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Licensing Bill

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause—(Liqueur Chocolates)

(1) No provision of the Licensing Act, 1953, the Licensing (Seamen's Canteens) Act, 1954, or this Act as to the sale, supply or consumption of intoxicating liquor, except subsection (2) below, and no enactment requiring the authority of an excise licence for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor shall have effect in relation to intoxicating liquor in confectionery which—

  • (a) does not contain intoxicating liquor in a proportion greater than one fiftieth of a gallon of liquor (computed as proof spirit) per pound of the confectionery; and
  • (b) either consists of separate pieces weighing not more than one and a half ounces or is designed to be broken into such pieces for the purposes of consumption.
  • (2) Intoxicating liquor in confectionery shall not be sold to a person under sixteen, and if any person knowingly contravenes this sub section he shall be liable on a first conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds and on a subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.—[ Mr. Vosper.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    3.40 p.m.

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

    This new Clause deals with a small but troublesome matter, the sale of liqueur chocolates, and it follows an undertaking which I gave in Committee to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark). At present, the sale of liqueur chocolates is governed by the licensing laws, and anyone who wishes to sell liqueur chocolates has to obtain a full justices' licence, with all the procedure and expense involved. This gives rise to three difficulties. First, it entails a confectioner obtaining a justices' licence. Secondly, the law is frequently disregarded. Thirdly, it gives rise to anomalies in the sense that, if chocolates are filled with paste, instead of free spirits, they may escape the protection of the law. For some time, the position has been troublesome, and representations were made to my right hon. Friend and myself during earlier stages of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South moved an Amendment in Committee.

    We have considered various ways of dealing with the matter, and the new Clause provides, I think, the right answer. It seems that two requirements are necessary: first, that there should be some protection for children; and, secondly, that there should be a limit to the alcoholic content of the chocolates. The new Clause provides a limit to the alcoholic content and, to meet a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) to the size of the chocolates. Secondly, it prohibits the sale of liqueur chocolates to persons under the age of 16. Subject to those two requirements, the sale of liqueur chocolates will be freed in future from the licensing laws and they may be sold by a confectioner in the ordinary course of business. This seems to us to be a sensible approach to what has been a long troublesome matter, and I hope that the House will approve.

    I do not oppose the Second Reading of this new Clause, although there is one rather curious point of drafting which, perhaps, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General will consider. Subsection (2) provides that

    "Intoxicating liquor in confectionery shall not be sold to a person under sixteen".
    That does not create an absolute offence, because the subsection goes on to say:
    "and if any person knowingly contravenes this subsection"
    and so forth.

    Since the Government have chosen that form of drafting, I should like them to say what is the effect of the first words. Do not they impose a limitation on sales without supplying any correlative sanction? If somebody sells confectionery to a young person under the age of 16 not knowing that he is under 16, presumably no offence is committed and there is no sanction whatever to reinforce the carrying out of the prohibition.

    That is a drafting point, but it is one which should be considered by the Government. I hope that, when the Bill goes to another place, the Ministers responsible will do what I think can correctly be described as changing the language so as to produce the result that the whole of the new Clause is effective instead of only part of it. I do not want to take time on a purely drafting point. I think that the new Clause itself is sensible and I myself strongly support the prohibition.

    I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having accepted the point. He has proved, I think, that throughout the whole of the Committee stage we were extremely reasonable on both sides of the Committee. I am sure that we shall continue to be very reasonable on both sides.

    The point raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) is a difficult one to settle in these days. It is by no means easy to say whether a person is 16, 15, 14, or 18 years of age.

    3.45 p.m.

    It was not my privilege to serve on the Standing Committee, but I have read with very great interest and concern the record of its deliberations. I am glad that the Government have seen the wisdom of listening to my hon. Friends who were concerned about the well-being of children in regard to this particular matter.

    I recall that one of my hon. Friends who sits for one of the Leeds constituencies—I am not sure which—I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon)—raised this matter of alcohol in chocolates.

    It was not my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon).

    I apologise to my hon. Friend; she will be thinking that I have eaten one of these sweets.

    It is very important that, as we turn to the Report stage and later—a great deal later, no doubt—the Third Reading, we should give our attention to children. The House has a special responsibility for protecting our youth from those people who, so long as they can make money, do not care how they make it, or who eats the sweets which they sell in their business. The motive is profit. I am glad that, at least, there is something in the new Clause to clip the claws of such unscrupulous persons.

    I hope that the Minister will answer the question put by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) about knowingly selling. Otherwise, all kinds of anomalies will be created in various communities. In my view, we could leave the word "knowingly" out. If a shopkeeper has any doubt, he ought not to sell. If there is a danger that a person is a child of 15 years 3 months, 15 years 6 months, or 16 years, a shopkeeper with any sense of responsibility will say, "I must not sell them to you". In my view, the obligation should be put on the person selling the chocolates.

    If the hon. Member were the shopkeeper and a young person came in asking for liqueur chocolates, and the hon. Member, as the shopkeeper, asked, "Are you 16?", and the answer was "Yes", what would be his attitude then?

    That question is very easily answered. I should not have these chocolates. Moreover, if anyone came in and asked for them, I should use my common sense, of which I have the average amount, I hope, and be able to tell whether the person was a young person or not.

    I believe that any good shopkeeper would say that he would much prefer not to sell these chocolates to young people if that would start them on the drinking habit. I say to the Government Front Bench, as I do to the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark), that the Clause is a step forward, but it is not adequate as it ought to be. I hope that my hon. Friends will be able to persuade the Minister that the word "knowingly" is superfluous and unnecessary.

    I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has just said. I believe that a shopkeeper selling goods should be responsible for satisfying himself in this respect. He may be in difficulty in some cases, but it is not simply a question of anyone who comes into the shop being served unless the shopkeeper has actual knowledge at the time that the person is under 16 years of age. In my view, the new Clause should be so worded that the shopkeeper must take some steps at least to assure himself on that point in cases where it is obvious the question might arise.

    I welcome the provision relating to persons under the age of 16, but it is a little difficult to reconcile it with the Minister's attitude towards the position of persons of 16 years and over in relation to off-licences and clubs. I hope that the Government's genuine regard for the position of people under 16 years in relation to liqueur chocolates will be reflected subsequently in their attitude towards young people in relation to off-licences and clubs.

    I do not like the word "knowingly" in the new Clause. On the other hand, I doubt whether we should rightly go as far as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) suggested. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to find a form of words which will throw some onus on the shopkeeper without making him responsible when he is guilty of a justifiable error. That is possible.

    The reason why I feel that a safeguard should be put in the Bill is that young people might be tempted to eat liqueur chocolates. Since my right hon. Friend has deemed it desirable to insert this provision in the Bill, I hope that he will strengthen it to the degree which has been suggested.

    I share the doubts which have been expressed about the wording of subsection (2) of the new Clause, which seems to me to be somewhat unusual and does not come into line with the impositions of the law on licence holders concerning the age of people who they may supply with intoxicating liquor outside the law. However, I congratulate the Government on having the courage to tackle what has long been a very serious evil in many parts of the country.

    In the light of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) has said, I hope that they will be able to make the new Clause easily enforceable and comprehensible in magistrates' rooms when magistrates are trying to determine whether an offence has been committed.

    I hope that the Minister of State will do something about the word "knowingly". The Government are to be congratulated on bringing forward this new Clause, particularly since there was quite a lot of evidence to show that, in spite of the smiles on the faces of hon. Members opposite a minute or two ago, there are people who are prepared to sell this kind of chocolate irrespective of who gets it or buys it. The reason why this matter was raised recently was that chocolate was advertised not very far from this building as strong enough to make a child tipsy. In view of this, there was obviously need for the new Clause.

    Any shopkeeper who is prepared to sell these chocolates should have the responsibility of not serving children under a certain age. It may be doubtful whether one can tell whether a boy or girl is 15 or 16 years, but the shopkeeper must be made responsible for finding that out. If there is any danger that these chocolates may be sufficient to give a child a taste for alcohol—that is the point—then there should be no possibility of that child being able to obtain them and, therefore, to acquire a taste for them.

    I hope that the Government will go a little further than they have gone and will delete the word "knowingly".

    I support the new Clause. Many of us were concerned to know that youngsters could go into a confectioner's shop and buy chocolates containing alcohol. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) has said, some shopkeepers have been boasting that there was enough alcohol in them to make a youngster tipsy. We were concerned because many youngsters could get a taste for alcohol through buying chocolates. They were unable to get a taste for it in a public house, but they could get a taste for it by buying chocolates containing alcohol. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North when she says that the responsibility for ascertaining the age of a young person should be on the shopkeeper.

    I can understand my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), being a bachelor, having some difficulty in assessing the age of young ladies. It is not so difficult for people with more experience. If the shopkeeper has any doubt in the matter, then there is a good old saying, "When in doubt, don't." As I say, I support the new Clause, but hope that the Minister will go a little further and will make the shopkeeper responsible for ascertaining the age of young people buying these chocolates.

    I welcome the introduction of the new Clause. I was surprised when I realised that the Minister proposed to insert it in the Bill, because months ago, when this matter was first raised—I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke on Trent, North (Mrs. Slater)—there was a good deal of merriment on both sides of the House on the ground that this was a small thing and that it did not matter very much. In a sense, that is true.

    I should like to feel that, as we progress with the Amendments to the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman, who has a great regard for the welfare of young people and has done a great deal in that direction himself, will pay attention to Amendments dealing not with a drop of alcohol in one chocolate, but with the ability of children of quite tender age to go into off-licensed premises and buy as much liquor as they like. I cannot, under the rules of order, deal with that matter now, but I should like to point out to the Minister that he will get himself into a tangle if he swallows this gnat and later refuses to do something much bigger which will help to accomplish what he and all of us in the House would like to see accomplished concerning young people.

    I will examine the point raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Sockice). We are following the precedents of Sections 128 and 129 of the Licensing Act, 1953, where the word "knowingly" features in sales to young persons both on and off the premises. Although we are departing from the licensing law, it seems reasonable to use these words as a necessary defence for the shopkeeper. I should not like to suggest to the House that I am likely' to remove the word "knowingly", but I will examine what the right hon. and learned Member for Newport has said.

    While we are providing what we believe to be adequate protection for young persons, we are providing considerable simplification of the law in the new Clause, which, I hope, will be accepted.

    4.0 p.m.

    Subsection (1, a) of the new Clause refers to there not being

    "intoxicating liquor in a proportion greater than one fiftieth of a gallon of liquor (computed as proof spirit) per pound of the confectionery".
    I should like to know in what way the Minister arrives at that proportion, because it seems to some of us to be rather excessive. It is difficult, to compute exactly how much liquor would go into 1 lb. of confectionery, but I think that probably a quarter of a pint could be contained in about 1½ lb. As this refers to spirits, it might be rather in excess of what one might notionally expect to be required. We had this in mind when we discussed this matter in Committee, although we had no objection to chocolates flavoured in this way, whatever one's personal taste. We also had it in mind that it should not lead to the danger of forming the liquor habit to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) referred. Can the Minister reassure us that this amount of spirit per 1 lb or 1½ lb. of confectionery is not excessive?

    I congratulate the Minister on tackling this question. I take a rather different view from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and other speakers on this side of the House on the insertion of the word "knowingly". Licensees and shopkeepers have difficulty in assessing the ages of customers in this age group. They are worried about it. I think that we should have regard to that difficulty and be fair to them, in our endeavour to do what we can for young people. The introduction of the word "knowingly" might enable licensing justices, who, under the present system, find it rather difficult to convict licensees and others of having served people under age, to impose sentences.

    The onus would still remain on the licensee or shopkeeper to find out the age of his customer, if he can. Because there is the introduction of the need to prove knowledge, then, on balance, it will relieve many licensing justices from the inhibitions which they naturally feel when a person who is deemed to have contravened the law in this and similar respects comes before them.

    I am advised by the Customs and Excise, which always helps in this respect, that the definition in the new Clause should cover the ordinary range of liqueur chocolates consumed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but should not extend beyond that.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause—(New Procedure In Connection With Grant Of Justices' Licences)

    (1) No justices' licence granted after the coming into force of this section shall require confirmation; and, subject to the provisions of this Act,—

  • (a) all powers exercisable by licensing justices may be exercised at any licensing sessions; and
  • (b) there shall be an appeal to quarter sessions against any decision of licensing justices granting or refusing to grant a new justices' licence, or an ordinary removal of a justices' licence, and against any decision of licensing justices as to the conditions of a justices' on-licence.
  • (2) The following powers of licensing justices shall not be exercisable at transfer sessions, that is to say,—

  • (a) the power to renew justices licences, except where the licence was due for renewal at the preceding general annual licensing meeting, and the justices are satisfied that the applicant had reasonable cause for not applying for renewal at that meeting;
  • (b) the power to make regulations under section twenty-eight of the Licensing Act, 1953 (which enables licensing justices to restrict repeated applications for transfer or special removal);
  • (c) the power to make orders under section eighty-six of that Act (which relates to the extinguishment of licences in suspense by reason of war circumstances);
  • (d) the power to make orders under this Act fixing the general licensing hours in the licensing district;
  • and paragraph ( a) of subsection (1) above shall not apply to powers exercisable by licensing justices otherwise than under or for the purposes of the Licensing Act, 1953, nor affect the operation of any enactment in so far as it expressly authorises licensing justices to act otherwise than at a licensing sessions.

    (3) Compensation authorities for the purposes of the Licensing Act, 1953, shall continue to be constituted and Part II of the First Schedule to that Act shall continue to apply to them as heretofore; but they shall be known as "compensation committees" (instead of "confirming and compensation committees").

    (4) Part I of the Schedule (Licensing Procedure and Appeals) to this Act shall have effect with respect to the holding of licensing sessions and to the procedure at and in connection with those sessions, with respect to appeals from licensing justices to quarter sessions, and with respect to the duration of justices' licences, and Part II of that Schedule shall have effect for adapting and correcting the Licensing Act, 1953, in connection with the provisions of this section.—[ The Solicitor-General.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    This new Clause, together with the new Schedule—(Licensing Procedure and Appeals)—lays down a completely new code of procedure for the licensing justices and a code of appeal from the licensing justices. Under the present law, the licensing justices are responsible for granting an application for a new licence, but it is not valid until it has been confirmed by the confirming authority. The confirming authority in a county is a committee of the quarter sesssions and in a borough is a committee of the borough justices, and the confirming authority has power to confirm or refuse to grant the application or to vary the conditions.

    That system, as, I think, was clearly recognised in Committee, has a number of disadvantages. First, it causes quite unnecessary expense. The majority of applications are unopposed before the confirming authority, but the expense of going through the procedure before the confirming authority has to obtain in every case. Secondly, if the licensing justices refuse an application the applicant has no remedy. On the other hand, the objector has a remedy. Thirdly, on the whole, we like to have a hierarchy of appeal courts—an appeal from a lower court to a higher court—whereas in the case of the confirmation authority it is really an appeal from the expert licensing justices to the confirming authority which is largely of the same status, certainly in a borough, but it will not in all cases have the same experience as the licensing justices.

    The new provisions under this Clause and the Schedule provide for the abolition of the confirming authority and the requirement of confirmation, but it provides, in its place, an appeal to quarter sessions. It provides it for both the applicant and the objector who is overridden before the licensing justices. The objector who unsuccessfully opposes the grant of the licence may appeal to quarter sessions and so may the unsuccessful applicant for the licence.

    The House will see that where there is no appeal by the objector the grant of the licensing justices shall be valid and, therefore, further expense on an unnecessary procedural step is obviated. Quarter sessions, on appeal by the objector or the applicant, can either grant the licence or countermand the grant by the licensing justices or impose any conditions which the licensing justices could have imposed.

    A further point, as a result of the representations made in Committee, is met in the new Clause. At present, new licences can be granted only at the general annual licensing sessions, popularly known as brewster sessions and held in March each year. Under the new provisions, new licences can also be granted at transfer sessions which are held much more frequently. They are not less than four nor more than eight in any licensing year. That is the existing law and it is re-enacted by the new Schedule. Licensing justices will also be able to grant a supper-hour certificate at any transfer sessions. That further implements the undertaking that we gave in Committee.

    I do not know that the House will wish me to go in detail through the terms of the new Clause, which are fairly self-explanatory, although, perhaps, I ought to draw attention to subsection (2), which overrides subsection (1). Paragraphs (a) to (d) are all cases where it was felt that the annual licensing meeting was more suitable for the various transactions which are there set out. Paragraph (a) gives a little extra flexibility in that it allows the licensing justices to deal with an application for a renewal of a justices' licence if it was not brought on before the brewster sessions without any fault on the part of the applicant.

    We were unable, for a technical procedural reason, to table this new procedure for the Committee stage, but we indicated fully on a number of occasions the sort of procedure that we had in mind and it commanded, I believe, universal approbation. One of the attractive things about the Committee on the Bill was the cross-bench nature of the difference of opinion. I think that this was the only occasion when what we proposed commanded universal assent and the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) even said that he enthusiastically supported us, very much to our surprise.

    I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General on the drafting of this difficult Clause, but one which, I think, will fulfil his object, confirmation undoubtedly not being a popular procedure, for the many reasons given by my right hon. and learned Friend, in that it amounts more or less to the same tribunal trying the same question again.

    The new Clause states:
    "No justices' licence granted after the coming into force of this section.…"
    The Bill deals with restaurants and clubs. Does the new Clause include off-licences, which have nothing to do with restaurants and clubs, or is it confined only to restaurants and clubs? My reading of the new Clause leads me to believe that it would include all forms of licences, including off-licences, such as, for example, grocers' shops. I should like confirmation or denial of that fact before I give my wholehearted approval to the Clause.

    I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for incorporating a number of proposals which were put to him in Committee. It is right to remind the Government that they first introduced the Bill without any provision either for an appeal against the grant of a new licence or for the confirmation procedure. They were then subjected to the humiliation of a vote against them by their own supporters and a provision that the confirming procedure should be restored was carried against the Government. I know that they are making the best of a somewhat difficult position, and they have come to a sensible conclusion.

    In Committee, the Minister offered, in effect, that instead of the confirmation procedure there should be introduced into the Bill procedure by way of appeal to quarter sessions against the grant of a new licence. I am glad to see that the Schedule and the new Clause incorporate that procedure.

    The Solicitor-General referred to the cross-bench nature of our discussions upstairs. That was, perhaps, a slightly unfortunate way of characterising what took place when we were discussing the Clause, but I think that the right result—

    The phrase I used in discussing what happened on the Clause was "a procedural technical difficulty".

    It may be a procedural technical difficulty. Whatever it is, it now looks all right, if that is rather more robust language to characterise a sensible result achieved after a considerable degree of travail on the part of Ministers in charge. Subsection (1) is certainly one to which we should give our assent—although, of course, in a free vote for hon. Members on this side; some of my hon. Friends may differ.

    Subsection (2) and the remainder of the new Clause introduce about four pages of Schedule which we had not seen during Committee. It is a bit lopsided. The Schedule is nearly as big as the Bill itself. The Schedule is in small print, whereas the Bill is in large print. This is rather a case of the tail wagging the dog. However, it seems to be quite a reasonable tail so far as I have been able to look at it.

    I would be out of order, no doubt, if I were to discuss the new Schedule in detail. In general terms, however, it seems to implement the provisions in the new Clause, embodying in it the appeal procedure. Speaking for myself, I would have no objection to the new Clause.

    Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said what he has said, I might say that I thought the most convenient course to the House would be to discuss the principle of the new Schedule with the new Clause. If there are matters of detail on the Schedule, they can be raised when we get to the Schedule.

    4.15 p.m.

    Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After your invitation, perhaps now is the time, if ever, to refer to the new Schedule.

    It seems to me that on the whole the procedure, highly complex and containing a vast number of new provisions, is satisfactory, although it is a big mouthful to digest. It has elaborate provisions concerning notice, and so on. If the Solicitor-General can confirm that all that the new Schedule does is to tidy up existing provisions with regard to notice and with regard to the hearing before the brewster sessions and the other sessions, that it incorporates the necessary additional provisions which are involved in this new appeal procedure and that my researches into the new Schedule have not gone astray, I would be content.

    As I understand it, the second part of the new Schedule merely contains corrective provisions adapting the 1953 Act to the new enactment which we are now considering. If the Solicitor-General would confirm that I am right in that supposition, perhaps I might be taken as having said all that I would offer to the House concerning the principle of the new Schedule.

    I wish to ask a few questions of the Solicitor-General. I genuinely seek knowledge and information about these transfer sessions. I am a little worried that licences will now be, or could be, granted up to eight times a year in place of the existing ones. I gathered from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that licences could be granted at the transfer sessions not less than four times and not more than eight times a year. If that is so, I want to know whether adequate provision is being made in the Schedule for the necessary advertising for people who object to the granting of licences to be given full and adequate time to prepare their case, to get people to present their case and to ensure that whoever has the responsibility of issuing a licence has the opportunity of hearing the full view of the community concerned.

    This is an important part of the Bill and I should not like to let it pass without the Minister giving me assurance on a question which, I know, is agitating the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches a great deal. I hope that the Minister will explain in detail how this provision will work, whether there is any major difference from the present brewster sessions and whether he has included as a requirement the necessity for adequate notice, advertisement, and so on.

    To deal, first, with the point that was asked of me by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), the new Clause applies to all justices' licences: that is to say, it applies to off-licences and on-licences, and included in the on-licences are the new Part I licences, the residential, the restaurant and the mixed licences. It also, therefore, applies to licensed clubs, but not to registered clubs, which are dealt with separately under a different procedure in Part III of the Bill.

    The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) both referred to the new Schedule. The Schedule looks, perhaps, inordinately long compared with the Clause. What happened was that, once we made the change in the procedure for appeal which commended itself to the Committee, it became necessary to make a number of changes in the procedure before the justices. That gave us an opportunity to rewrite and codify the whole of the existing procedure. That dated in every respect, except the compensation procedure, from the last century and a great deal of it was very much out of date.

    To give an illustration from the point put to me specifically by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, the advertisement procedure under the existing procedure was in most cases, if not in all, the nailing or posting of a notice to the church door where it might or might not come to the attention of an objector. As the hon. Member will see from the Schedule, we have replaced that by procedure by way of advertisement in accordance with all the comparable modern enactments.

    I therefore assure the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) that much of the new Schedule is re-enactment, but it makes a number of improvements and modernisations in the existing code. There are such things, for example, as specific notice to the

    fire authority, which will be very much in the mind of the House and which we shall be discussing in greater detail under the next new Clause. It provides greatly improved facilities for learning of any application for a new licence or the transfer of a licence.

    The hon. Member for Cardiff, West is quite right. The transfer sessions must be held at least four times and can be held up to eight times in the year. Therefore, there will be that additional temporal facility for the granting of new licences. It is a matter of great convenience. It by no means follows that plans will be crystallised in relation to the February brewster sessions, but in relation to transfer sessions no less than the brewster sessions there is ample time and greatly improved opportunity to bring to the notice of any potential objector what is proposed.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) wanted to know precisely what was the procedure at transfer sessions, what business would be transacted at the general sessions, and whether objectors to these matters would have a reasonable notice of the proceedings. We are called upon to consider a Schedule of 284 lines only recently put on the Notice Paper which most of us understood would be discussed at a later stage of the Bill.

    Unless we have a further opportunity of discussing the Schedule in detail, I feel that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) accepted with some alacrity the invitation to discuss the Schedule now with this new Clause. We should have an opportunity in discussing the Clause to make reference to the Schedule, of course, but this is a substantial variation of the whole licensing procedure as we know it, and those of us who were not members of the Standing Committee have a right to fuller information when we come to discuss in principle the various matters in the Schedule.

    In emphasising the matter, it was not my intention to exclude discussion of the Schedule when we got to it. I thought that matters like advertisements, for instance, might come under the heading of detail.

    I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, but, even so, we should like some further explanation.

    It was precisely because I thought that details like advertisements would be discussed later that I did not mention any details to the House now, but in case it is convenient I would draw specific attention to paragraph (2, c) of the Schedule which deals with notice. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) will see from it the procedures for notice to which we shall come back later.

    On the point put specifically by the hon. Member, under this new provision all powers exercisable by the licensing justices may, subject to what follows in the new Clause, be exercised at any licensing sessions, which would include transfer sessions. The matters that are excepted are the matters to which I referred in subsection (2) which are felt to be more suitable for investigation, discussion and adjudication at the annual brewster sessions. In addition, in line 23 of the new Clause, there are also excepted powers exercisable by the licensing justices other than for the purposes of the Licensing Act, 1953. That excludes, for instance, billiards licences under the Gaming Act.

    No, those licences are included. If there are eight transfer sessions there can be an application for a new licence at any one of those eight, and if there is an application it must be advertised in accordance with the Schedule. I was going to add that the compensation procedure which is at present discharged by the confirming authority is also saved.

    May I ask something about the last statement that the Solicitor-General has made? As a former chairman of a licensing committee, I know the difficulties when the licensing committee of the petty sessional division thinks that a licence has become redundant to get the same view taken by the county licensing committee. What will happen in future when the local licensing justices—the licensing committee—have reviewed the licences for the area and they think that one is not required for the appropriate service of the community, either because the building is defective or because of some other reason which may be good and sufficient in their minds? Is their decision now the final one, subject to appeal to the appeal committee of quarter sessions?

    How will it be dealt with? Will this kind of appeal go to the ordinary appeal committee or quarter sessions, or will there be special appeal committee of quarter sessions to deal with licensing matters only, which is what the county licensing committee is now in reality, in so far as it deals with redundant licences and assesses compensation? Who will assess compensation in future? This is one of the matters which give great concern to local licensing justices' committees and which can lead to considerable ill-feeling between the petty sessional committee and the county committee when what the local licensing committee wishes to do is considered.

    The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) asks me about the compensation procedure. At present, the procedure is that the licensing justices can decide that there is redundancy in licensed premises. If they decide that, they can recommend compensation out of the compensation fund which has been built up from what has been called "monopoly value".

    4.30 p.m.

    That procedure is quite untouched by the new Clause and by the Bill. It is stated in subsection (3) that the compensation authorities shall continue to be constituted. They have simply changed their name. They are known as compensation committees and not as confirming and compensation committees. But it is still for the compensation committee to determine what compensation is proper in the case of a licensed premises recommended to it by the licensing justices as redundant.

    Perhaps I might ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a supplementary question on that. Now that the monopoly value has been abolished under a recent Finance Act, where will the compensating authority now get the money with which to pay compensation?

    I should not like to give a final answer on that matter. It is rather outside the scope of the Bill. But my impression from discussions of it on the Finance Bill of two years ago is that it is estimated that the compensation funds are sufficient in any foreseeable future to meet any demands made on them.

    The new Clause seems to be more mysterious than ever. I am impressed by some of the observations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). The opening words of the Clause state that no licences shall require any confirmation. Subject to correction, that seems to me to mean a very definite alteration of procedure.

    The old procedure, as I remember it—it is many years since I was engaged in these matters—was that we had an annual general licensing session and an adjourned meeting. One of the things that one tried to find out was what members of the bench would be sitting on a certain day, because the bench was always divided into so many teetotallers who would vote against every licence and so many justices who would vote for the licences, with a modest minimum of unpredictables who had only recently been appointed.

    I altered all that in the Licensing Act, 1951, which provided that a licensing committee should consist of a minimum and maximum number of magistrates selected by their colleagues from the general body of magistrates of a petty sessional area.

    No one admires the reforms that we have had from my right hon. Friend more than I do, or the purpose which was behind them. We have the greatest admiration for all that. However, I think that my right hon. Friend, when he said all that, was rather overestimating the effect of the Act. I have no doubt that he sought to enable Parliament to deal with the previous anomalies of the system.

    On the other hand, it is possible for quite a lot to be done under the existing system very often. It is possible for one to get a copy of the jury list and make inquiries about the jury. In one or two cases I have done that, with some benefit to my clients. I think that a local solicitor could form some idea of the probable chances of an application if he knew what justices were likely to be sitting.

    There are to be nine sittings a year—that is the new figure—at any one of which an application for the grant of a new licence can be made. I think that some measure of protection for the public ought to be provided. It seems to me possible that applications will be made only in the last month or so. We are told that one has to provide a notice to the clerk of the local authority, which will be received by the clerk and will then be conveyed by the clerk to the council the next time it sits. One then has to advertise the application not less than 14 days previously in a local newspaper. At the moment I have been unable to find any definition of what that is, and there are some queer newspapers circulating at the moment. There is also the provision to give 28 days' notice in some place accessible to the public.

    It seems to me that people who take an interest in licensing matters may be in some doubt about what we are doing by altering the procedure so that an application for a new licence can be made at any one of the nine sessions. Perhaps there is some procedure later in the Bill for dealing with this situation, but I do not know whether there is. Under the old procedure that was an important matter. It was far too expensive a matter, even for a brewer, to make a hopeless application for a licence. Even if the brewer was applying in respect of unbuilt premises, he would have employed architects and had all the plans prepared, and would have produced all the evidence, witnesses having to be called who were devastated by the inability to buy a bottle of beer less than 250 yards from where they lived. A great deal of work would have been done in such cases.

    It is true that under that system, once those concerned had done all that, they could pop the application in every year until they got it. They had the papers, the witnesses and the plans and had spent a good deal of money, and it was worth while spending a few guineas on a solicitor's fee in order to have another shot at it. I do not know what possibility of that there will be with nine sessions a year. It may be that there is a provision dealing with this later in the Schedule, but I have not seen it. We have not had much chance of reading what is proposed. This is Monday afternoon, and I was working under Royal command in Aberdeen on Friday. I have tried to find out what has happened since, but the mass of Amendments and new Clauses and this almost incomprehensible Schedule make any hon. Member feel concerned about whether he is in a position to carry out, or to give reasonable effect to, representations which he may have received from his constituents.

    What is the procedure? Are we not introducing a procedure with no form? It is true that a provision for appeal is made, but I do not know whether one has a right of appeal against a decision to which one was not a party. I should have thought that for all practical purposes such an appeal would be nugatory, anyway. It seems to me that if one is not there at the first sessions one has lost the right to object. Suppose that one did not know that the application was taking place until one read about it in the local paper and saw that it was granted. One might wish to appeal, but one might be told that the application had conformed with the provisions of the Schedule.

    It might be said that one had a solicitor, but that he did not understand the provisions of the Schedule, and that one took counsel's opinion but counsel did not understand the provisions of the Schedule, and certain advice was given by the brewers. If an individual then came along and complained that he had not read the notice in the advertising column of his local newspaper, a problem would arise.

    I should have thought that if one really was concerned about the evils which afflict humanity, from nuclear bombs to chocolate liqueurs, at least the House, in assessing the relative devastating facts, should seek to provide a measure of certitude so that the average citizen might have some idea when the licensing sessions were to be held.

    There is a curious thing about the Schedule. It provides—it is a fantastic provision—that the general sessions and the transfer sessions shall be held at regular intervals. One cannot fix things at regular intervals if one waits for business to come in. If one fixes regular intervals, it must be done at the start of the year. Therefore, one has to decide before the business comes in what business one is likely to have. One will probably decide to have nine sessions at regular intervals—one about every six weeks. Otherwise, it may not be possible to have the sessions at regular intervals. If one has the first sessions and a dozen applications come in, one may have to wait for three months for the next sessions, and in that case it would be difficult to have the sessions at regular intervals.

    So we shall probably have the licensing justices fixing nine sessions each year and saying, "What does it matter if there are no applications at some of them?" This will be the simplest method from the point of view of the solicitor's clerk. At the beginning of the year he would write for the list of sessions, which would comprise one general session and eight transfer sessions. If the Solicitor-General was correct in the information which he gave—I do not doubt that he was—this means that an application can be made at any one of them with the minimum possible warning to the public.

    This is not a question merely of whether one is fond of licensing or not, whether one is roughly in favour of alcohol or not, or whether, like me, one thinks it is good for oneself but not good for other people, or not. This is a question of property rights, tenancy rights, and the amenities of housing estates. There are many people who are not teetotallers, but who have sound reasons for not wanting to have a public house opposite their home. I had a flat in London opposite which there was a public house. What was annoying me was that all my friends called on me "for one" when the "pub" closed, which was an almost intolerable burden on my wife and myself. Such problems are involved in this matter.

    The initiation, at this late stage, of this very elaborate Schedule will present us all with problems as our discussions of the Bill continue. It may well be that in abolishing this elaborate procedure we shall abolish the careful safeguards which have hitherto been provided against the granting of licences without proper representation being available to all those people who have reason to believe that their interests, or those of their children, family or district, might be affected by the hurried grant of licences without due consideration.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause—(Rights Of Fire Authorities In Connection With Registration Of Clubs)

    (1) Where the local authority is not the fire authority, the clerk to the justices shall as soon as may be give the fire authority written notice of the making of an application for the issue of a registration certificate for any premises, or for the renewal of a registration certificate in respect either of different, additional or enlarged premises or of premises previously notified to him by the fire authority as being premises in respect of which the authority desire to be given notice under this subsection.

    (2) As regards any matter affecting fire risks a fire authority other than the local authority shall have the like rights—

  • (a) in relation to the inspection of premises under section twenty-five of this Act; and
  • (b) in relation to the making of objections, on the ground mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section twenty-one of this Act, to the issue or renewal of a registration certificate;
  • as the authority would have if they were the local authority.

    (3) In this section "fire authority" means in relation to any premises the authority discharging in the area where the premises are situated the functions of fire authority under the Fire Services Act, 1947.—[ Mr. R. A. Butler.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    It may be convenient if, with the new Clause, we discuss the Amendments to page 34, line 13, at the end to insert:

    (13) A magistrates' court may refuse an application for the issue or renewal of a registration certificate if it appears to them that the premises to be registered do not provide for efficient means of escape in the event of fire.
    and to page 34, line 32, after "police", to insert:
    "by the chief fire officer".

    It may also be convenient if we cover the Amendment to page 35, line 22, at the end, to insert:

    (f) that the premises are not provided with efficient means of escape in the event of fire.
    This new Clause seeks to cover the matters, with which those Amendments rightly attempt to deal, in a rather more fundamental way. Its object is to try to deal with the sort of situation which arose with the fire in Bolton, on 1st May, as a result of which 19 persons in club premises lost their lives. We concluded that, as drafted, the Bill was not sufficiently broad to cover the problems of a club, if only because premises can be brought into use before action can be taken to secure adequate means of egress from them. We therefore think that in a licensing Bill we must do as much as we can about fire precautions.

    I shall not go into great detail about the Clause, because it is fairly obvious. In general, however, although we cannot here discuss fire precautions outside the Bill, under the Factories Act, 1959, new fire precautions came into force on 1st December, 1960, and we contemplate taking further steps in any legislation which we introduce in relation to health, welfare and safety in shops, offices, and so on. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in the present Housing Bill, has under consideration the problem of fire precautions in relation to multi-occupied dwellings. Although the provisions are spread about, with the aid of this Bill we shall be able to provide fire precautions regulations rather better than they have been, and I think that we are right to do so. The main fire precautions regulations are included in Section 59 of the Public Health Act, 1936.

    4.45 p.m.

    The new Clause provides that any fire authority which, as the Bill stands, is not given the right of inspection in any matter affecting fire risks, should have the rights of inspection which are provided in Clause 25, that is, the inspection of premises before first registration.

    In the Clause reference is made to the "authority" and Clause 28 (3, b), the Interpretation Clause, provides that a local authority means
    "the Common Council of the City of London, or the council of the county borough, metro-polian borough or county district, according to the situation of the premises in question."
    Clause 25, taken together with portions of Clause 21 and the Interpretation Clause, means that county borough councils, for example, would have sufficient powers of inspection and, as they are fire authorities, they would have absolutely full power to deal with the matter. However, we found on examination that those provisions would not cover counties or combined authorities, and we therefore decided to put down the new Clause which deliberately gives to fire authorities the powers which they think that they ought to have. I think that that is satisfactory, and it covers renewal of registration.

    In paragraph 2 (5) of the new Schedule, opportunities are given so that when, instead of applying for registration, a club applies for a justices' licence, there would be power for the authority to intervene and to be informed. The Clause contains full provision for the club to inform the fire authority when there is a likelihood of risk. That, taken together with the powers in Clause 25 and the powers of inspection, covers the danger of fire and enlarges the definition of fire authority as it should be enlarged.

    I wanted myself to move the new Clause because I knew of the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) about the risk of fire. I hope that the new Clause will be regarded as satisfactory.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the Clause is confined to clubs? What about restaurants, and so on? Will the Clause have any application in that respect, or are restaurants and hotels, and so on, covered in another way?

    Restaurants are covered by the existing law, but clubs are not. Clubs providing liquor—this being a licensing Bill—will now be covered by the Bill.

    Are we to understand that from now on, as restaurants and guest houses of all kinds all over the country will be entitled almost as a right to a licence, fire precautions will have to be approved by the appropriate local authority before a licence can be granted?

    I am sure that the whole House will welcome the new Clause, so far as it goes. I am sure that I am speaking for every hon. Member when I say that we were all profoundly shocked to read of the Bolton fire and that we recognise the urgent necessity of trying to make certain that, as far as possible, similar catastrophes are avoided in future.

    I would like to press on the Home Secretary the points which my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) have already put. The Clause clearly relates only to clubs which fall within Part III of the Bill. It enables the fire authority concerned to object to the grant of a registration certificate in the case of such a club.

    The Home Secretary referred to the Public Health Act, 1936, of which Sections 59 and 60 contain fairly drastic provisions about providing fire exits and anti-fire precautions in general. Why does the new Clause not apply equally in the case of other licences with which the Bill deals—restaurant licences, residential licences, combined licences and the ordinary licences which are granted in respect of licensed premises?

    To some extent it does, in the sense that licences of those sorts can be refused if the premises are unsuitable, but I suggest that there is no reason why one should not go a great deal further than the new Clause. Bearing in mind the fire risks and the appalling catastrophes which can result, why should there not be similar provisions about the other types of licensed premises? Why should not the law provide that the fire authority must be notified in the case of an application for any licence of that sort, or renewal of any licence of that sort, so that that fire authority can object?

    Equally, I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is certain that the existing provisions of Sections 59 and 60 of the Public Health Act, 1936, are sufficiently wide. I have looked at this matter. Section 60, as I read it, applies to inns, hotels, and to restaurants. I would have thought that we should enact a similar obligation under this new Clause to notify the fire authorities in the case of any application for a licence for restaurants and hotels.

