Gentlemen opposite divide on this question, I cannot follow them into the Lobby, because I have more faith in the pledge of the Home Secretary than I have in their drafting.

I was sorry to hear the closing phrases of the speech of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor). I could not help thinking that he was looking rather suspiciously at the empty place at the end of the Front Bench, and that it was not so much the wording of the Amendment which deterred him as the fear of what might happen when the Patronage Secretary returned and had a word with him later. The argument he used, that as our Amendment was not perfect therefore it was unnecessary to support anything in the Lobby, is not the sort of argument which carries any weight at all in this House. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has made it clear that we are trying to persuade His Majesty's Government to put into black and white what they have already said.

We are prepared to accept any reasonable drafting which will bring about that desired result. We are told that our words are not perfect. We were waiting the placing on the Order Paper of an Amendment by the Home Secretary, hoping that he would have succeeded in finding, as he undertook to attempt to find, some way of interpreting his good intentions. When we did not find an Amendment on the Order Paper we had to try to find words which we had hoped he would find. If we have not been successful, I suggest that his duty and the desire of the House lie in trying to amend our Amendment or to find some other words of his own.

One aspect has not so far been mentioned. There is a definite fear in the minds of tenants of licensed houses in districts which are to become State management districts, or which it is feared will become State management districts, that the type of manager who will be introduced will be quite different from the present tenants of licensed houses. That fear has some substance, because when one examines the Carlisle scheme, one finds—it may be by chance or by design; I will not say which—that there is a type of man managing those houses who bears little or no relation to the typical public house tenant. If that is to be so, and if the policy of the Home Secretary about who should or should not be employed in this position is to be dictated by past experience in Carlisle, then there is even more substance than appears at first sight in the fears of the present tenants.

If that fear is to be removed, it is even more essential that some provision should be drafted into the Bill. I should like the Home Secretary to say, even at this late stage, "I do not give up hope; I believe that some form of words can be found between now and a later stage; I will keep on trying and I undertake to try to find a form of words which can be put into the Bill." That would not harm him and it would not harm the Bill, but it would be some sort of assurance and comfort to these people who are sorely distressed.

I really cannot accept the touching innocence with which the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and his hon. Friends place themselves at the disposal of the Home Secretary in this matter and announce their willingness to accept a new form of words to interpret the touching and sweet desire to protect licensees which they express in this Amendment. There are two, if not three, most distinguished lawyers associated with this Amendment. I have no doubt that since the end of the Committee stage they have given a good deal of attention to this matter. I cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) that the Opposition Amendment had to be drafted hurriedly—just dashed off, as it were—because they had not found on the Order Paper an Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend.

I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite have given a great deal of thought to this matter. So have we, because many of us on this side of the House, like my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor), were anxious to see whether a form of words could be devised to put into practical effect the undertaking which the Secretary of State had given. Clearly, we were not completely competent to do that ourselves and we sought what seemed to us to be competent legal advice. We were not able—and I assume this has been the case with the Secretary of State—to get from our advisers a comprehensive form of words to give full effect to the spirit of the undertaking which had been given. Indeed, that is not remarkable. In many of these matters, what will be really effective is not the form of words embodied in the Statute but rather the spirit and general feeling in which it is administered. Upon that question I want to say a word or two with regard to what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

4.30 p.m.

It really is most unfair that, from Conservative platforms outside and in this House, there should be these continued slimy innuendoes on the character and standing of the people who serve the State management scheme at Carlisle. I can speak with some knowledge of publicans in general. The truth is that there is no common type of publican. If one takes all the public houses within a mile of this House, one would find every type of person, from the young lady of 27 to the elderly man of 65 or even 70, running a public house.

There is no stereotyped publican, and when the hon. Gentleman opposite said that State management would produce one, he was quite beside the point, I agree, however, that there are fears held by licensees in certain areas which have been scheduled or are likely to be scheduled for new towns that they will be dispossessed. I freely admit that, but I am also bound to say, that not only are these fears quite needless, but many of them would not have existed had it not been for the vicious and unscrupulous campaign run by the Opposition and their friends the brewers as to what is meant by this Licensing Bill.

