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Clause 29—(Power Of Local Authorities To Provide Board And Laundry Facilities)

Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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Amendment proposed: In page 24, line 43, at the end, to insert:

"(3) This section shall not authorise the grant of a certificate under the Licensing (Scotland) Acts, 1903 to 1934, for the sale of exciseable liquor in connection with the provision under this section of facilities for obtaining meals."—[Commander Galbraith.]

I beg to second the Amendment.

The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that where local authorities undertake the services of meals and laundry facilities there is some form of strict accountancy. For a period of three years they should be bound to show that their expenses have not outrun their receipts, and that, consequently, there is no subsidy from the rates in respect of these services. The suggestion embodied in the Amendment is on the lines of that adopted in the administration of civic restaurants. The House will appreciate that since the right hon. Gentleman has implemented his promise to increase and extend the provision of laundry services there is an acute anxiety on the part of many hon. Members that there should be no subsidised competition with any commercial agencies. The extension of these laundry services is an additional argument for the implementation of the accountancy features outlined in the Amendment.

I am aware that when the Government were pressed on this matter in Committee they pleaded that these services were of a severely limited nature. That applied only to restaurant schemes and, consequently, there was no need for this additional accountancy provision. In fact, all that could be extracted from the Lord Advocate was that he would circularise the local authorities and plead with them that they should put these services, if they adopted them, on an economic basis. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman excludes circularising from the pious hopes which he denounced earlier in this House.

I suggest that this limitation—that schemes providing meals and laundry services are applied only to the tenants of housing schemes of local authorities—is an additional insistence upon the need for this Amendment. After all, if these schemes were of a general nature, they would attract a great deal of public attention and certainly the accounts connected with them would have more prominence. I am certain that the competitors of any general scheme of this nature would take it upon themselves to see that pressure was put on local authorities to make these schemes—

On a point of Order. I am not clear about the Amendment which is being moved, in the light of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Would the hon. Gentleman make clear the Amendment to which he is speaking?

I was completely misinformed, and in those circumstances I can no longer continue my speech.

The fault must have been mine. I understood you to call page 24, line 40, Mr. Speaker.

I must also take responsibility for the unfortunate difficulty of my hon. Friend, because I had understood it was probable that the Amendment in page 24, line 40, would be selected. If that was not so, I too have misled my hon. Friend. At the speed at which we are proceeding, he fell into error. This Amendment which you did call Mr. Speaker proposes to apply the provisions of Section 1 (2) of the Civic Restaurants Act to these facilities. I take it that the Secretary of State will have no objection to this very modest proposal. He cannot complain that we have been undo-operative this evening. In fact, we have proceeded with the minimum of controversy on several difficult points, and I trust he will see his way to meet us on this moderate proposal. It is simply that local authorities operating, under this Clause, should be governed by the same conditions as would govern them if they were running a civic restaurant.

As I know, there are few things more liable to provoke controversy at short notice in Scotland than a proposal to enlarge the facilities for the supply of exciseable liquor, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not throw an apple of discord into our midst by suggesting that these facilities should be enlarged in this particular case beyond the reasonable provision made in the case of local authorities who run civic restaurants.

12.15 a.m.

I hesitated to interrupt the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. McFarlane) because I thought that in his sweet, innocent way he was managing to get a Second Reading speech made upon this particular part of the Bill. As the hon. Member proceeded, I began to wonder whether I was looking at the proper Amendment. As the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) says, this is a question which always arouses a great deal of interest in Scotland. In the same spirit of sweet reasonableness, I am willing to accept his Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.