    We already have Section 60 of the 1936 Act, which applies to them and which makes it obligatory on the owners and others in control of such premises to provide fire exits. But I should also like to ask, as I have done by implication, having enacted that there must be a notice given to the fire authorities in relation to clubs, why we should not enact that Sections 59 and 60 of the Public Health Act, 1936, should equally apply to clubs, which would then also have to submit to the rather stringent obligations imposed by those Sections about the provision of fire exits, and so on.

    Section 59, as far as I read it, applies to a club required to be registered under the provisions of the Licensing Consolidation Act, 1910. I ask whether that Act, by virtue of the changes in the law which we are now proposing, automatically applies to a club required, under Part III of the Bill, to have a registration certificate. I would have thought not.

    I see that the Solicitor-General is indicating that he agrees with that conclusion, and that the Act does not apply to these clubs. If it does not apply to the clubs under Part III of the Bill, then I press the Government that it should do. As far as I know, all that is to be contained in legislation, applicable to clubs which will be required to have a registration certificate under Part III of the Bill is what we now find in this new Clause. I press the Government that that is not enough, and that clubs which fall within the provisions of Part III should be under the same obligations as other premises which come under Sections 59 and 60 of the 1936 Act.

    I know that the Government and the House will agree with me that there is no step that we should not take to avoid a possible recurrence of the sort of catastrophe that we have in mind. I can say that without fear of contradiction. I submit that the Government have not gone far enough, that this Clause should be more extensive in that it should apply equally to restaurants, hotels and licensed premises, and that, in any event, we should make sure that Sections 59 and 60 of the 1936 Act will apply in future to clubs which fall within the provisions of Part III of the Bill.

    It is not my intention to make a long speech, but I feel that the House will expect me to say a few words about this subject, because this tragic club fire happened in my constituency. I was on the spot a few hours afterwards, because I am still a member of the local watch committee. There was strong feeling in the town, for the people knew the limitations of the regulations.

    I want to say here and now that I am very happy about the way in which the problem has been faced up to and dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) and I were in touch with my right hon. Friend after the accident and many representations were made. I believe that this new Clause will be quite enough to ensure that a tragedy like this cannot happen again. For my part, I welcome it and say at once how happy I am about it.

    The people concerned after the Bolton fire examined the Bill to see whether Clause 21 (4), which does not actually refer to fire precautions, gave full authority to local fire officers. I take it, however, from what the Home Secretary has said, that Clause 21 (2, b) is adequate and that the words

    "…the premises are not suitable and convenient for the purpose in view of their character and condition of the size and nature of the club"
    are grounds for making objection to the club being opened—or, if it is already opened, for making application that the licence should be withdrawn.

    I consulted some of my legal friends on this point and there appears to be a division of opinion. Some said that this was wide enough to include everything, and that a club could not be suitable or convenient if the fire precautions were not adequate. On the other hand, there is doubt, and it seems, from the nature of the Public Health Act, 1936, that there is some ground for this doubt, because I notice that Section 59 of that Act contains the words
    "…ingress and egress and passages or gangways…"
    I was advised that this did not refer to fire precautions, but to exits being adequate so that people should be able to get in and out easily. That seems to be borne out by Section 60, which specifically makes reference to
    "…means of escape in case of fire…"
    My concern was whether this Bill as it stood adequately covered everything regarding fire precautions, except in this one matter where the local authority was not the same as the fire authority. I take it, from what the Home Secretary has said, that the legal advice that he has had is that the Bill is quite adequate, so that any fire officer will be enabled both to enter the premises under Clause 25 prior to their being opened as a club, or to go into them after they have been opened—to see that the fire precautions are still being maintained—and that if, on either occasion, he is not satisfied he can then object to the licence. If that is the case, I am quite satisfied with this new Clause.

    I rise to follow up the point made by the Home Secretary before he resumed his seat. Everyone was shocked by the disaster at Bolton, and, naturally, we expected the Government to take note of the fact that there were premises of this sort which were not inspected as they should be by fire authorities. But I believe that we could have an equal disaster at a restaurant where drink is sold. One could have it in any other licensed premises, because, wherever drink is sold, fire danger is increased.

    People become less careful under the influence of drink. They take chances which they would not otherwise take in a sensible moment and, therefore, in letting the Bill go through the House, we must take extra careful precautions. I shall be very disturbed until I hear further from the Government that they are quite satisfied that all restaurants, and all places where a licence to sell drink is granted, come under a provision like this proposed new Clause for prior examination by the fire authorities.

    To my mind, it is quite inadequate to have an inspection of premises after they are opened. The transfer sessions will be asked to give new licences to restaurants and the local authority may feel that because a place has been a restaurant for twenty years it will be quite all right as a fire risk if it is subsequently licensed to sell strong drink. I believe that a place may be a reasonable fire risk if no drink is sold, but may become quite a dangerous risk if drink is sold. I am not satisfied that we should make this requirement operate merely for clubs.

    A short time ago the Solicitor-General seemed as though he intended to reply. I hope that he will be able to satisfy us on this paint. If he does not, we shall have to pursue the matter at greater length, because it is an issue on which there is great public concern.

    5.0 p.m.

    I hope that I can clear up this matter to the satisfaction of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). He is worried at the thought that we may be unduly limiting the provisions concerning fire risks and he thinks that, in particular, we ought to ensure that a licensed restaurant where intoxicating liquor may be sold should also be inspected, or made liable to inspection, by a fire officer on prior notice. That point is covered by the new Schedule, to which we have referred but which we have not discussed in detail. If hon. Members will refer to that Schedule—(Licensing Procedure and Appeals)—they will see that paragraph 2 (5), which deals with applications for a new licence, provides that

    "The notice required…to be given to the proper local authority shall be given…"
    and goes on to provide:
    "and, in the case of a new licence or a removal shall also be given to the authority discharging in the area where those premises are situated the functions of fire authority under the Fire Services Act, 1947."
    The fire authority therefore receives notice of an application for a licence, which will include a restaurant licence or any other Part I licence. If hon. Members will then look at Clause 2 (2) they will see that it provides that
    "Licensing justices may refuse an application for the grant or renewal of a restaurant licence…on any of the following grounds, that is to say…that the premises…are not suitable and convenient for the use contemplated",
    so that it would be open to a fire officer, having had notice and having the power to inspect, to come forward and make his objection that the premises are not suitable in view of the fire risks.

    It seems to me that there is another defect in this new Clause, with which the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General may be good enough to deal. We are all anxious to do everything possible to reduce the fire risks in clubs and licensed premises. As I understand the new Clause—which the Home Secretary explained and, in explaining referred to Clauses 25 and 28—it does not seem that fire authorities will be given all the rights of inspection which they ought to have if we are to do the maximum possible to reduce fire risks. The Home Secretary seemed to think that the Clause would give a fire authority the right to inspect premises on an application for the renewal of a licence.

    The new Clause deals with the registration of clubs, and not of licensed premises.

    I quite agree, but I gathered from the Home Secretary that he was under the impression that the new Clause gives a fire authority the right of inspection prior to an application for a renewal of a licence for a registered clubs. If the Solicitor-General will look at Clause 25 he will see that it deals with the right of inspection of local authorities, and this is important, because the new Clause, by reference, incorporates Clause 25. The object of Clause 25 seems to be to give a local authority as well as the police the right of inspection of premises prior to first registration but not subsequently, unless the case falls within subsection (4), which refers to the case of the club which applies for the renewal of a registration certificate in respect of different, additional or enlarged premises.

    There is the ordinary case of a straightforward application for the renewal of a registration certificate, under Part III, and I cannot see why a local authority and, a fortiori, a fire authority, should not have the right of inspection prior to any application for the renewal of a certificate. It does not seem sufficient merely to give local authorities, including fire authorities, the rights of objection which they are given under subsection (1) of the new Clause unless they are also given every opportunity of inspection, so that they can examine the premises and satisfy themselves whether or not they should object to the application.

    I raised this point in Committee, but the Minister of State did not seem fully to appreciate the importance of the Amendment that we then moved, because in that context we were dealing with the rights of local authorities to inspect in order to see whether the premises were structurally sound, and on planning grounds, and so on. We were not dealing with fire risks; we were dealing with the general grounds on which local authorities should have the right of inspection. At the end of column 1086 of our proceedings in Committee the Minister referred to what was then Clause 22 (4) and has now been renumbered Clause 25. The point I made then, which I now make with greater emphasis because of the fire risks involved, is that the right of inspection should not be limited to an application for first registration, or for first registration of enlarged or changed premises, but should be applicable in the case of any application for renewal.

    I cannot see any objection to that. This is an extension of a Clause desired by the Association of Municipal Corporations, and if the Government intend to do everything possible to reduce the risks of fire, as I am sure is the case, I suggest that they should extend this right of inspection, given by the new Clause to fire authorities, to every application for renewal.

    May I say that I think—in fact, I am pretty certain—that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is quite right in his reading of the Clause? The reason the Committee came to the conclusion that we should limit the right of inspection was, of course, on broad policy grounds. Ordinary clubs resent very much the right of inspection which does not extend to other private premises.

    However, having said that—and I know that the House will appreciate the force of the feeling on that point—it can be argued, as the hon. Gentleman has argued, that fire is perhaps a special case. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied if I say that my right hon. Friend will very carefully consider what he has said before the proceedings in another place.

    I wish to support the point of view put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), but I am a bit concerned at the way in which the thing works. The local fire authority is given no veto. What will happen will be that the local fire authority and not the local fire officer, except where he is the servant of the local fire authority, will be notified that in certain premises it is proposed to establish a club. Under this new Clause the authority will then have a right to inspect the premises. It will then consider the report of its appropriate officer and will have to decide whether it will appear at the application for the registration of the club.

    After having inspected the premises and looked at the plan, the local fire authority will, if it does not think that the premises are suitable from its point of view, tender evidence to the justices asking, presumably, either that the justices should reject the application or that they should insert in the grant of the application certain requirements for the alteration of the premises. That, I take it, is the procedure.

    Of course, the justices, having heard the evidence tendered by the local fire authority and any evidence that may be given in rebuttal by the promoters of the club, will judicially reach a decision on the matter, and the ultimate result will depend upon that decision of the justices. All that this Clause gives to the local fire authority is the right to inspect and then to tender evidence in the light of its inspection.

    My right hon. and hon. Friends have asked that this right should be extended to premises other than registered clubs. I merely want to say as one who for over sixty years has been a member of clubs affiliated to the Club and Institute Union that I think the resentment of the clubs would be a great deal less is everybody else were subject to the same sort of inspection—and liable to have evidence tendered against them—as this new Clause, apparently, gives to the local fire authority in the case of clubs only. I hope that the Clause will be accepted and I certainly hope that its scope will be extended in the way asked for by my right hon. and hon. Friends

    5.15 p.m.

    As the Solicitor-that the most important change made by General knows, in Committee we learned the Bill is that it creates thousands of new licences all over the country—new licences which are given as of right subject to certain provisions. At the moment, under Clause 1, licensing magistrates are limited in their powers. The Clause says quite clearly:

    "Except on one or more of the grounds specified in this Act, licensing justices shall not refuse an application…".
    The conditions are laid down. Subsection (2, a) states:
    "is granted for premises structurally adapted and bona fide used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of habitually providing the customary main meal at midday or in the evening…"
    In other words, it applies to premises which are suitable for providing meals.

    Will the new provisions enable licensing justices to say, "Whilst we are satisfied that the premises conform in this way, they are not structurally adapted in such a way as to make them secure from the hazard of fire"? I ask the Solicitor-General and the Home Secretary to consider this point again. There will be all sorts of buildings with new licences, big and small, and in many streets there will be a proliferation of them, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). They will be frequented by young people.

    Let us learn from this latest tragedy at Bolton. As an old miner, I know that, usually, it is necessary for a tragedy to occur before we take the necessary steps. Now that we have had this tragedy I think that it is the duty of the House to make sure that the provisions are such that the licensing magistrates can say, "This guest house or restaurant is not suitable for a licence because, among other things, it has not suitable arrangements to meet the hazard of fire".

    I hope that the Solicitor-General will tell us that such premises are brought within the provisions and are brought within them in such a way that the licensing bench can say, "We will not grant you a licence for your restaurant or guest house until we are satisfied that your fire precautions are adequate".

    I am not sure whether we are to hear another speech from the Government Front Bench—[HON. MEMBERS: "We are."] I am delighted to hear that we are to have another speech. I thought, perhaps, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had exhausted his right to speak. I would not complain if he sought to speak for a third or even a fourth time.

    I look at the matter in a rather simple, straightforward way. I understand that what we are doing here is to tighten up the law with regard to clubs. The matter has been brought to our notice by the tragedy in Bolton. Such a tragedy should make us well aware of the risks which there are in some club premises. We are going to take precautions here. The only question that arises is whether the provisions apply to restaurants, boarding houses and like establishments.

    I watched the faces of right hon. Gentlemen opposite when the matter was raised and I thought that I caught a glimpse of dubiety on their part as to whether restaurants and establishments of that kind came under the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, there was a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing to the box under the Gallery. As I understand it, they are now satisfied that under Clause 2 (2, b), and under the new Schedule, restaurants and other similar establishments will be covered. Although that Clause can be read as covering fire in their context, up to now we have taken it largely to refer to a case where the buildings were structurally fitted for the sale of drink and the supplying of meals. The fact that egress might be difficult or that there may be only one doorway did not occur to anyone on the Committee when we were debating this Clause.

    Now, we have had our attention called to it, and it is a matter of the utmost importance. I know that fires can arise through carelessness anywhere, but we have been reminded this afternoon that where people are slightly convivial in clubs and restaurants, their sense of control tends to decline as the evening advances. They throw down lighted matches or leave cigarettes on the edges of plates, and these can eventually start a fire. All that kind of thing does happen.

    How does my right hon. Friend know all this if he is a teetotaller?

    I do eat, and I go to restaurants, and, frequently, in restaurants, if one wants them, there are intoxicating liquors. I am not quite so young and innocent as perhaps my hon. Friend—and it is very kind of him—suggests I may be. These are matters that we should take into account and I should like to feel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to say that actual words indicative of what we have in mind will be inserted in the Bill. I am sure that the House itself would be very much happier if the Government would do that and carry on the good work they are already doing in this new Clause.

    Order. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) has already spoken once.

    I think I can clarify this matter. We are concerned here, in the way in which the debate has gone, with three sorts of premises: first, clubs; second, licensed premises; and, third, restaurants. In addition to that, we are concerned with each of them in three matters: first, in respect of each, is there provision for notice to the fire authority; secondly, is there a discretion on the part of the justices to refuse a licence in the case of fire risk: and, thirdly, is there a right of inspection?

    May I take first the clubs? I think that the House is satisfied that where clubs are concerned there is the requirement of notice, a right of inspection, and the justices therefore have the right to refuse registration if, in the case of a fire risk—

    I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish my exposition. There is also one point outstanding, which was raised by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), namely, that the right to inspect relates only to the first registration and not to renewal. As I have indicated, my right hon. Friend will certainly—although this does raise some questions of policy—consider that in the light of this debate.

    Secondly, licensed premises. So far as notices are concerned, licensed premises, including ordinary on-licences and restaurants, are covered by the provisions in the new Schedule, to which both my right hon. Friend and I drew attention. In regard to the right to refuse a licence if the premises are not suitable or are a fire risk, in the case of an ordinary on-licence—a public house—it is a discretionary power. Quite clearly, the justices will refuse, and indeed they are bound to refuse, if the premises are not fit and proper for that use under the 1953 Act. The same answer applies to the right to inspect, because although there is no statutory right to inspect "pubs", if an application is refused, it is unthinkable that the licensing justices would give a licence.

    That brings me to the restaurants. To take first the point about notice to the fire authority, that is covered by the Schedule. The right to refuse in the case of a fire risk is, in my view, covered by the words to which the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) drew attention, as I have done before—the words in Clause 2 (2, b)
    "are not suitable and convenient for the use contemplated by that paragraph,"
    but I will undertake with my right hon. Friend and the draftsmen to consider these words again.

    That leaves only the right to inspect. The restaurant licences are not, like the public house licences, discretionary licences, and therefore I will again consider that point with my right hon. Friend, before the Bill is considered in another place, to see whether, in the case of restaurant licences, it may not be desirable to write in a right to inspect the premises on the part of the fire authority.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause—(Premises Adjoining Special Roads)

    No intoxicating liquor shall be sold or supplied in any premises abutting on or adjoining a special road.—[ Mr. Farr.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    It would be convenient to discuss the new Clause with the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), in Clause 1, page 4, line 27, at the end, to insert:

    (13) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained in this Act or in any enactment no licence of a description referred to in subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) of this section shall be granted to premises abutting on or adjoining any special road or motorway;
    and the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) in page 4, line 27, at the end, to insert:
    (13) The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation shall have power to specify by order roads which in his opinion are specially adapted for fast moving traffic or are likely to be used to a large extent for fast moving traffic and notwithstanding anything in this Act contained no licence of a description referred to in subsections (1), (2), (3), or (4) of this section shall be granted in relation to any premises situate within such a distance of any such road as the Minister may in such order prescribe.

    The main purpose of this new Clause is connected with the supply of alcohol on motorways. During our discussion a few months ago in Committee, an Amendment was put down by some hon. Gentlemen opposite relating to the supply of liquor on trunk roads, as defined in the Trunk Roads Act, 1936. We included in our discussion of that Amendment the provision and supply of liquor on motorways, and, in particular, on M.1, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General was good enough to say in one of his replies that the case for the abolition, control or elimination of the supply of alcohol on motorways was far stronger than was the case for control or elimination of liquor, as proposed in the original Amendment.

    There are quite a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who feel that alcohol should not be supplied on motorways at all. There are also quite a number of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, probably even more, who think that if we are to have alcohol supplied on motorways, motorways must be subjected to a speed limit. One of the best illustrations that I can give is by means of the following example.

    Today, if one goes to a public house or hotel on a road in this country other than a motorway, one can have a very good meal, and, before it, during it and after it one can have a drink or two. One can emerge from that hotel at 10 or 10.30 p.m. and get into an enormous stream of traffic wending its way, with all due respect to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, through our hopelessly choked and narrow roads, at an average speed, if one is lucky, of perhaps 40 m.p.h. The roads will be congested. They will generally be narrow and inconvenient, and one will find it impossible to get along much faster, even if one wanted to.

    5.30 p.m.

    When one emerges from having a very good dinner in a restaurant on a motorway with a drink before, a drink during and a drink after dinner, one comes out to a highway which is not narrow or poky or inconvenient but a massive highway on which vehicles speed at an average of up to 100 miles per hour, and where the very slightest mis-judgment can mean sudden disaster.

    Travelling at 40 miles an hour along a poky road one can have an accident which may be very serious, but for the car driver and any other occupant of his car an accident will be especially serious if it occurs when the car is travelling along the M.1 at 80 or 90 miles an hour, a speed which can be attained at any time of the day or night. The effects on the driver and his passengers in an accident at that speed will probably be fatal, but, as has been shown by statistics about M.1 travel so far, he is very likely to cause fatal effects to other people who are in no way concerned with his affairs. It has been proved by statistics that in an accident in those circumstances it is far more likely that innocent people will be involved, far more likely than that they would be on an ordinary road such as A.5, as it was.

