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New Clause—(Supplementary Provisions As To Special Hours Certificates)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1949

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(1) In the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act the expression "music and dancing licence" means a licence granted by the London County Council for the keeping or using of any premises for public dancing, singing, music or other public entertainment.

(2) References in the said provisions to providing music and dancing and refreshment shall be construed as references to providing the same on every weekday, subject to any break in the provision thereof either for a period or periods not exceeding two weeks in any twelve successive months or on any special occasion or by reason of any emergency.

(3) A certificate purporting to be issued on behalf of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise and certifying that any premises are such as are specified in paragraph ( a) or ( b) of subsection (2) of section twenty of this Act shall be receivable in evidence and shall be sufficient proof, unless the contrary is shown, that the premises are such premises.

(4) The Secretary of State may make rules as to the procedure on any application under the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act.

(5) Any notice under the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act shall be in writing, and may be given by post.

(6) Any power conferred on the Secretary of State by the said provisions to make an order, rules or regulations shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.—[ Mr. Ede.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time.

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, at the end of subsection (2), to insert:

() Notwithstanding anything in section two of the Act of 1921 (which prescribes the permitted hours for Sundays) references in the said provisions to "the permitted hours" shall be deemed to include the period between midnight on Saturdays and two o'clock in the morning on Sunday.
This afternoon we have passed new Clauses providing for late night entertainment in London and I think the House should have an opportunity of considering this Amendment. There is no desire on the part of hon. Members on either side of the House to disturb the Sabbath. We want to preserve the Sabbath as much as we can and I sug- gest that if we allow restaurants, hotels and night clubs to open until two o'clock on Sunday morning that will not involve any substantial disturbance of the Sabbath, indeed, it would disturb the Sabbath much less than it is disturbed in many cases now by cinemas. The provision of cinema entertainment on Sundays is in direct and absolute competition with church services, but if restaurants, hotels and clubs open on Saturday night until the hour of two on the following morning, there would be no disturbance of church services.

The House might be inclined to accept the Amendment because Saturday night is the night most convenient to many people who wish to go out to dance and dine. If we accept the provision of late night entertainment until 2 or 2.30 in the morning it is surely logical to allow it on the night when workers have the best opportunity of enjoying themselves. It would be wrong, on the night when a person who is doing work which prevents him going to a night club on any other night, to prevent him going on a Saturday night, the only night when he could attend. In the interests of the ordinary man who likes occasionally to go to these places, it would be fitting and proper to have this provision so that the person not possessed of great leisure can go to these places, if he so desires.

The hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) has put the case for his Amendment very reasonably, but I think he will agree, as I know he has listened to the whole of the Debate which has just ended, that this question of providing late night entertainment, even as it is now proposed in the Bill, arouses very great feeling in certain quarters and, in particular, questions of conscience. If we were to extend what is at present proposed into the small hours of Sunday morning, I think it is clear that we should offend a number of people who, in other respects, would be quite prepared to accept the propositions my right hon. Friend is putting before the House. It is scarcely a matter upon which one can make a prolonged argument, but I ask the House to accept the fact that here we are dealing with views sincerely and genuinely held by a considerable section of the population. Many hon. Members and, no doubt, many people outside, will feel they are already stretching their consciences as far as they can in supporting the provisions of late night entertainment which we are putting forward.

I would appeal to the hon. Member not to press the Amendment and thereby arouse further scruples which at present are not affected. It is a fairly well recognised thing under the law as it has existed that 12 and 12.30 on Saturday night, or early Sunday morning, is the closing hour. I doubt whether anybody will feel that by sticking to that and allowing the extension on other week nights we would be seriously damaging the tourist trade, for instance, and thus affecting the arguments put forward for this Clause. In the absence of a very strong expression of opinion of the House to the contrary. I suggest that this is something which should not be pressed.

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for the views he has expressed. I am well aware that this Amendment is not likely to be acceptable to all sections of the community. I agree that there are difficulties about it. I only want to air it in the House because it is a logical result of what we desire to do. If the House does not do this, it is not really doing its duty, because to fail to do this is to fail to implement what we have set out to do. I have no desire to embarrass the Home Secretary, to whom I am very grateful for the broadminded view he has already taken on this issue, and, in view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.