The proposal of hon. Members opposite refers to "conditions not less favourable," and here I would reinforce the point made by the Home Secretary. I should be most dismayed, most angry and indignant if licensees in the new towns and under the State management scheme were not to get in many instances far better working conditions than they have at the moment. Let me illustrate that by one simple example. We may have a publican under a State management scheme whose political views are not in accord with those of the ruling party of the time. I should be most annoyed if those responsible for the State management scheme forced him to show all over his public house, posters and slogans that were completely repugnant to him and to most of his customers.

Under present conditions, a licensee who is employed by the brewers has no alternative under the terms of his agreement except to display any poster or placard, no matter how offensive it might be to his own views or those of his customers. I have here a copy of "The Brewers' Almanac" for 1949, which includes a model tenancy agreement. It is rather better than some tenancy agreements, but, even in this case, one finds that it is laid down that it shall be the duty of the landlord to exhibit on the premises such advertisements and notices as may be supplied by the brewers for the purpose.

I have been to many of the areas which are or may be the sites for new towns. In these places, as in my own division, I am happy to say that there are many publicans—indeed, in my own constituency, which is an industrial constituency, possibly the majority of them—who came into the business from industrial jobs and who are Socialists. Their position in the recent campaign which has been conducted by hon. Members opposite and the brewers was very difficult, and in the public houses in my division which had Socialist landlords—

The hon. Gentleman appears to be dealing at length with matters which are not relevant to the new Clause, which, of course, deals with licensed premises in the new towns.

The only point I was making—forgetting my own constituency for a moment—was that in the areas scheduled for the new towns, there happen to be Socialist publicans, and I hope that the Government do not intend to carry out the present brewers' system under which publicans will be forced to do what they have to do now, in the way of exhibiting notices and posters which are completely repugnant to their consciences and to those of their patrons. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Football pools."] We shall, I hope, have an opportunity of dealing with them later on.

In conclusion, I support the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles and shared by many hon. Members opposite, that there is a genuine desire in the House that we should try, not only to provide the spirit of the undertaking given but, if possible, to place in the Bill a form of words which will carry out that desire to give protection. I know that the Home Secretary has been consulting his advisers consistently on this matter, and that it appears that there is no form of words that will fully meet the case. If that is so, we shall have to rely on a proper interpretation of the spirit of the Bill and the pledge given. I hope the Home Secretary will continue his researches in the matter, though personally I am prepared to accept his personal undertaking and am certainly not prepared to join hon. Members Opposite in going into the Lobby in support of this rather vague and meaningless Amendment.

If I may, with the leave of the House, intervene again, I think I can shorten this discussion. I have listened with great care to what has been said by my hon. Friends the Members for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) and Bilston (Mr. Nally), and I am very desirous of meeting the general view of the House on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles pointed out one or two matters on which this Amendment is clearly defective, if it is really intended to cover everyone, because the person employed, no matter in what capacity, has as much right to be considered as the person whom the supporters of the Amendment have in mind.

I will therefore accept the wording of the Amendment as an earnest of the fact that I intend to proceed further with the matter, but the point raised by the hon. Member for Eccles will have to be met and I must also safeguard myself against the position that may arise where I desire to close a house for the benefit of the district generally. It is true that I must not be prevented from doing that, but I must be under some duty at the same time to find a place for the man who is thus dispossessed. I am quite sure that no one would desire that, merely because a man is already there, a necessary improvement should be prevented which would involve pulling down of premises and transferring of the licence somewhere else or saying that it is a redundant licence and not needed in the area. If the House would be prepared to recognise that that filling-out of the Amendment will be necessary, I shall not object to it being added to the Bill.

If the House will allow me, I would like to say that we will accept the situation which the right hon. Gentleman has just announced—that he accepts the Amendment as an earnest of the matter with which we are trying to deal, but that he makes such alterations as seem good to him on the lines which he has suggested at another stage of the Bill. The immediate result of that will be that the Amendment will be accepted on this understanding.

I wanted to intervene earlier to say how much I appreciated the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in repudiating what was said by the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal). I think it should be said from this side of the House that we appreciate that, because we do not think the Home Secretary would ever take the view expressed by the hon. Member. There is nothing to add, except to say that this is a very great advance on the part of the Government in declaring that they will accept the Amendment, in that it is the desire of the House of Commons and is not like having to accept the word of a Minister. I am very grateful that we have brought a new spirit into this matter and that the House has registered its opinion.

Amendment to the proposed new Clause agreed to.

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.