    In Committee the Solicitor-General had, I felt, a certain amount of sympathy for the case which was put forward for eliminating liquor on M.1, an argument put forward by hon. Members on both sides. Indeed, he was good enough to indicate that he had, but he also went on to say that in his opinion such a matter was far better dealt with by—to use his own words—"the road safety Bill which the Government propose to introduce this Session." I personally have seen no such road safety Bill. I have heard of a Road Traffic Bill originating in another place, a copy of which I have here, and which, I understand may or may not reach us this Session. In the Road Traffic Bill I can find no reference at all to the elimination of alcohol from our motorways.

    One criticism which I met when I went around to ask one or two hon. Members to sign this new Clause was that they felt that even if a person, a driver or passenger, could not get a drink on the motorway, it was easy for him to go off the motorway to get a drink whenever he wanted to, and that the new Clause, even if it were made into legislation, would not affect the matter very much—that if a man really wanted a drink he could get it easily enough off the motorway. Of course he can, but we think that by making a law like the new Clause we shall make it less likely that drunken drivers, or even a driver who has had only one drink, will be at large on the motorways. Even if the new Clause saves only one life, it is well worth while.

    To sum up, I would emphasise to my right hon. Friend what has been emphasised to me by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport before now, that motorway travel is an entirely new concept of travel. We are not living in 1860 when it was necessary to go by stage coach and to have posting houses every ten or fifteen miles for a change of horses or so that people could have a drink. Today we can go from one end to the other of the M.1 in just about an hour. I would ask my right hon. Friend to move with the times and make an effort and say that road safety really means a ban on alcohol on our motorways.

    I greatly hope that the House will support the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) in the new Clause which he has moved. It is, if I may say so, almost an impertinence to repeat his arguments because he put them so well, so that it is really supererogatory to go over the same ground, but if I may trespass in that direction just a little, surely the Minister does accept that motoring today is something absolutely different from motoring only ten years ago let alone twenty years ago. We now have these light, fast cars with their very powerful acceleration which would have astonished a motorist driving in 1930 or 1920, and surely we must all be agreed that we should accept the maximum degree of precaution to try to avoid loss of life which, we know, is far too frequent in present-day conditions.

    It is, perhaps, rather useful just to recapitulate what took place on this matter at earlier discussions. An Amendment was put down and supported by many hon. and right hon. Members of the Committee, an Amendment saying in effect that no licences should be granted in respect of premises abutting on trunk roads. The Solicitor-General replied that that was a definition of roadways which was far too wide.

    Well, so be it. The hon. Member for Harborough now has chosen a definition which is more restricted. He has tried to meet that point. I would respectfully point out that I also have sought to encompass the same thing in an Amendment suggesting that it should be left to the Minister to designate
    "roads which in his opinion are specially adapted for fast moving traffic".
    The definition as the hon. Member has put it may be better than mine, or mine may be better than the hon. Member's. I do not know. At any rate, I am supporting the hon. Member's Amendment.

    Therefore, so far as definition goes, there surely cannot really be a problem. One can select words—the hon. Member's may be the right words—which will limit the roads to the ones we are talking about, the roads which are in fact used by fast moving traffic. So that cannot be a difficulty.

    Ministers who answered in Committee said that there was the road safety Bill. The hon. Member has already dealt with that and I need not repeat what he said.

    The argument was used, as the hon. Member has said, that in any event the person who wanted to have a drink and who could not find a licensed restaurant abutting on one of these roads would go off the road till he found one. The answer to that seems to me absolutely simple and obvious. The alcoholic, the sort of person who must have a drink, will drive fifty miles to get a drink—if he must have it; but what we who support what the hon. Member has said have in mind is not the alcoholic, not the kind of person who must have a drink at any cost. He is past praying for—

    His victims are, perhaps, past praying for. At any rate, I am not concerned with that sort of person. He will go through fire and water to get his drink. We cannot stop him. He is a subject of the criminal law and should be severely punished.

    The sort of person I am concerned with, and, I believe, the sort of person other hon. Members are concerned with in supporting this Amendment, is the ordinary, reasonable person driving out with his family, perhaps going to the seaside. It is essential that his reactions to any situation which he has to confront, in ordinary, everyday motoring, must be as acute as they possibly can be. I am not suggesting that one drink of beer greatly deadens his reactions. Obviously, it does not. That would be a ridiculous exaggeration. But it does slightly slow them down. It may make all the difference between taking the right decision in a moment in which an immediate and accurate decision has to be taken, and taking the decision either too late or taking the wrong decision. It may make all the difference between a catastrophe and the avoidance of a catastrophe if, perhaps because of one or two glasses of beer on a hot day, the driver's reactions have been ever so slightly dulled.

    A large number of ordinary respectable people who drive private cars or drive public vehicles may have a drink if they go to a restaurant immediately abutting one of these roads built for fast-moving traffic and drink is available. It never occurs to them that it will matter very much. They may have more than one drink. But, if drink were not available, they would not bother. It is unrealistic to think that people like that will go searching side-streets until they find a public house or a licensed restaurant. People's minds do not work like that. If they find a licensed restaurant, they may have a drink, or possibly two drinks, and those drinks may make all the difference in the world. If the premises are not licensed they will not bother to look for somewhere else to get a drink.

    I believe that if we take steps to prevent people like that from having drinks when out driving in the ordinary way we may save many lives. Far too many lives are lost on the roads, and we ought to do everything we can to prevent this loss of life. I believe that this is one of the simple measures we could adopt to stop it.

    I put it to the Minister that all the answers that we were given when we previously discussed this matter have been completely disposed of. There is no difficulty about definition of the road. That must be a matter of simple language. The idea that people will anyway go and get drinks does not apply to the great majority of ordinary drivers. If they have one or two drinks, after they have been driving for a long time, and their attention is perhaps distracted by the members of their families talking to them, those one or two drinks may make all the difference between safety and disaster. We can take away a substantial source of danger by enacting, as the hon. Member for Harborough would do in the new Clause, that there shall be no licensed restaurants and no residential licensed premises abutting on these particular roads.

    If the Minister asks what "abutting on" means, if he looks at the Amendment that I have suggested in Clause 1, page 4, line 27, he will see that by that Amendment the Minister is enabled to prescribe the distance from the main road within which a licence shall not be given. It is a matter of easy definition, and if there is ambiguity about the word "abutting", it can be resolved by the Minister prescribing the necessary distance.

    I ask the Minister not to repeat the arguments which he used in Committee upstairs, which have already been more than amply answered by the hon. Member from Harborough. I hope that the Minister will consider the new Clause and not—I do not mean the term offensively—try to fob off the House by saying that it will be dealt with in another Bill which we have not seen. We are concerned with this Bill, and we are under an obligation to see that in this Bill we take some steps to do something to limit the appalling carnage that goes on daily on our roads.

    The House has a real opportunity to do something in what are the very early days of motorways. The motorways are only just beginning in a big way, and what we decide tonight will have a great influence on the future.

    After this matter was discussed in Committee upstairs. I tabled a Question to the Minister of Transport. It appears that the Minister, who is the only person who can give a licence on a road like the M.1, has already given a concession, including a licence, in two cases. I do not think that it is too late to reverse that decision, and the Minister of Transport indicated that he was willing to be influenced by the opinion of the Committee. There were many issues which divided us in Committee upstairs, but there were few issues which broke down the general line of division more than this one. There was broad agreement on both sides of the Committee upstairs that this was a sensible step.

    5.45 p.m.

    Motorways are different from other roads in that they are fast throughways. They are well constructed for fast traffic, and it follows from that that there is need for greater concentration on the part of the driver. High speeds are safe, provided the concentration is there. There must be speed of reaction, and everybody knows that after a few drinks the speed of reaction tends to slow down, and that is a source of danger.

    Furthermore, I cannot see the need to stop for a drink on these motorways. As has been mentioned, the M.1 is comparatively short. It is about 67 miles long, and can be covered in about an hour in a fairly fast car. It is not necessary to stop to fill up with petrol, and I do not think that it is necessary to stop for other reasons. If people need a drink, they can have one after arriving at their destinations. In the early days of the motorways it would be beneficial to road safety if we adopted the new Clause and prohibited the granting of licences to premises abutting on the motorways, because I believe that that would reduce the temptation to drivers. Anyone who has been on the M.I knows that it is comparatively difficult to get off it, and few people would bother to get off it to have a drink and then return. I, therefore, strongly support the new Clause, and hope that my right hon. Friend will view it sympathetically.

    When the Bill was in Committee upstairs the Minister was in some difficulty because the hon. Members who supported this proposal were not all teetotallers. This is not a question of drink, or an attempt to restrict drinking because of drink. We took the line that we did because we thought that with a road on which speed was of great importance it would be a mistake to establish licensed restaurants or licensed residential premises abutting that road. Motorways are in their infancy, and we should now do something to set the pattern of others which will be built and developed.

    I may be wrong, but I think that in Committee upstairs the Minister was saved from defeat on this question only by saying what he did in respect of the road safety Bill. He said that the Bill under discussion was not the appropriate Bill to contain provisions such as this, and that a Bill was being prepared which would be more appropriate to deal with a road safety measure.

    We have taken some trouble to ascertain whether such a Bill is in existence, or whether any provision is being made in respect of this issue in the Road Traffic Bill. So far I have not been able to trace anything relevant to the point made by the Minister. If we misunderstood him, perhaps he will tell us precisely what he meant, and what the position is today.

    In putting forward this new Clause, those of us who take a drink—I had better put it that way—realise that speed is a factor. Here we come back again to the M.1. The point raised in the Standing Committee was that a driver's judgment could be impaired by a small amount of alcohol. We make this proposal because we feel that nothing should be done to encourage the slaughter and the tragedies which occur on our roads today.

    I am sure that a great majority of people would be in favour of this Clause. They would welcome an indication that at last Parliament was prepared to do something to signalise its desire that nothing enacted by the legislature should encourage people to take drink on a motorway. The general point has been extensively covered and now we are talking more particularly about the ordinary man, not the man who will get a drink when he wants it in any case. We are discussing the ordinary citizen.

    I wish to oppose this Clause, or at any rate to advise the House to receive it in its present form with great caution. Hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion have referred to motorways as something new. That is not so. The world has been familiar with motorways for at least 30 years. If in this country we have come to this form of road building late, that is our own fault. There is nothing new about it. The Germans have had their autobahnen since before the war, and the rest houses on the autobahnen cater for people travelling on the motorways and serve drinks to them.

    The proposed new Clause refers to "premises abutting or adjoining a special road." With respect, that phrasing cannot be right. A motorist cannot get off the motorway to any building except a rest house. Nothing else can be reached from the road. A motorist can only stop on the hard shoulder of the road or at the special premises provided for rest and refreshment. The M.1 has been referred to as a short road, but we hope that we shall have many more motorways. We have planned for about 800 miles of special roads and we hope that we shall see them completed within a reasonable time. This Bill must have some application to many motorways other than the M.1. Already some are under construction and have been seen by hon. Members, including the road from Birmingham in the direction of Bristol which is well on the way to completion.

    In my opinion, we should regard the provision in this Clause with great caution. It has been presumed that the person served with drink must be the driver of a vehicle. Already there is growing a form of transport which is new to this country, the specially designed long-distance bus. Another new Clause on the Notice Paper which is not likely to be selected refers to the serving of drinks with meals on such long-distance buses. These vehicles are something like aircraft. They have a hostess and refreshment and toilet facilities. But for those long-distance vehicles without such facilities there should be somewhere where they can turn off the road and where their passengers can be provided with meals, as happens on the Continental roads. It is only the drivers about whom care must be taken and in all circumstances we should make sure that drink is not available to them in any quantity.

    I agree that even small quantities of alcohol consumed by a driver may create danger. I am against drunken driving or driving under the influence of liquor. At the same time, to try to ban liquor from any premises which happen to adjoin a special road seems to me to be going much too far, and an inconvenience to other than drivers, and to assume that special roads will always be short is to assume too much.

    I am sorry that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) was not a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with this Bill. I may be wrong, but I think that had he taken part in the discussions in that Committee he would not have made the speech which he has just delivered. The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) came closer to the mood of the Committee than did the hon. Member for Truro. They speak, in my opinion, for the majority of the House, and I hope that the Minister of State will agree to accept the Clause.

    This was not a party matter when it was discussed in the Standing Committee. Hon. Members on both sides regarded it in the light of existing circumstances and the situation in the future, so far as we could visualise it, when there would be a proliferation of motorways and cars would be travelling at greater speeds than now. It was felt that in a Bill of this kind we should, if possible, take steps to mitigate the risk which undoubtedly arises when some people take drink. It is not a question of whether a man is entitled to a drink. As the Minister of Transport has told us so often, his motto is, "If you drink, don't drive; if you drive, don't drink". That is a very sound policy.

    There is a general feeling that if one eats with a drink, in some way it lessens the effect of the alcohol consumed. People vary in their tolerance to alcohol. Some can drink more than others without showing any effect. But the Medical Research Council Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Drew, has proved beyond doubt that even small quantities of alcohol affect one's judgment. If a person does eat, the effect may be delayed, but it is still there, and that is something to be remembered. A person may have a drink and feel all right when he gets back to his car. He has had a meal and feels, in accordance with the accepted view on the subject, that because he has eaten something, the drink has not done him any harm. It is later, when a split-second decision has to be taken, that he finds his judgment is lacking. We are dealing with something which may often affect the lives of innocent people. If a man is foolish enough to let his control go because he cannot wait to have a drink and he damages only himself, most of us would say, "Serve him right", but more often than not he may kill innocent young children who have a right to life.

    6.0 p.m.

    In resisting the Amendment in Committee, the Minister of State said in particular that there was a Road Traffic Bill coming along. He said that was a Measure which could more properly deal with a matter of this kind than this Bill. There was something in that argument, although on Second Reading some of us said that we should have had the Road Traffic Bill before the Licensing Bill because the Licensing Bill will increase facilities for drinking. When people drink it deadens their sense. That is what drinking is supposed to do, to make one feel more confident and happy. To a certain extent it reduces one's reactions to the hard facts of life.

    Many of us believed that these two Bills should have been introduced in the reverse order. Although the Road Traffic Bill which the right hon. Gentleman promised has been introduced, we are not likely to see it enacted this Session. I understand that probably another year will pass before that Bill is made law. As that was the main argument adduced by the right hon. Gentleman in opposing the Amendment in Committee, this Bill seems to be the right place to make this provision because the other leg of his argument has fallen by the way.

    The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) said that motorways have been with us for about thirty years. They have been on the Continent but not in this country for that time. Although motorways and trunk roads have been with us for some time, this Bill is new. It introduces a number of new types of licence. The number of licences and places where one can get intoxicating liquor will be increased.

    Perhaps the right hon. Member misunderstood my remarks about thirty years. I meant that motorways have been on the Continent for thirty years. Drink has been sold in the rest houses on those motorways. So far as I know, there has been no complaint about that.

    Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was that it was very difficult to define a motorway. He said that an Amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and other hon. Friends was drawn too widely. A trunk road more often than not runs through a built-up area and public houses and restaurants are already on such a road. I think this new Clause meets the situation as many of us visualise it in the light of that discussion. It would obviously be possible to define what kind of motorway, speed way, or special road we have in mind. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not use the argument he used in that direction again this afternoon.

    He may say, as I think he has said before, that it is possible for an individual to drink before he gets on to a motorway and the effect of not being able to get a drink while on the motorway would be largely nullified. That, of course, is true and we cannot avoid it. If a man or a woman wishes to drink before going on a motorway, this is a free country and they are entitled to do so. What we can do—as has been pointed out in the Committee and this afternoon with great cogency and effect—is to lessen the temptation for people to stop at restaurants on a speedway of this kind and to drink, knowing the effect which such drink will have.

    Having listened to the debate, knowing that this matter cuts clean across party and that in Committee there was a large consensus of view in favour of something of this kind, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept either this new Clause, the Amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport, or the one in my name.

    The Clause we are discussing deals solely with special roads or, as they are commonly known, motorways. We should be quite clear about the present position. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has complete control over these roads. So far he has granted two concessions on the M.1, in each of which cases he made it possible for the person holding a concession to apply for a licence limited to the serving of drinks with meals, but not the serving of drinks apart from meals. In one case no application has been made and in the other it was refused by the licensing justices. It has been and remains the policy of my right hon. Friend that concessions should be granted and he would place no obstacle in the way of a person who holds a concession applying for a "table" licence for a restaurant.

    We are discussing a very different proposal from the one which was made in Committee. In Committee we were discussing a wider question related to trunk roads. I made it clear that while it was possible to define trunk roads, the difference between trunk roads and classified roads was small. That Amendment excluded the parts of trunk roads which passed through towns and urban areas and, therefore, it was not a very effective Amendment. On trunk roads, as well as on classified roads, public houses, apart from restaurants, are already in location.

    I also pointed out that a Road Traffic Bill was about to come before the House. I want to make this quite clear. I knew perfectly well what would be in that Bill. I did not suggest that in that Bill there would be a provision limiting the establishment of restaurants on motorways. It is, however, the policy of the Minister of Transport to tackle the question of drink and the driver by means of the Bill which is at present before another place rather than to try to control the premises, as suggested in the original Amendment. I say that particularly to the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver).

    The Amendment proposed by this new Clause is much more simple. Although the drafting is not clear, the definition of a special road is quite understood and easy to implement in the sense that there are no licensed premises on motorways at present. It is only right that I should point out that the new Clause suffers from certain defects which were also apparent in the original proposal.

    It is now proposed to impose this restriction on what are alleged to be the safest high speed roads in the country, motorways being safer than classified and trunk roads. Secondly, we are concerned—and I am not certain that it is clear to all hon. Members—only with licences which will enable drinks to be served with meals. In Part I of the Bill we are concerned with licences for the sale of drink with meals, as opposed to what in Committee was described as "perpendicular drinking." It is the lesser of two evils, if I may put it that way.

    Thirdly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro said, we should prevent the passengers in the vehicles from obtaining refreshment if we accepted the new Clause. Fourthly, nothing in any Amendment on these lines can prevent drivers from consuming alcohol before they go on to the motorway. Last night I drove down M.1, and I saw motorists in their dozens stopping at the northern end, presumably to have a drink, before they embarked on M.1. Whether they would have gone straight on and taken a meal on the M.1 if there had been a restaurant there is something which I cannot say. But this proposal suffers from the weakness that nothing in it would prevent a person from having a drink before he embarked on this journey.

    In logic, therefore, not everything is in favour of the new Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, but it is clear and simple. In his Amendment the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) seeks to impose a rather complicated definition. I have discussed that with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and he tells me that it would be impossible to accept a definition on those terms. A definition of a high-speed motorway as a road which exists day in and day out throughout the year does not exist, as far as he understands it, and therefore he could not operate a proposal on those lines. Under such a proposal, varying parts of a trunk road would be subject to different forms of restriction.

    If the House wishes to impose some restriction in the sense of these three proposals, it should be along the lines of that proposed in the new Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough. As I have said, the wording is far from perfect, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has heard all the debate so far and will listen to any subsequent contribution, is at the moment disposed to introduce some provision along the lines of that new Clause, although not in these words.

    In his closing sentence the right hon. Gentleman did not make quite clear what he had in mind. Are the Government prepared to accept the new Clause or is he challenging the House to take a Division in order to help the Government make up their mind? If I may say so with respect, every argument which he has used in opposition to the proposal in the new Clause has been anticipated by its supporters and adequately answered. He should make it clear to us whether he is prepared to take action along the lines of the new Clause. I will give way in order that he may do so.

    I said that subject to what is said in the debate my right hon. Friend proposes to accept some provision on the lines of the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr).

    In that event, I wish to add no more. That is very fair, indeed. I was not a member of the Standing Committee, but I feel strongly on this issue. Like the right hon. Member, I travelled down M.1 yesterday. I had occasion to pull up at one of the rest houses for patrol. Very many people indeed are using the rest houses, and I dread to think what the situation would be if many of the people in the rest houses were indulging in intoxicating liquor. It would be very dangerous. I make my plea, together with those made by other hon. Members, that the Government should accept the principle of the new Clause and introduce the appropriate words. If we have that assurance I am very happy.

    6.15 p.m.

    If what is said subsequently in the debate will determine whether my right hon. Friend introduces in another place an Amendment roughly in the terms of the new Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), I will intervene to explain why I support the new Clause.

    We have two types of road in this country—the social road, which is the old type, and the non-social road. The M.1 is a utility road to enable people to go from A to B. It has a magnificent setting and it is an ideal place for a road-house, but I shudder to think what M.1 would be like if we had road-houses throughout its length. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport envisages increasing the network of motorways throughout the country, and I take the view that he should not have the responsibility always of saying that there shall be no drinking on the motorways. Parliament should put into an Act of Parliament a provision that drink should not be allowed on the motorways. We still have the social roads, in my connotation, where people can drink and eat.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) produced the red herring of the autobahn. The difference between the M.1 and the autobahn, I understand, is that pedestrians have been excluded from the M.1 since it was opened and that is not the case on the autobahn. In view of the fact that pedestrians are not allowed on the M.1, the only possible customers of licensed premises there would be the drivers.

    That is the first reason that I supported the new Clause. I will explain my second reason. We should bear in mind that there are to be between 600 and 800 miles of motorways throughout the country in the next 10 to 30 years. We should also bear in mind that long-distance coach travel is extremely convenient. The coaches are so fitted that passengers can eat and can drink tea and coffee and soft drinks, but not hard drinks. We should remember that travelling by coach is in some cases 40 per cent. cheaper than travelling by rail, and it is clear that more and more husbands will take their families on holiday by coach.

    I regret that the new Clause "Public service vehicle licences" has not been selected, but I must refer to it in giving the second reason why I support my hon. Friend's new Clause. If we exclude licensed premises from motorways, if we accept that there will be an increase in the number of motorways and if we accept that more and more people will travel by coach on them, then in order that these people should not be deprived of drink, facilities should be provided for licensed drinking on long-distance coaches. This may not be a sufficiently logical reason for those who do not drink. I admit that I am not one of them. But if we exclude licensed premises from the M.1, it is essential, in my opinion, that we provide facilities for licensed drinking on long-distance coaches. I hope that, having listened to the debate, my right hon. Friend will introduce an Amendment in another place to meet the spirit of my hon. Friend's new Clause.

    I strongly support the new Clause of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). I interpret the Minister's words as a clear statement that he accepts the principle of the new Clause and undertakes to implement it and that he is exercised merely with the mechanics of the matter and in finding more appropriate words to meet the clear objective which the hon. Member for Harborough has in mind. On that basis the Minister's statement was of great satisfaction to me.

    The Minister of State described the new motorways as our safest roads. Is the new Clause likely to contribute to the safety of our new roads? I do not think that anyone in the House could contend that it would do other than contribute to their safety. It is possible to argue about how far any restrictions could be circumvented, but I do not think that anyone will doubt that the new Clause would be a real contribution towards safety on the roads.

    The right hon. Gentleman referred to the new Road Traffic Bill. Anything concerning drink and the driver contained in a Road Traffic Bill is almost certain to be confined to the question of unfitness: to drive by reason of drink. I do no: believe that we are dealing so much with that aspect, because that will have to be provided for in other legislation. We are concerned with the person who, although he has had some drink, certainly cannot be regarded as being unfit to drive. We are concerned with someone who has not had sufficient drink to render him unfit in the normal sense, but has certainly had sufficient drink to affect his reaction on a motorway. We cannot be satisfied with the argument that there will be stronger provisions dealing with drink and driving in the new Road Traffic Bill.

    If the Minister does what he has said he intends to do, we shall set a very valuable pattern for the new type of road. If such a pattern is to be set, now is the time to do it. I do not say this in any offensive sense, but as these new roads develop a number of vested interests will come into existence and in five or ten years' time it will be very difficult to take the type of action which we now envisage. I hope that the Minister will implement what he has said in such a way as to carry out the principle behind the new Clause.

    I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson). This is perhaps not surprising, because for many years he and I have had to consider transport matters and special roads.

    I say this with the utmost respect, but I do not think that most hon. Members have twigged the real point here. The new Clause applies only to Part I, that is restaurants. It does not deal with public houses. It does not deal with alcohol on or near the new roads. It is concerned merely with whether someone can have a drink with a meal.

    My hon. Friend's interpretation is incorrect. The intention is, as I think is clearly stated, to ban the supply or sale of alcohol

    "in any premises abutting on or adjoining a special road."

    That is not what I said. The undoubted purpose of my hon. Friend is one thing, but in the way in which it is done it comes under Part I and applies only to restaurants which are on the road. This was confirmed by my right hon. Friend. He nods his head in agreement. It is important that hon. Members should understand this.

    I entirely dissent from the view that we are now entering a new era. Some people may think so, but if this was to be done it should have been done in 1930 when the special roads of this country and of Europe were being created. Many of us have had the pleasure of driving on German, Italian and American roads. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will have evidence from America, France, Italy and other European countries to indicate whether there has been any appreciable danger on their special roads arising from alcohol. In most cases their roads have been in existence for twenty years or more. I do not believe that there will be any evidence to this effect.

    In any event, we in the United Kingdom are required to legislate in respect of 800 or 1,000 miles of these new roads, as there will be in the future. The new Clause deals only with special roads. There will be no public houses upon them. However, provision will have to be made for certain rest establishments—restaurants and possibly sleeping accommodation, such as motels. The provision to be made in this country will probably be nothing like as great as that made in other countries.

    There will be town planning control, which will prevent restaurants, hotels, etc. being built except in accordance with certain conditions. I am delighted that the Minister of Transport is present now. I hope that he will agree with me. He will have the assistance of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He will have to consider to what extent rest centres—motels, restaurants, or other accommodation—are necessary. They will be provided for no doubt after discussions have taken place. It is interesting to remember that these centres must be provided for when the road is built. When a designer starts to design a new road and lays out his plans, he must incorporate into them provision for hotels, motels, restaurants, etc.

    We know that a very large number of people will use the new roads, but not more than 10 per cent. of the road users will be drivers. Of the 10 per cent. who are drivers, about half are professional drivers. They may be lorry drivers, and hon. Members are familiar with their position. I have been closely associated with long distance lorry drivers, whom I represent in my conference. The 1,200 or 1,500 long-distance lorry drivers with whom I am concerned do not need to be told that they must not have a drink when they are driving. They would not dream of doing so on a long journey.

    Then there are coach and bus operators. There is another new Clause relating to them. They do not need to be told that they must not drink when driving. Then there are the drivers for the tycoons, the businessmen who are fortunate enough to have chauffeurs. They do not need to be told that they must not drink when in charge of a motor vehicle. Then there are passengers—passengers in coaches, buses, lorries, etc. We do not have to stop the passengers from drinking alcohol.

    As the drinks with which we are dealing are only those to be served at rest houses—that is to say, at places where meals are being served—we are concerned with a very much smaller problem than that which has been presented to the House. The problem is whether a small number of people can have drinks with their meals at places provided on special roads.

    At present there is a large number of existing licences up and down the country. We shall certainly not build roads to try to avoid existing licences. They will continue. They are in the main publicans' licences. The Bill creates a new class of licence under Part I, namely the restaurant licence. This is where I come back to the point that it is in respect of that licence and that licence alone that this suggested provision arises.

    6.30 p.m.

    I am against the new Clause. My right hon. Friend, as has been his wont throughout the Committee stage, has, like everyone at the Home Office, preserved an open and fair mind upon this and a great many other issues. I think he is right, if I may say so, in saying he will be influenced by the view of the Committee and the House. Now that we have left the Committee stage, the views of the Committee, I suggest, are of smaller importance. What matters now are the views of the House here, and the mere fact that some of us may upstairs have had views of one sort or another is not of any use here in the House save in so far as the views we expressed in Committee may be an indication of experience of the problem. I say no more about that; I am undecided.

    I am not at all happy about what is now suggested, for this paramount reason. If the countries which have had 30 years' experience of these roads have not suggested that it would be a good idea to go "dry" on them completely—and so far as I know they have not done so—then my hon. Friends must prove their case. They must establish that what they propose is worthwhile. Four-fifths of the people who will be on these roads will not be drivers at all, and two-thirds of the remaining one-fifth will be professional drivers who will not be likely to be influenced by drink.

    One, therefore, comes down to this point. One hon. Member said that, if we saved but one or two lives, we should have done something. I do not share that view. If that be the correct view, we can all pack up and say that nobody in the future must ever have a single drink when driving a motorcar. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am quite sure that the shade of the former Member for Ealing, North, whose spirit still hangs over this assembly and speaks to us sometimes through the mouth of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and one or two others, would be delighted to shackle the rest of us in that way, prohibiting anyone from having any drink at all when going on the road. Surely, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, whose logic is often better than his reasoning, if I may say so, will agree with me in this: it is a little illogical to suggest that we should impose these restrictions on the safest roads we have, the roads which are or will be designed for the greatest safety, while upon the most unsafe roads, roads upon which I should almost need a drink in order to drive at all, no restriction at all is placed.

    Are we not apt to allow our consideration of these matters to be a little tinged with emotion which, while it can be a good thing, is apt to lead us astray when we think about drink and safety? I venture to suggest that this is a smallish problem. It could be overcome in this way. The Minister of Transport has to take to himself very substantial powers, if he has not already got them—I think he has—to ensure that he decides how many restaurant, rest houses and so forth are required on special roads. I should have thought that we could trust him to permit a small number of licences where they are absolutely necessary in respect of hotels, motels, and a few special restaurants on these roads where their siting is suitable, the number being very limited, as indeed it will be. If that were done, no damage would be likely to result.

    If the view of the House were to the contrary, that the sale of alcoholic liquor ought to be stopped altogether, I myself should vote against it. I should be delighted if the House expressed a completely free view on this issue. I hope that my right hon. Friend, if it came to a Division, would be prepared to sit tight and have the pleasure of seeing the House express its independent view on a matter which has cut across not only party lines but more widely than that, if I may say so. Some of my own colleagues who have supported many of my own Amendments, and whose proposals I in my turn have supported, are not with me on this matter. It has cut straight through the middle, and it shows what a clear dividing line there can be on certain issues.

    Will my hon. Friend comment on the words

    "abutting on or adjoining a special road"?
    I assume that that would apply to premises which one could not reach from the road. Is that so?

    It is quite clear that the phraseology "abutting on and adjoining" is not correct and, indeed, is not appropriate to the building of a special road anyway. My right hon. Friend said that he accepted the spirit of what was proposed, but not this particular Amendment. I should not want to take any point which went to the Amendment rather than to the spirit of it.

    The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) have raised some very important questions this afternoon. Having regard to the 80 per cent. increase in convictions for road drunkenness since 1955, I should not have expected the hon. Member to regard as an unimportant issue the taking of drink by drivers. Apparently we cannot prevent people drinking before they drive. While we satisfy ourselves, and the Minister of Transport, apparently satisfies himself, by appealing to the common sense and good citizenship of good drivers in asking them to desist from drinking before driving, we are able to deal with this matter of special roads at this stage.

    No one who has ever seen a road accident caused as a result of a selfish man insisting on having his drink before driving his car will ever regard this as an unimportant question, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet would have us regard it. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has his priorities all mixed up. With the liberty of the driver goes the liberty of other citizens also. I should expect any man with decent instincts, in a country crowded as ours is with a growing number of motor cars on the roads, would in any case think twice before drinking and going on to the ordinary conventional roads to which we are accustomed. We have seen enough disasters on those roads to make people who usually enjoy a drink with their meals resolve that they will never drink and drive. We are dealing now with something so new in the life of these islands that the Minister of Transport himself, who is not "T.T.", as I think he told us on one occasion, has expressed concern about it.

    I remember reading with particular interest the words of the Minister of Transport after the M.1 was opened. He was appalled at the standard of driving then. People were not used to the fast driving and were not showing proper care in moving from lane to lane. I do not underestimate the effect of one drink on a driver using one of these fast roads. Any man who, knowing he is about to drive along a special road, takes one drink is a bad citizen. He is a danger. We should control him if we can.

    The Minister of State gave us an appalling illustration. He told us that last night he saw a lot of cars crowded about a public house at the beginning of one of the motorways. We are all accustomed to seeing cars around every village public house outside our big cities. It is a common feature nowadays. People go out from Cardiff and the other cities, and it has become a national habit to visit the public houses in the small communities outside. I always hope to be home so that I am not menaced by people who have taken too much drink or that those who want to indulge in that luxury have had the common sense to take someone who is a soft drinker with them. Surely, in an age when so many homes are being blasted by the misery of sudden death to one of the family, it is not too much to ask people to regard this as a matter of honour and social concern.

    I realise that the Minister cannot impose a restriction—it just would not be accepted; I accept that—that people travelling on fast roads should not take drink before so doing. But it would be diabolical if we ran away from our responsibilities, as the hon. Member for Truro would have us do. To invite people who stop for a meal on the M.1 to have a drink is asking for trouble.

    The Home Office has shown a realistic attitude in this matter. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and his hon. Friends who tabled the new Clause and to the Minister of State and the Home Secretary for the spirit in which they have dealt with this question.

    I know that the House has grown accustomed to the fact that I am not without bias on this question, any more than the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet is without bias. We are biased in different ways, but we both have a bias which springs from our convictions. I have my convictions, he has his, but people outside this House who would not respond to my convictions nor to his are appalled at the way in which we are slithering on with regard to deaths on the road. When we have a chance only to put the brake on and to save one or two lives, I believe that we would be failing in our responsibility to the nation if we did not take it. We have had a good lead from the hon. Member for Harborough. If a Division is forced, I hope that hon. Members will crowd into the Lobbies to ensure that the new motorways shall at least not encourage people in the foolishness of drinking and driving.

    I am sorry to have to oppose the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), whose sincerity and conviction are matched only by the charm with which he presents his case to the House. It seems to me, however, that the new Clause is wrong because it sets out to legislate to eradicate irresponsible or anti-social behaviour on the part of a very small minority at the expense of the majority. It has been said that many people who travel on the roads with which we are concerned are passengers and would like to have a drink with their meals. There is no reason why those passengers should not have a drink if they want one.

    What has been forgotten is that the modern motor car, in the hands of the irresponsible motorist, whether he has had a drink or is completely sober, is the real menace. We have only to think of the powerful motor cars which are being made today and the acceleration with which they can get away from traffic lights. Probably some cars are travelling at almost 30 m.p.h. before they have gone from the green light to the other side of the crossing. A car in the hands of an irresponsible person is a danger in the middle of a city or village, or anywhere else. There are safe roads and there are unsafe roads.

    The motorway has been designed specially for the powerful car. Are we saying that we should make it a rule that, while people may have a drink with a meal and probably without a meal on some of the unsafe roads, they should not be able to do so when they stop for a meal on the really safe roads? We are trying to encourage traffic on these roads. Tourists from abroad are in the habit of being able to stop, whether on the autobahn or any other road, and to have a drink with their meal. This applies particularly to passengers. Are we to say to them when they come to this country, "We want you on the safe roads, because you have high speed motor cars", or are we going to drive them on to other roads which are not so safe?

    If a man has a drink with his meal, surely he will be much more dangerous on a winding narrow lane than on the M.1.

    The purpose of my intervention was to ascertain why we have to amend our laws in order to encourage more people to visit our country.

    6.45 p.m.

    There are tourists from our own country who travel abroad and want their passengers to have a drink with their meal. We are saying to people, "If you want to drink with your meal you must go on to the lesser roads which were not built for the fast cars of today and which have much worse accident records than the M.1".

    That applies not only to the minor roads. The alternative to the M.1 is the A.5 on which anyone can get a drink at any stage of the journey.

    That is one of the things which is so illogical about trying to pass a new Clause of this sort. If, as I hope, we are thinking in terms of having a whole network of motorways, it seems to me that it is quite absurd to make them a class apart, roads designed especially for modern traffic and for modern fast vehicles, and to drive people off of them.

    We have heard a great deal of talk about the M.1, particularly since it is our first motorway. A person travelling to Birmingham can stop at any one of a number of good hostelries in St. Albans and have a meal and a drink with it. If we drive him to do that, we will please the landlords of St. Albans, but we are not making a contribution to road safety. It would be wrong for the house to imagine that by passing this new Clause it is contributing to road safety. It will only result in more people going on to the smaller and older roads which were not designed for fast traffic. If we as a House wish to deal with irresponsible behaviour on the part of people, we must make sure that they are punished when they are irresponsible. But for goodness sake do not let us punish the vast majority of people who behave in a responsible manner.

    In view of the assurances which have been given by my right hon. Friend, in the name of my hon. Friends and myself I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    On a point of order. The Minister of State gave a certain assurance about what his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary intended to do. He also said that he would listen to the speeches that were made in the debate. I hope, therefore, that we shall have an opportunity of contributing to the debate so that the Home Secretary may be informed of what right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House feel on this important matter.

    That is not strictly a point of order. However, there were noises which appeared to be the noise "No", and that is sufficient for this purpose at the moment.

    In response to the Home Secretary's invitation, I should like to say a word or two. I am one of those who support the new Clause without in any sense being a teetotaller. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright that he accepts the principle of this proposal, I contemplate going to celebrate in a modest way, because this is a very important proposal.

    I should like to try to deal briefly with the most cogent arguments which have been advanced. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) asked why passengers on long-distance coaches should not have a drink. The answer to that is that we cannot distinguish between the driver and the passenger. I do not believe that every professional driver—chauffeurs, and so on—drinks. This seems to me a grotesque suggestion. But if facilities for drinking are provided, we must assume that drivers as well as passengers will drink. If we really work this point out, the hon. Gentleman's argument goes the other way. If the driver who has the lives of many people at stake drinks and makes a slight miscalculation, it will have, because it is a long-distance coach full of people, very grave consequences. I would have thought the fact that there are these long-distance coaches is an argument in favour of the Amendment and not against it.

    I would have thought that the professional driver would take up the same position as the professional air pilot who does not drink at all.

    He may and he may not. Those who did not would be running very grave risks concerning the people they are carrying.

    Is it not a fact that the long-distance drivers of coaches and other long-distance drivers drive on great stretches of road in the south and other parts of England where there are not likely to be motorways, with the same problems, and where they can drink at almost any time, without any record of irresponsible driving?

    I will come to that argument, which I regard as an important argument, that it is illogical to distinguish between one road and another. The Minister of State and other hon. Members asked, "Why apply this to the safest roads, when you are not applying it to others?" One could say that the safest roads are the only roads without licensed premises at the moment, but I do not make a great deal of that. People say that in foreign countries on the autobahnen and so forth, they can have drink. I was in Germany a few months ago when there was talk about the rapid increase of accidents on the autobahnen which was causing a great deal of concern. I do not say that there is a relation between the two, but there may be. One cannot argue that because other countries have possibly made a mistake about this we should make the same one. The fast roads are designed not only to be the safest roads but to attract the maximum amount of fast traffic. As the years go by we shall get more and more fast traffic—much faster than it is now—pouring down these roads. These are the safest roads only in the sense that they will attract more fast traffic, with the danger that the slightest error on these roads will be more catastrophic as the decades and years go by. I do not think that the argument about the fast road is a very good one. There will be more roads with fast traffic when we get the network of 800 or 1,000 miles of fast traffic roads.

    As to the argument about applying this to some roads and not to others, there are many roads where one can get a drink. No one can find a logical solution to this problem. The only logical way would be to allow everyone to drink everywhere or to stop everyone from drinking everywhere. We cannot achieve that because vested interest will have been built up which it will be very difficult to destroy.

    At the moment we can do something which is not wholly logical but which will be of great use—we can stop drinking on these extremely fast roads. If I could stop it on the A.5 or the M.1 I would do so, but I cannot. I do not, because of that, want to be driven away from doing something which could be a very great contribution and, I am sure as the years go by, an even greater contribution to the preservation of life on these roads where more fast traffic will be concentrated.

    Will this not have the opposite effect to the one which the right hon. Gentleman intends? Will not it have the same effect as restricted licensing hours and persuade many people to take more drink before they get on to the road than they might otherwise do? It may persuade them to take a hip flask with them or go off the road in search of a drink. When there are restrictions on drinking, people tend to drink much more in the time available to them.

    This is not a good argument in this case. It is a good argument against total prohibition. If we wore to stop drinking in this country it would impose great inconvenience, namely, the capacity to get from one place to another under pleasant conditions and very fast. I do not believe that people will wander off these roads, losing a lot of time, in order to get a drink or that they will stop to tank up themselves as well as their motor cars. I want to get as few people taking drink on these roads as I possibly can.

    One point of great importance which has nothing to do with the merits of this matter is procedure. I want the right hon. Gentleman to put these words in the Bill because the mere assurance that maybe the Government will try to put them in in another place is not enough. If the Government do not succeed in putting them in in another place, we shall never get hold of this problem again in this House, because there will not be a Lords' Amendment to debate. The only possible way in which we can assure that this matter comes back to us is to have these words in the Bill so that even if they are not perfect, a new version can be put in in another place. We want to be assured that this matter will come before us again and the only way of securing that is to put these words in the Bill at the moment.

    I hope that the hon. Member who believes so strongly in this Clause and who has argued so ably for it, will not press to have it withdrawn. It would not be wise. This matter might then not come before us again. We do not know what another place will do about this, and we must ensure that some Amendment is made so that this matter will come back to us for debate. I urge the hon. Member, whom I congratulate very much on his speech, not to fall for this trick, unintentional though it may be, of trying to get this Clause withdrawn.

    I hope that the House will be able to come to a decision on this matter. I have listened to the whole of the debate, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said the Government would listen to the debate, and I have been struck by the general sense of the House that something on the lines of this new Clause is desirable. I am, of course, aware of quite a body of opinion, which is not in favour of banning drink in the proximity of a motorway, but on the whole, my opinion is that there is sufficient sense of opinion in this House today to make it justifiable for the Government to include in the Bill, as finally passed into an Act, something on the lines of this Clause.

    I will discuss the question of procedure in a few minutes. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) was most reasonable in his speech; he clearly disagreed with this new Clause, but at the same time he referred to the sense of the House. I am not going necessarily by the sense of the Standing Committee, but by the sense of my discussions with hon. Members over the past few weeks, that this would be one of the major subjects for debate in the Bill.

    The new Clause, as drafted, is for a variety of reasons unsatisfactory. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was right—he did not say it offensively in referring to the Government's having adopted a trick. There was no intention of a trick. The later Amendments, in page 4, line 27, to be moved by his own right hon. Friends are must more difficult than this one. The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) was kind enough to say that he would back this Clause instead of his Amendment.

    7.0 p.m.

    The Clause has considerable demerits and I am informed by the draftsmen that the Clause would not stand up in a Statute. It has, for example, no penalty attached to it and, therefore, my advisers do not think that it would make good sense in the Bill. The words "sold or supplied" need further definition, because we are not quite sure what they mean. The words "adjoining or abutting", referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) and other hon. Members, are not satisfactory in their definition. Therefore, for these three reasons alone, it would be impossible to accept the Clause as it stands. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Member for Smethwick, in his anxiety, does not make us accept a Clause which is quite unsatisfactory, because, for the reasons I have given, the Government could not accept a Clause on these lines.

    The only device, therefore, which we are left to adopt in relation to the new Clause is to accept, not a trick, but the perfectly honourable statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that the Government would look at the matter and try to attempt to meet the situation in another place by a constructive Amendment which is satisfactory. That is usual on these occasions. In the circumstances, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that, which, after listening to the further part of the debate, I honestly consider better than putting a wrongly drafted Clause into the Bill. If that is agreeable, we might agree to do that. Whether my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) is permitted to withdraw the Amendment or whether we have a vote on the matter, I hope that we can come to a decision.

    I must make two other general observations. I am sympathetic with the practical arguments raised by certain hon. Members in the course of the debate in opposing the new Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) pointed out that a person can stop in the estimable place which he represents in Parliament, attend a first-class hostelry and fortify himself for the nearby road. That is perfectly obvious. One of the reasons for accepting something on these lines is that there are indefinite opportunities of obtaining drink already. If a person is determined to obtain drink and then proceed on the M.1, nobody in this free country can stop him.

    What the Government attach importance to—my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport came in just now to show his general understanding and support for the mood of the House and had a conversation with me on this subject—is that we are at the beginning of a series of motorways like M.1. The most important argument used in this debate was used in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) and others, that now is the time to start dealing with this problem. The Clause would not stop people bona fide obtaining the drinks they want wherever they want.

    It would discourage them stopping in the midst of a road which is designed for transit and not for drinking.

    The object of the motorways is to obtain swift and sure transit. Whether they are the safest roads in the world, the right hon. Member for Smethwick was perfectly right in saying that they are the fastest. I cannot see that it is any great trouble for the future of British democracy if a driver has to obtain his drink at some other place than on the edge of a fast motor road, intended to get him quickly to another place.

    On the whole, although there is obvious controversy, and for sheer logic the critics of the Clause have it—I do not deny that—I think that the view of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet should prevail that as there is a general sense in this House, we should respect it and come to a decision now.

    I am glad that the Home Secretary has intervened and said what he has just said. I think we all agree that we should now bring this debate to a conclusion. I hope, however, that in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said and the way in which he has enlarged the assurances previously given by the Secretary of State, my hon. Friends will now allow the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) to withdraw the new Clause.

    As I understand it, the Home Secretary has given us an assurance that when the Bill goes to another place, the Government will introduce a new Clause on the lines either of the Clause that we have been discussing or on the lines of the Amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice). We all appreciate that we cannot achieve perfect logic in this respect. The Home Secretary is to be commended in having accepted the sense of the Committee and the sense of the House, and, I believe, the sense of the country on this subject, that there is deep and genuine feeling that these motorways should be treated as something different from ordinary roads on which drink is allowed and that they should be treated as motorways designed for the primary purpose of enabling people to get from one place to another in the quickest possible time. My experience is that motorists tend to treat motorways as such and exercise a special degree of skill and responsibility when using them. I hope that if we in Parliament lay down as a principle, whether it is logical or not, that it is not desired by Parliament that licensed premises should be sanctioned on motorways, we shall be making a real contribution to avoiding carnage on the roads.

    It is important to make this observation following the remarks of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). It is not yet quite clear to me whether the new Clause which will be introduced in another place will, as I would hope, prohibit the sale or supply of liquor in any premises, not merely the kind of licensed premises with which Part I of the Bill deals, but licensed public houses—"pubs" as we know them. That would be the ideal. Whatever may be the technical procedure under the scope of the Bill, however, I hope that it will be an absolute prohibition. To deal with the argument of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, even if the prohibition is merely in respect of restaurants, it seems to me that if Parliament makes that provision in Part I of the Bill, it would then be unthinkable that any licensing bench would grant a licence for a public house to be opened on a motorway. Therefore, in either event, we should achieve the result at which we are all aiming.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause—(Limited Special Hours Certificates)

    (1) If on application made to the licensing justices at the annual licensing meeting or at any transfer sessions with respect to licensed premises in any area notwithstanding that dancing is not provided for the public in those premises the justices are satisfied that the whole or any part of the premises is structurally adapted and bona fide used or intended to be used for the purpose of providing for persons resorting thereto music by one or more live performers and substantial refreshment to which the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary and that the location of the premises is suitable and convenient for that purpose the justices may grant a certificate, to be called a limited special hours certificate, for the premises or if they are satisfied that part only of the premises is adapted or used or intended to be used as aforesaid for that part.

    (2) During the time that a limited special hours certificate is in force for the premises or part thereof the permitted hours in those premises or that part of the premises on any week day including Saturday shall be the general licensing hours provided and determined in accordance with section five of this Act extended to one o'clock in the following morning.

    (3) At any time while a limited special hours certificate for any premises or part of premises is in force the chief officer of police for the police area in which the premises are situated may apply to the licensing justices for the revocation of the certificate on the ground that while the certificate has been in force—

  • (a) the premises have not or that part has not been used as mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, or
  • (b) a person has been convicted of having on those premises or that part contravened section one hundred of the Licensing Act, 1953, or
  • (c) that the premises give rise to annoyance to neighbouring residents on the ground of noise, or
  • (d) that there has occurred in the premises or that part disorderly or indecent conduct;
  • and if the justices are satisfied that the ground of the application is made out they may revoke the certificate.—[ Lord Balniel.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I think that it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time the new Clause—(Special exemption certificates).

    (1) If on application made with respect to licensed premises in the area, the justices are satisfied that—
  • (a) the whole or any part of the premises is structurally adapted and bona fide used or intended to be used for the supply of substantial table meals to which the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary, and
  • (b) by reason of the location of the premises or other special circumstances there is a demand for table meals outside the permitted hours,
  • they may grant a certificate to be called a special exemption certificate to permit the sale of intoxicating liquor as an ancillary to a table meal outside the permitted hours.
    (2) The justices may attach to the certificate such limitations and conditions as they think fit, and may authorise the sale of intoxicating liquor with table meals at times specified in the certificate or at any time.
    and the Amendment in Clause 7, page 14, leave out lines 33 to 44 and insert:
    (b) prohibit or restrict the sale or supply to persons taking table meals in the premises of intoxicating liquor supplied in a part of the premises usually set apart for the service of such persons, and supplied for consumption by such a person in that part of the premises as an ancillary to his meal.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker. I need not detain the House for more than a brief moment in moving the new Clause, because although its wording is relatively complicated, for which I apologise, the purpose is simple. Hon. Members will know that under the existing law, special hours certificates are available only in the West End of London. By Clause 8, we are proposing to extend the principle of special hours certificates to all parts of the country. Special hours certificates are available only for premises which provide, not only refreshment, but also facilities for dancing and music.

    The move to extend special hours certificates outside London to all parts of the country has received the general support of the House, but the effect of this Amendment to the Bill is a limited one. It is not often appreciated that the provision of dancing facilities in a restaurant is an expensive undertaking for a restaurant proprietor. The probability is that the number of restaurants which will take advantage of this new freedom will be limited. The clientele which is affected by the special hours certificate extension to the rest of the country will be limited to a fairly well-to-do clientele and also to persons, mainly of the younger age groups, who are interested in dancing late at night and not to those of rather more mature age.

    It seems to me that there is a fairly limited but none the less definite demand from persons who are not interested in dancing but who wish to take their dinner fairly late at night that their dinner should be accompanied by an orchestra or musicians one or two in number. I am sure that any hon. Member, every time he goes to the Continent on holiday, takes dinner frequently late at night and stays up drinking until, say, midnight or 1 o'clock to the accompaniment of music.

    It seems to me rather sad that this extension in the Bill is limited only to those who can afford to go to rather expensive restaurants which provide not only music but also dancing facilities. I would ask my right hon. Friend what conceivable logic there is in saying that he is prepared to see special hours certificates granted to restaurants which provide music and dancing but not to those which provide only music. It seems to me totally illogical and I hope that he is sympathetic to the Clause. The Clause is complicated in its drafting because it includes a number of safeguards to ensure that should a special hours certificate be abused the chief constable of the county will have adequate opportunity of securing revocation.

    My noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) has moved the Motion so well and attractively that I shall emulate him by being exceedingly brief. I adopt everything that he has said, but I would add two or three other comments. When I was in America and I was looking at the question of tourism in Britain I asked what attitude we were adopting and I was told that the instructions were to "beam" tourism throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland and Wales. Those who come over to this country may like to enjoy refreshment in the evening either in places where there is music only, or dancing with what some of us would call "non-music," that is to say, cacophony. In my travels throughout the country I have always thought it wrong that the Metropolis should be treated as the only place where one is entitled to have any pleasure and that it was thought that there was something wrong in people being able to enjoy themselves in our other cities or outlying centres.

    7.15 p.m.

    I have always strongly subscribed to the view that special hours certificates should be applicable throughout the country. I put that first point not only on the ground of international tourism but on behalf of our own people who want to go to attractive spots and who may be prepared to spend money in the type of limited establishments for which the certificates are provided. People ought not to be required to prance around to enable an establishment to qualify for a certificate when in their later years they would prefer to sit and enjoy music or live performers whilst they are dining.

    This proposal has the support of all associations concerned in these interests. It is a proposal in which, happily, there is no particular vested interest and, if I may say so to those who oppose all alcoholic moves in the right direction, it is one which would involve only a small amount of additional alcohol. Increased consumption of alcohol does not lie behind this proposal. It is intended merely to make life easier and to see that libations are not removed altogether while people are pursuing other pleasures.

    The object of the new Clause is to enable justices to authorise individual hotels and restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks with meals outside permitted hours. This has the full support of the two national associations which have the greatest experience of serving meals—the British Hotels and Restaurants Association and the Caterers' Association of Great Britain. They are unanimously of the opinion that these establishments should be able to serve alcoholic drinks at any time with meals.

    I think that public opinion supports this. This is not a case of increasing danger in the path of youth. On the contrary, the practice of taking a glass of wine with one's food is one of the more amiable elegances of life and should be more widely supported. The British Travel and Holidays Association reports that one of the chief criticisms it receives from foreign visitors is of their experience of being refused drinks in restaurants where at the same time other people who are dining are being served. The reason for that, of course, is that the other people are staying overnight and this discrimination is merely against those who are not staying the night. This is difficult to explain to foreigners who perhaps do not speak English very well. It is the subject of a good deal of dissatisfaction and it is the object of criticism in our licensing laws.

    The Bill makes a concession to the principle that extra facilities are needed for the supply of drinks with meals by enabling them to be served up to 3 p.m. every day, including Sunday, without any requirement that meals must be habitually provided up to that time, but no similar provision applies in the evening. One has a situation where a traveller is delayed and finds himself sitting down to a meal at 2.30 p.m. He can obtain a glass of wine with his meal but if he asks for a brandy in his coffee at 3.15 he is refused it. It would be much more in keeping with the progressive character of the Bill if it could be provided that alcoholic drinks could be served at any time, either as a general proposition or by authority of the justices in certain restaurants. My hon. Friends and I think that this could be provided for in the form of special exemption certificates. Certainly the travelling public, both English and foreign, would welcome a change in the law which would enable existing facilities to be made available to non residents as well as residents in hotels.

    As usual, the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) moved the new Clause with a great sense of responsibility and restraint and I am rather inclined to take the view which he takes on this matter. It has occurred to me that in one sense there may be no need for the new Clause and that the provisions in the Bill are now sufficiently wide to cover the kind of things the noble Lord has in mind. Doubtless I am wrong, however, because otherwise he would not have moved the Clause, but we shall hear what the Minister thinks of the matter.

    I am slightly prejudiced in favour of the Clause because I know that the kind of thing with which it deals is bound to occur anyway and there is one aspect of the noble Lord's proposal which appeals to me. If we are to have licences of this kind I am overjoyed to feel that the magistrates will decide. One of the blots on the Bill is that 400 years of practice will be taken away under many of its provisions and in respect of the special new types of licences magistrates will become largely rubber stamps. That is a retrograde step and we should pause a long time before we take it. The proposed new Clause will keep alive some of the powers now resting in magistrates. It will give them something to do which they will not be able to do if the proposals in the Bill remain unaltered. For that reason—which is not a very good one, I am afraid—I am half inclined to hope that the Minister will accept, at any rate in part, the proposal made by the noble Lord.

    I support the new Clause moved by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) because I think that there is an absurd anomaly which I am sure my right hon. Friend does not intend should continue. I am certain that my right hon. Friend will be inclined to take early steps to ensure that the anomaly is removed and to enable drink to be served with meals if music only is provided and not music and dancing.

    I want also briefly to support the new Clause and Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key). My hon. Friend has mentioned the case of travellers who arrive at a restaurant at unconventional hours and wish to have a meal out of the, as it were, specified hours. This is a real hardship. Many of us do not always get to our destination at the hour we originally planned, largely as a result of being caught in traffic jams and so on. Surprising as it may seem under the new management, there is often delay on the railways, such as I experienced on my line to Bournemouth the other day. For these reasons. one sometimes arrives at nearer 3 p.m. than the more orthodox mealtime. It is reasonable that if one can get a meal served at that time one should also be able to have a drink with it. In fact, it is almost necessary that one should. Having been subjected to the frustrations of delay through traffic jams and other causes, one ought to have some kind of refreshment and a restorative of that kind.

    I am thinking not only of the traveller by road and rail but the traveller by air. My constituency is now becoming, I am glad to say, an important air terminal. Hum Airport is becoming of increasing national and international significance. Travellers arrive at this airport, as at all other airports, at all times of the day. Some who have come from a distance will have experienced a change in time; while they may have left at what was a perfectly orthodox hour in terms of the supplying of a meal, they may arrive, owing to the change in time, after the permitted hours have ended in this country. But they are still very much in need of a meal, and some of them, particularly visitors from overseas, generally like to take some alcoholic refreshment—a glass of wine or a glass of beer—with their meal. It is an eminently reasonable request that something like this should be permitted.

    In fact, I go much further than my hon. Friend did. I would request that all meals should be freed from restrictions of any kind, and that one should be able to get a drink with one's meal at any time. Drinking at a bar is a different question altogether. That drinking is an end in itself. The serving of drinks with meals is quite distinct from that. With meals the food is the main interest, and in such circumstances drink is an ancillary interest, although an important one to a whole range of people.

    I urge my right hon. Friend, particularly in view of some of the special provisions already made under the Bill, which I generally welcome, to take account of the special aspect of meals. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give still further consideration to this point and go some way towards freeing meals from this restriction and enabling alcoholic drinks to be served with them.

    As one who is generally opposed to the provisions of the Bill, I am very glad indeed to be able to accept, if not to welcome, the idea contained in the new Clause proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). There does not seem to be any reason why premises which are licensed for music only should not have this facility. Already premises which are licensed for music and dancing—and, by implication, those which are licensed for dancing only, since much of modern dancing does not seem to be accompanied by anything which may properly be described as music—are already so licensed.

    One particularly welcomes the point made in the eighth line of the proposed new Clause, that it all depends upon the discretion of the magistrate. The Clause says that the justices "may" grant such a concession. In that sense, I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) in supporting the proposed new Clause should the Minister see his way clear to accept it.

    We have much greater reservations about the proposed new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key). When the Standing Committee considered the Bill it was confronted with the fact that Part I provided for the granting as of right of a whole host of new licences to restaurants. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee expressed concern about the extent and the probable effect of this novel facility. Those parts of the Bill went through Committee, but only after a great deal of criticism and some changes. I do not think that the Committee would have accepted Part I as it now stands if it had felt that any serious attempt might be made to grant to restaurants facilities over and above those granted to public houses. I suggest that it would be just as well to try out Part I and see how the provisions in respect of the new licensed restaurants and new licensed residential premises, as well as the new combined premises, work before entertaining a proposal for extending their facilities in the sense of the Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Hastings.

    Having said that, I feel that the concession for which the noble Lord the Member for Hertford has so engagingly asked, and which efforts have been made to make more attractive to us by the pointed mention of Wales in connection with music, is acceptable to us, and I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept it.

    I must confess to two personal interests—what might appear to be mutually antagonistic interests. First, I cannot stand any kind of noise when I am eating. One of the things I suffer from when I go abroad is the man playing a concertina or violin, which puts me off what I am having to eat. The second interest is that I happen to be the director of a brewery company.

    The cynic may say, "Having announced those two interests, which were one you back, you will be in favour of the Clause." I am in favour of the Clause because of the principle which the Bill is meant to carry out, which is liberalisation and the giving of personal choice and freedom to a considerably greater extent than in the past to people to choose when they eat and what they drink with what they eat. I am therefore in favour of this very mild Clause which has been proposed by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel).

    It seems only fair to give an opportunity to everyone, as well as to those who haunt the West End of London, to dine rather later than other people do, and I see no reason why those opportunities should be restricted to the Metropolis, or even to large cities. There are many places where people may want to dine late and to have drinks with their dinner and, if they are so minded and are like my noble Friend, to have someone playing a violin while they eat. It seems only right that that opportunity should be given to the general public all over the country, and I support the new Clause.

    7.30 p.m.

    I am sorry that my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) was not able to air this proposal at an earlier stage in our proceedings, because I admit at once that it is interesting and attractive and a fairly considerable departure from the existing law. As he said, the requirements of the special hours certificates are very rigorous. He asked me why it was necessary to dance as well as listen to the music. I cannot answer that, but possibly the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) can, because he introduced that provision. It is a fact that the requirements are strict and rigorous and it is for that reason that only fifty-one establishments have been able to obtain these certificates at this date. These provisions are now being extended, under the same strict requirements, to the rest of the country.

    The question posed by my noble Friend's new Clause is whether there is a need for something in addition to the requirements provided for the special hours certificate, bearing in mind that the permitted hours are to be extended to 10.30 p.m., or 11 p.m. where the justices so permit. The question the House has to decide is whether there is a need for something between that and the special hours certificate which will go on to two o'clock in the morning.

    If these provisions commend themselves to hon. Members one can expect that there will be a fairly wide use of them and that there will be many establishments which will seek to take advantage of them. That may not be a bad thing, and one should not think in terms of the fifty-one establishments which have been freed under the special hours certificates under the existing legislation.

    The principle commends itself to the Government if sufficient safeguards could be introduced, but those additional safeguards are necessary.

    First, I doubt whether the music should be limited to the single live performer. That is a very easy requirement to fulfil to enable anyone to get a licence to extend to one o'clock in the morning. The provision about music should be slightly more onerous than merely having one live performer.

    Secondly, there should be some provision equivalent to that in the special hours certificate whereby when the music ends the drinking ends. A similar provision applies in regard to music and dancing licences, in that when the music and dancing end, the drinking ends. That provision should be included in the new Clause. Thirdly, there should be some provision for residents to object to the provision of facilities of this sort if they are to be carried on until one o'clock in the morning. Fourthly, probably unintentionally, my noble Friend makes no reference to clubs. Special hours certificates are available to clubs and restaurants, and it would be difficult to discriminate in this proposal between the two types of premises. The House must accept that if the Government support the new Clause, its provisions would be extended to clubs. Lastly, a special hours certificate provides that people cannot go to a special hours certificate restaurant or club simply for the purpose of indulging in late-night drinking, and if the majority of the people on the premises are in that category, the establishment may lose its certificate. There would have to be some safeguard so that this was not a ready facility for a late-night "pub crawl".

    Those are the reservations which should be borne in mind if the principle of the Amendment is acceptable to the House. The Government are very anxious to know the mood of the House on this question. To follow the approach of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the last new Clause, one should accept the principle of this. My noble Friend's new Clause already has the support of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall)—which is probably more important than my support—and I will give it favourable consideration, with the reservations which I have already mentioned.

    My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key) raised a slightly different point following an Amendment moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), giving the justices power to free restaurants from permitted hours. In Committee that received the support of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and I said that the Government would consider it. That we have done and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings knows, we have found ourselves unable to accept it.

    We like the spirit of the Amendment in the sense that it seems a modest approach that, where need can be proved, a licensed restaurant can be freed from permitted hours, but we found it impossible to find any way of giving the licensing justices any standard, any sense of direction, whereby they could in a special case free a restaurant from permitted hours. I think that it was the exceptional case which my hon. Friend had in mind.

    Between the Committee stage and now the Government have considered whether they could go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) would evidently like us to go, which is that all restaurants should be freed from permitted hours completely. There is support for that proposal, but I have concluded that at this stage of the Bill it would be too radical a proposal to introduce, unless the mood of the House showed that hon. Members were in favour of it. A more modest proposal is put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings, but it is not workable in terms of the existing licensing law.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West was anxious about airports. I wonder whether he has looked at the licensing (Airports) Act, 1956, which gives power in certain cases to free airports where there is international traffic from permitted hours restrictions.

    I know that Act, although I did not refer to it. My right hon. Friend will recognise that someone may have arrived at an airport as a passenger having completed his journey. Such a person is generally put straight into a coach and leaves the airport at once. It is when he gets to the town to which he is trying to go, not the airport, that he sets about finding a meal for himself, so that the 1956 Act does not apply.

    The Government will look with favour, especially in view of the reaction of the House, on the new Clause moved by my noble Friend, provided that it is possible to make it workable by inserting further restrictions. I will examine my noble Friend's new Clause further in the light of what is said in the debate. I am afraid that the modest proposal of the second new Clause is not a workable solution in terms of the present licensing law. As at present advised, I do not feel able to go the whole way at this stage and to free all restaurants from permitted hours.

    The right hon Gentleman has said that at this stage he could not accept an Amendment to free eating places from these restrictions. Does he mean that if the debate continues and strong views are expressed, if such an Amendment is moved in another place the Government will reconsider their attitude?

    The new Clause gives licensing justices discretion to free a restaurant from permitted hours. We have concluded that that is not a practical possibility. To free all restaurants from permitted hours completely, which is the practical alternative, would be too big a departure to undertake at this stage of the Bill, even if public opinion were in favour of it.

    The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State said that perhaps I could explain something which he himself was not able to explain. It is true that I was responsible for the scheme, and I got into great trouble with my temperance friends because I introduced it, but I am reinforced tonight by the fact that the president of the United Kingdom Alliance supports this new Clause, as I do, because it is a logical extension of what I did in very difficult circumstances. I am glad to know that my temperance friends are becoming more liberal in their outlook.

    I was troubled by the fact that there existed a number of night clubs in the Metropolitan Police district which were constantly in conflict with the police. In addition, there was also a form of loose organisation—loose in more ways than one—known as night clubs. It was desired that the difficulties they created in the administration of the licensing law in London should be dealt with and, with the co-operation of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd)—whom I regret is not in his place at the moment so that he could share with me the satisfaction of knowing that at least we have become respectable—I managed to work out a scheme which, as far as I know, has worked satisfactorily in dealing with both the problems which I have mentioned.

    First of all, we insisted that anybody who wanted to get one of these certificates—which, I admit, included dancing as well as music—should also get a certificate that the buildings were acceptable to the appropriate committee of the London County Council which dealt with the licensing of such buildings, because we were informed that, on occasion, the alleged dancing in the night clubs was confined to a very small area and that the exits—the official exits—were very unsatisfactory from the point of view of fire, which we discussed earlier today. It was, however, admitted that there were a number of other exits from the premises which could be used in the event of the sudden appearance of police to allow large numbers of people to disappear with extreme rapidity.

    It was suggested to us at the time that there was no demand in the country for this form of entertainment in the late evening and early morning, except in the "C" Division of the Metropolitan Police Force. That is why a very small number of certificates have been issued. We were dealing with a specific problem. I believe that we dealt with it satisfactorily. At any rate, one has not recently seen the kind of complaints frequently then made as to the way in which the police obtained evidence and the way in which these places were conducted.

    If it is now desired that these facilities should be extended to other parts of the country, and that dancing should be no necessary requirement, I cannot see why, especially now that we have the approval of the United Kingdom Alliance for this way of dealing with the matter, we should not extend it on the general lines indicated by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) in his new Clause. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State has said about the difficulty of the exact wording. I have no doubt that the noble Lord knew when he started the job, that if he could get approval of the general principle he would be sure to be told that the words he proposed were quite inappropriate to the occasion.

    7.45 p.m.

    I do not care how much money or time private Members expend in getting Clauses and Amendments drafted, they will never satisfy the Government draftsman who thinks that he has complete copyright in this matter and that it is nearly akin to high treason for a private Member to find words of his own to express the simplest things in a Bill, in which the Government draftsman has spent hours trying to make the simplest thing unintelligible.

    I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will feel that he has done as well as can be expected in all these circumstances, that he will, in the further negotiations—in which, I suggest, he should associate himself with the hon. Member for Cheadle, who is a very helpful person in this matter when he likes to be—get what he wants, and that the Government will be able to include this quite reasonable proposal in the Bill so that what has been enjoyed by the area of the "C" Division of the Metropolitan Police for the past twelve or thirteen years may now be shared by respectable people in all parts of the country.

    I want to add a few words about this matter. First, I share wholeheartedly the views of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) about drafting. As one who had to draft some fifty or sixty Amendments upstairs for this Bill—and an even larger number for the Betting and Gaming Act last year—I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will pay attention to the words that it is time now that Parliamentary draftsmen should be available to private Members. If anything at all is heeded by the Government tonight, I hope that those words will be.

    Drafting Amendments is a difficult task, and I am coming rapidly to the view that the Government—whichever party is in power—do not want back benchers, even Privy Councillors, to set up good Amendments—and least of all do they want retired Home Secretaries putting on the Order Paper what they should have done years before. I see that the Chairman of the 1922 Committee is here, and I hope that he, too, will take note of what I am saying. Nothing could be more helpful to private Members than a Government draftsman assisting with the drafting of their Amendments.

    This new Clause is one which the House can accept, and it is, therefore, a good one, but I want an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on two main points. The first is that this will be applied to the country as a whole and not confined only to the Metropolis. Secondly, will it go wider than merely dancing? I believe that we would be content if it covered any wide performance by way of entertainment. It may be that my right hon. Friend will have to go wider than music, because circumstances come into it. I agree that to have only one performer is not sufficient, but I think that my right hon. Friend could go through the various Acts relating to music—with which I am not conversant—and find something which would help him in applying this provision to music and entertainment of that nature.

    The new Clause proposed by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) also contains provisions relating to noise and neighbours. This is, in addition, covered by the Town Planning Acts. One cannot these days, have music and dancing for business purposes in a residential neighbourhood.

    I want to raise one other point, out of sympathy with my noble Friend—

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but am I not right in thinking that he has already spoken to this new Clause?

    In that case I am not permitted to allow the hon. Member to make a second speech.

    Perhaps I may pass to the other new Clause, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key), to which I did not speak—

    I am afraid that that is not allowed, either. There is one debate on the two new Clauses and the Amendment.

    It is entirely the fault of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that I am speaking, and I hope that he will take the blame. He asked to be told the feelings of the House on the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hasting (Sir N. Cooper-Key), and it would be a pity if we failed to convey it to him.

    First, I want to comment on what my right hon. Friend said about the new Clause in the name of my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). I feel strongly that we must not start arguing about numbers and about what constitutes entertainment. I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that that suggestion absolutely stinks of bureaucracy. Let me take a fanciful example, which could nevertheless happen. With a restaurant with Louis Kentner at the piano not have to be reinforced by the appearance of a "pop" singer before it can be said that entertainment is being provided? When we start thinking of numerical qualifications we are getting away from common sense. If the entertainment is bad people will probably not come to listen to it, and if it is good, people will listen to one performer as happily as to dozens.

    We should be making a great improvement in the law if we accepted the proposed new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings, and in this respect the House should make its views known. Many small towns have cinemas, and even theatres, at which performances end at a late hour, and usually there are not facilities for a supper trade at which drink can be procured. That situation could be remedied without doing much harm to anybody, and residential areas would not be affected. The areas where these facilities are likely to be demanded probably already contain eating houses which have licences, and it would merely be a question of allowing them to apply for an extension of hours.

    It has been said that it is difficult to draft rules for the guidance of the bench in the matter of granting extended hours, but my view is that this is bureaucracy raising its ugly head again. Our unpaid judiciary operates on the basis of common sense, and we do not trust that common sense nearly enough. It is possible to allow the bench discretion whether it gives this sort of licence. If it cannot be trusted with that sort of responsibility it cannot be trusted with the responsibility of sending its fellow-citizens to gaol.

    I am glad that my noble Friend's new Clause will recieve favourable consideration, and I hope that my suggestion will also be considered. I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider whether we can do something to meet the needs of our smaller towns, which have busy and active lives of their own but are debarred from carrying them on even to the modest hour of midnight.

    I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise). I hope that the Minister of State will reconsider the Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key). I am sure that the local licensing justices can decide whether or not it is reasonable to grant a licence or an exemption certificate. Had I known before we reached this stage that my right hon. Friend would have regarded a much wider Clause or Amendment as more appropriate I would have made a different contribution in Committee, and I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings would have moved a different Clause this evening.

    My right hon. Friend has said that this is not a good moment to make this change. I hope that he will reconsider his remarks. I appreciate that we have reached an advanced stage of the Bill, after a good deal of work, but it will be a long time before we are allowed to start tinkering with the licensing laws again. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to put this matter right in another place. In those circumstances, and in view of what I sense to be the feeling of the House this evening, I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel able to undertake to do something in another place.

    I have been very interested to hear some hon. Members urging the Minister to agree to the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key). In Committee many of us tried to get the Government to agree to continue what has been the practice and rule for many years—the practice of allowing the justices to decide whether or not licences should be granted. We are departing from that principle now for the first time in the history of this House. For generations we have entrusted to the justices the right to decide whether a licence is necessary, and we have provided that a public need should be proved.

    We have removed that right in respect of Part I, but I now see some of those hon. Members who took part in getting that provision removed supporting a new Clause which would give justices the right to grant special exemption certificates. I heard what the Minister had to say, and I hope that he will bear in mind the fact that some of us feel that the House is making a grave mistake in departing from what has been the common system of entrusting to the justices this right of deciding whether a public need is shown, and of refusing to grant a licence if they are satisfied that it is not.

    I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of giving back to the justices the power provided in the new Clause in the name of of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key).

    The Government will give favourable consideration to the terms of the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I can say that we will consider the country as a whole and not merely the Metropolitan area. My earlier reservations are not final, but they are the sort of things which should be incorporated in any provision of this nature, which will make a considerable change in our licensing laws.

    8.0 p.m.

    I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) about Louis Kentner, but equally will he take the point that in my part of the country most public houses have pianists, and therefore one must ensure that these extensions, if that is what they are called, cannot be granted too easily. I am not being bureaucratic. I am merely saying that the repercussions of the new Clause, if accepted, would be fairly widespread, and I am anxious not to cause too much annoyance as a result.

    In respect of the second new Clause, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew)—and I think one of his colleagues—still feels that the terms of this modest Amendment are practical, but, by virtue of the words
    "by reason of the location of the premises…there is a demand for table meals outside the permitted hours"
    he will be giving the licensing justices an impossible task.

    I will further re-examine this question, but I pose to the House that the choice will probably lie in retaining permitted hours for licensed premises, or removing them altogether. I felt that at this stage public opinion and the mood of the House was not in favour of the removal of permitted hours from all restaurants. I remain of that opinion, but I will re-examine again the more limited terms. However, my hon. Friend must see the difficulty in which licensing justices will be placed under the terms of the new Clause.

    I rise to try to clarify the position and to make certain what the Minister proposes to do. As I understand it, any change which is made will apply to the provision—

    I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but has he not already spoken on the new Clause?

    May I ask the leave of the House to put one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman? I think that it would be for the general convenience of hon. Members if those questions were asked. First, do we understand that what he is proposing to do is to say that this should be at the discretion of the justices; secondly, that it shall apply to music only, and, thirdly, that it shall be only on special occasions as envisaged in the new Clause?

    It is my noble Friend's proposal, but certainly at the discretion of the justices, and certainly in respect of music only and not dancing.

    I am sorry that I did not hear the beginning of this discussion. Since coming into the Chamber, I have been a little alarmed to hear that the Government agree with this proposal, at any rate, in principle. My hesitation in accepting this proposal is based on my fairly long experience as a magistrate. I have always been a little alarmed about the abuse of what are called occasional licences. I hope that in any arrangements the Government make they will take precautions to see that the same abuse is not possible in regard to what are now to be called special hours certificates.

    Occasional licences were intended to be granted for special occasions, but they have now come to be granted quite regularly—weekly or monthly—for regular events, and the occasional licence has gone far beyond what Parliament originally intended.

    I hope that this special hours certificate, or whatever the Government call it, will not develop in the same way, and I ask the Minister to pay attention to this point when he is considering the form in which he will accept the proposal.

    May I put a point to the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel)? Is not this the position, that as matters stand it is possible to apply for a special hours extension certificate in respect of premises where music and dancing are provided? The proposal is simply to provide that subject to certain conditions which are enumerated in the new Clause, and which the Minister rightly wishes to strengthen, there can be an application in respect of premises where only music is provided?

    Occasional licences do not really enter into this debate. We are thinking of something akin to the special hours certificate on more modest lines where only music is provided.

    I accept that some strengthening of the reservation is probably desirable. On the understanding that my right hon. Friend accepts the principle of the new Clause, and that he will introduce a similar Clause in another place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause—(Restriction Of Supply Of Intoxicating Liquor To Young Persons For Consumption Off The Premises)

    (1) The holder of a justices off-licence shall not knowingly sell or allow any other persons to sell and a servant of the holder of a justices' off-licence shall not knowingly sell intoxicating liquor to a person under eighteen for consumption off the premises.

    (2) A person under eighteen shall not buy or attempt to buy in off-licensed premises intoxicating liquor to be consumed off the premises.—[ Commander Kerans.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    This matter was discussed in Committee upstairs and the Government said that they would look into it again. No Government Amendment appeared on the Notice Paper, and I therefore put down this new Clause.

    It seems somewhat illogical that a child of five-plus can go into an off-licence, purchase alcohol and take it away, and yet he cannot buy a packet of cigarettes until he is fourteen. Liqueur chocolates can be bought by a youth of sixteen, but no youth can drink in a public house until he is eighteen. This situation seems somewhat unbalanced in our modern society.

    Whether we like it or not, liquor consumption is on the increase and this is one step we can take to stop it. It is too easy to go into an off-licence and purchase alcohol, take it away, go into a car, a field, or a moped, and have a good party without anybody being any the wiser.

    We are endeavouring to stamp out crime in this country, especially among youths. Many of them are paid high wages compared with what youths of comparable age were paid in years gone by. It is too easy for them to do the sort of thing that we want to stop. Many of them are older than they appear to be, but it is illogical that a child can go into an off-licence and buy liquor, but until he is 18 he cannot get a drink in a public house. I ask the Government to put a stop to this practice.

    The Home Secretary is making every effort to reduce crime. I ask him to accept the new Clause in the spirit in which it has been moved. If it is pressed to a Division I shall vote for it, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will give me their support.

    I rise now because we had a debate on this subject in Committee and I then gave certain undertakings. I think that in fairness to hon. Members who may want to speak I should give the result of my inquiries.

    The existing law—not the law under this Bill—which has stood for many years has the effect that liquor may not be sold on off-licence premises to a person under 14 unless it is contained in corked and sealed vessels in quantities not less than one reputed pint. When we debated this in Committee upstairs, my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General said that it was the view and experience of the Home Office that sales from off-licence premises were not a contributory factor in juvenile drunkenness.

    This is most important, because the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has already recognised my interest in young people, and from the beginning of our discussions on the Bill we recognised that any Amendment which would have the effect of limiting drunkenness among young people should be made, and therefore the House perhaps finds it a little surprising that at this stage that Amendment has not been made. But at that stage it was the view of the Home Office that sales from off-licence premises were not a contributory cause of juvenile drunkenness.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) gave one or two specific examples where there was some connection, as I think did the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). Both the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend have sent us one or two examples since the Committee stage of this Bill during which I gave an undertaking in these words:
    "In addition to any evidence which may be submitted to me by Members of the Committee, I propose to take steps to find out from appropriate authorities—obviously I cannot analyse every case in the country, but I can take steps to find out from the appropriate authorities—whether they have evidence that off-sales to young people are a serious contributory factor towards drunkenness. If the evidence is to the effect that they are a serious contributory factor, I will introduce an Amendment on Report. I should not do so, however, unless I was told by that impartial source that it was a contributory factor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 18th April, 1961; col. 1008.]
    In pursuance of this undertaking inquiries were made of the Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis and six provincial chief constables—Birmingham, Brighton, Hertfordshire, Liverpool, Swansea and the West Riding of Yorkshire—and six clerks to the justices—Cambridge, Cardiff, Exeter, Manchester, Nottingham and Sunderland. I hope that the House will agree that that is a representative selection.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the inquiry was whether off-sales had contributed to drunkenness or to drinking by persons under 18 years of age?

    It is a little difficult to answer that question specifically. We asked a number of questions. Those whom we questioned were asked to give their views whether off-sales were a serious contributory factor towards drunkenness among persons under 18, and to give such supporting information as they were able, including statistics showing the number of convictions for drunkenness during the last two years against persons under 18 and the number of cases where the liquor, or some of it, was believed to have been obtained by young persons from off-licence premises or off-sales departments of public houses. That is the inquiry we put to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, to the six chief constables and to the six clerks to the justices.

    The general view among those consulted was that off-sales are not a serious contributory factor to drunkenness among young people. Out of 1,120 cases—this comes from the replies which we received where young people were convicted of drunkenness, there was evidence that the offender obtained liquor from off-licence premises in only nine cases. The views of those consulted were overwhelmingly against any change being made in the law. I have examined each one of these replies and in saying that they were overwhelmingly against I certainly do not underestimate the opinion of those replying to the inquiry.

    Some of those who were consulted suggested that while young people found some glamour in frequenting public houses, they found little or no glamour in consuming liquor purchased from off-licence departments. I must give the result of these inquiries. They bear out the views expressed in the Standing Committee by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. I said in Committee that I would not put down an Amendment on Report unless the information resulting from my inquiries supported the view that off-sales were a contributory cause to juvenile drunkenness. As I told my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), I felt I could not put down an Amendment because the undertaking I gave in Committee was so specific.

    The House may argue, "Even if there is the slightest risk of occasionally a person being made drunk or getting drunk as a result of off-sales, ought not we to legislate in that respect?" In the Standing Committee the view was strongly expressed that the purchase of liquor from off-licence departments by young persons acting on behalf of their parents was traditional in many parts of the country. It was said that those who went out to do the family shopping made purchases from the off-licence department on the way home, and that to prevent this would be a serious restriction on the activities of many families which would be resented.

    Nevertheless, I think that the Committee took the view that if it could be proved that off-licence sales were a contributory cause to drunkenness, we must overcome that resentment and sense of restriction. But it is difficult to do so in the light of the evidence from the inquiries and the replies which we received. For that reason, anxious as we are to stop any possible cause of juvenile drunkenness, it would seem hard to accept this proposed new Clause.

    8.15 p.m.

    I think that first we should say "Thank you" to the Minister for having made the inquiries. But, having heard the result of them, I am as convinced as ever that this House should accept the new Clause. Because of my duties my service on the Standing Committee which discussed this Bill represented the first time I have served on a Committee for some period. One of the things which caused us great concern was that for some years there had been an alarming increase in drunkenness among young people. We were alarmed by the fact that we are now living in an age when young people have more money to spend. I can rejoice in this fact as I started work as a boy of 13 and received a wage of 1s. 2d. a week. I rejoice that young lads and lasses get better wages today, but that fact provides an opportunity for the tempter.

    Young people of today, teenagers as they are called—they were known as adolescents when I was young—have, according to the experts, what are called "uncommitted incomes" which total £17 million a week. This money has taken the place of the money we called "pocket money" in the days when I was young—the small amount of money left after one had paid one's parents, or, rather, what was handed back after one had handed over all one's wages. We know those who are after this £17 million worth of uncommitted incomes. One firm alone is spending £350,000 on advertising. In the Committee we were very disturbed about this, and so we considered the question of off-sales, and I hope that we shall return to the matter again.

    We were disturbed because unaccompanied young persons, schoolboys and girls, are able to buy drink from off-licences. I come from a working-class home, and I appeal to hon. Members not to think that they are doing a service to the working classes by pandering to their bad habits. I tell my constituents that if a father in these days sent his boy of ten to the off-licence to get liquor he would not be acting as a responsible parent—

    My father would not allow me to do that, and he was not a bad father. But now this happens, as the Minister knows. Examples were given by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). I received an unsolicited letter from a schoolmaster at a school not in my constituency but in England. He wrote to me after the Standing Committee debate and I asked and obtained his permission to send on his letter to the Minister. He wrote that he had reported to his headmaster, who in turn had reported to the clerk of the justices, that boys from the school had bought intoxicating liquors from an off-licence and had been provided with the means to remove the seals on the containers.

    They were still at school, which is my concern.

    All children stay at school now until they are 15, and we hope that soon the age will be 16. I am glad that parents are keeping their children at school longer and that in the comprehensive school in the Metropolis they stay longer at school. Boys and girls at school as well as those who have left school and gone to work can get drink from these off-licences. I am charging my memory. but I believe that the Chief Constable of Swansea is on record recently as having expressed himself as very disturbed about this.

    Would the right hon. Member be good enough to apply his mind to the real issue? Is he saying that parents should not be permitted to send their children to purchase alcohol, knowing that that drink is in sealed or corked containers? That is the question, not whether young people can drink.

    I have no hesitation about that. Having regard to the situation which faces us and the increase of drinking among young people, I say that we ought to take every step to stop it, and this is one of those steps.

    Does the Minister propose to leave the law exactly as it is? What is the minimum age below which a young person cannot buy liquor from an off-licence proprietor? I believe the age is 5. If this new Clause is rejected, are we, in 1961 to allow the law to stand as it is? I may be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe that any child over 5 can be supplied with liquor at an off-licence provided the liquor is in a sealed container. Are hon. Members to vote down this new Clause? The Minister told us that he cannot accept it. He has not suggested an alternative. Are we therefore to leave the law as it is at present, in the setting of our modern society, where any boy or girl over 5, whether sent by a parent or not, can be supplied with liquor by these proprietors?

    I hope that I am speaking for the majority of my constituents. I should be disappointed if I were not, but I believe I am. I believe I am speaking for the majority of fair-minded, decent-minded people in the country, who are not prepared to leave the law as it is. In moving this new Clause, the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools has rendered a service to this House and to the country. He supported us in Committee and I support him now I hope the House will support us and make it known to the Minister and the Government in no uncertain terms that these are the views and convictions of the best people in the country.

    We should sometimes legislate for the best, not for the worst. Let us sometimes raise our sights and do what the finest people, not the worst, want us to do. As one who is proud to have been a miner, I would go to any mining branch or lodge and face my fellow miners and tell them that I voted for this new Clause. I believe they would support it. I am convinced of that. That is why I urge the House to vote for it.

    I gladly acknowledge the great trouble to which the Minister of State has gone in his examination of this problem. One must pay proper regard to the advice he has received. I confess that I do not like bringing in new restrictions by legislation without very careful scrutiny and without being absolutely satisfied that they are necessary.

    In that context, I ask my right hon. Friend—having listened to him with great care and once again accepting that he has given a great deal of thought to this problem—whether he can look at this question again. The present state of affairs was set out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) and I shall not repeat it. For what we all believe to be good reasons, young persons under 18 are not allowed to consume drink on licensed premises. I take it that one of the reasons for that provision is not so much the question of drunkenness to which my right hon. Friend referred as to see that strong drink is not too readily accessible to young people.

    The first new Clause moved today provided that liqueur chocolates may not be sold to anyone under 16. We have heard from the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and my hon. and gallant Friend that there is nothing to stop those young people going to an off-licence and, provided it is corked and sealed, buying more or less anything they wish. That seems a little odd. We must pay due regard to people like senior chief constables who have great experience in these matters, but, nevertheless, one knows of other examples which have been quoted and which bear evidence in the contrary sense.

    In these days of 1961 when young people have more pocket money at their disposal, it is very easy for a couple of young girls and young chaps to raise between them the necessary 35s. or £2 to buy a bottle of gin or whisky from an off-licence. It is not so much a question of drunkenness as of making strong drink too readily available to people of that age. I ask my right hon. Friend if he can give some assurance that he will look at the matter again and, if he cannot accept this new Clause, try to do something on these lines when the Bill reaches another place so that something which is not only an illogicality but a definite danger can be put right.

    I strongly support this new Clause. While it may be true that there is no evidence that this is the source of extensive trouble at the moment, it is certainly a possible source of trouble. I do not think that the exact extent of the source of the trouble has been ascertained by the inquiries made by the Minister, inquiries made in good faith. The problem is not that of drunkenness from purchases made at off-licences, but whether young persons under 18 are making purchases from off-licences, and making those purchases for their own consumption. It seems that the Minister's inquiries have not elicited answers to that problem.

    I do not want to exaggerate the present position, but I have had one or two instances in recent years which may be of interest. I will describe a recent instance. A number of young lads took a motor car and drove it away without the owner's consent, which is a type of offence which young lads under 18 are prone to commit. Subsequently a quantity of liquor was found in the car. Inquiry revealed that it had been purchased by these young lads, all under 18, at an off-licensed premises. No question of drunkenness arose. Nevertheless, it disturbed me that these three young lads, having taken and driven away a car, had stocked themselves up with a quantity of liquor during their escapade.

    These provisions are very unfair to the on-licence holder. One expects the ordinary innkeeper to take particular care to see that he does not supply young people under 18. It is a source of irritation to him that these same young lads, whom he has to refuse to serve, can go round the corner and obtain the liquor there. I hope that the Minister will have second thoughts on this issue because I do not think that he has looked into it as thoroughly as he should have done.

    8.30 p.m.

    I was glad that earlier the Minister of State reminded us of the course of the discussions in Committee and repeated the terms of his undertaking, because what he said in Committee, which he has brought to a conclusion today, is that we should not interfere with the rights of the individual, extending for a long time and over a wide field of society, unless there are some very good grounds for doing so.

    In Committee my right hon. Friend said that he would look thoroughly into the evidence, as opposed to the emotions or to what hon. Members fear may happen. He said that he would look at what had happened. This afternoon he said that his inquiries had been made not only of chief constables but also of justices' clerks over a wide area of England and that a figure of considerably less than 1 per cent. emerges in evidence of drunkenness being attributed to off-licensed premises.

    One or two hon. Members, speaking with great sincerity, have said that they are not worried about drunkenness or whether it leads to crime, but my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) concentrated his remarks on the crime aspect of the problem, and although he covered a wide field, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) emphasised in particular the problem of the increase in juvenile drunkenness and steps which we ought to take to stop it. It seems to me, therefore, that in those two cases my right hon. Friend's reply amply disposes of the argument, because we have heard for the first time that over this wide area, out of 1,120 cases, only in nine cases is there evidence that the drunkenness could be attributed to buying in off-licensed premises.

    Hon. Members may say that they do not necessarily have in mind drunkenness but drinking as such. If we are thinking of young people between the ages of 5 and their early 'teens, it is not very easy for us to imagine that they could drink a great deal without becoming drunk. It is not likely that the child who is sent to collect father's drink will consume a quantity of it on the way home.

    I hope that my hon. Friend will not give a false impression by talking about children between 5 years old and their early 'teens. We are worried not so much about them as about those between their early 'teens and 18.

    I used the example of those between 5 years old and their early 'teens because earlier we were discussing them in the context of buying tobacco and liqueur chocolates. I will not be unfair, and I will consider those from 5 to 18.

    Unless we stick carefully to the evidence and do not devote too much thought to opinions, we may be seriously misled. Judging from what my right hon. Friend said, that is what happened in the views expressed about the element of glamour in trying to get a drink in order to drink with one's elders. The overwhelming number of the cases, however, of young people going into the off-licensed premises is when the working man comes home at night, puts on his carpet slippers and gives the boy 1s. or 2s. to go round the corner and to get father's pint of beer for the evening.

    I think that that represents 99 per cent. of the cases. I hear someone behind me asking, "Where is the evidence?" Other hon. Members have expressed their views as to how the system works at the moment. I am entitled to express the view that 99 per cent. of all liquor bought at the moment from off-licences by children is taken home to their fathers, who would be very cross if they found that their children had taken a swig out of the bottle on the way home.

    My hon. Friend says that drink purchased from off-licences is generally taken home. Has he reflected on the enormous growth amongst young people of the habit of bottle parties, which are not always held under the most desirable circumstances? Girls aged 14, 15 or 16 unfortunately sometimes become drunk. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend may laugh, but it happens. There were very unfortunate consequences in my constituency in one such case. Does my hon. Friend think it desirable that off-licences should not be subjected to any restriction in the sale of liquor to children?

    When I gave way, I was expecting a short observation. If my hon. Friend wishes to develop his speech so forcefully, he will no doubt have a chance later. My short answer to his point is that, if he is talking about the large number of bottle parties leading to drunkenness, he should have listened more carefully to what the Minister of State said, because the question whether drunkenness does or does not flow from purchases of liquor from off-licences would be included in the statistics the Minister of State gave the House a short time ago.

    The Minister of State gave an undertaking in Committee. I believe that the view of the Committee was not that this restriction should be imposed. It was that it should be reluctantly imposed only if there was any evidence that the purchase of liquor from off-licences was a serious contributory factor to one of the social evils of our time. It does not appear from what my right hon. Friend said tonight that there is any such evidence. I have no knowledge of what the Government's final attitude to this will be, but I hope that my right hon. Friend abides by the results of the inquiries he has so carefully and sedulously made.

    If we are to reduce drunkenness in this country we should make it more difficult, and not easier, for young people to obtain drink. If the Clause is rejected, we shall make it easier for young people to obtain strong drink. I was greatly disturbed a few weeks ago when a man stopped me in the street near an off-licence. It was in the constituency of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). The man said to me, "Do you know, Sir, that young boys go into this off-licence and obtain bottles of intoxicating liquor sealed with a screw top with a gummed paper fastener over it?"—as if the boys and girls could not undo a paper top. Youngsters go to the off-licence and purchase drink. Some go there to make purchases for their parents. Some go there and buy liquor for their own consumption. They leave the off-licence, go up a side street, gather together and drink the intoxicating liquor they have obtained from the off-licence.

    I sincerely hope that the Clause will be accepted and that we shall do something to protect our young people from the consequences of intoxicating liquor, which they can obtain so easily at present.

    Like many others, I appreciated what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. I appreciate the obvious care and trouble he has gone to to obtain information about this problem. I agree with those Who believe that we should not lightly impose restrictions. Nevertheless, I regard the existing law as unsatisfactory.

    I cannot believe that my right hon. Friend should allow his present findings to be the only basis of his judgment on an issue such as this. We must consider the present social pattern, the social pattern of higher earnings than ever before for young people, of opportunities for them resulting, perhaps, from a parental discipline less harsh than it was ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, of opportunities with vehicles for them to enjoy mobility, taking them away from the social controls of their own localities. I put this question to my right hon. Friend. Whatever may be the pattern of behaviour in certain parts of the United Kingdom, does he, on reflection, think it satisfactory that there should be no restriction at all in respect of young people above the age of five?

    Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott), I consider that the case here does not depend only upon proven instances of drunkenness. It arises from other social phenomena also. In an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) I referred to one such. My hon. Friend seemed to think that it was my case that young people who had bottle parties always got drunk. That was not my only case. I pointed out that these bottle parties are not always held in very desirable circumstances.

    My hon. Friend has said that I misinterpreted his observations. If I did I was misled by his own words. He said that at these bottle parties girls got drunk and undesirable things happened.

    My main point was that these parties are not always held in the most desirable circumstances. My hon. Friend must be aware of the growing tendency. Young people buy quantities of drink at off-licences, and among their number very often are teenagers under 18. We should not in legislating make it easier for this obvious danger to grow.

    I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend, despite what he has said, will take note of the feeling on both sides of the House, a feeling which I believe to be much more vociferous than he yet appreciates. All of us who speak in this way are determined to vote against him on this, and I feel that we represent a quite large body of opinion in the country. We believe that there should be some restrictions on people in their teens simlar to those which prevent young people from buying a drink in on-licensed premises.

    I never thought that I should ever rise to support wholeheartedly the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). I commend him on what I thought was a forthright and thoroughly sensible speech, a speech in line with the excellent contribution made by the hon. Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott), who spoke for all of us who feel as I do. We are not concerned with prohibition as such—indeed, we should oppose such a move—but we are concerned about the amplification of facilties and temptations particularly for young people.

    8.45 p.m.

    The Minister of State gave an undertaking in Committee that he would pursue an inquiry into this question. We thank him for doing that, but clearly the inquiry was not of such a nature that it could possibly go very deeply into the matter. He gave a number of centres where he made inquires, one of which, Swansea, returned the same answer as the other centres but whose chief constable only a short time ago made a report in which he said that he was seriously concerned about the increase of drinking among young people. Therefore, like the hon. Member for Barry, I find it rather difficult to accept the Minister's view that we should not pursue this matter because of the results of the inquiry. With all due deference to the Minister, I suggest that the inquiry was valueless. It did not go far enough or deep enough, and it did not cover a sufficient number of centres.

    There is deep concern and uneasiness on both sides of the House about the present situation. This reflects a similar feeling throughout the country. Wherever we go people bring up this question. Short of a thorough-going inquiry, it would be impossible to collate the evidence properly and to bring it forward, but there is this uneasiness among school teachers, ministers of religion, parents, youth workers and the public in general. Even though there is not a body of evidence which proves that off-licence facilities contribute to drunkenness among young people, the state of the law is sufficient argument for this House to amend it.

    The position is that any child over five years can walk into an off-licensed house and buy a quantity of intoxicating liquor in a more or less sealed container. Whatever the results of the partial inquiry made by the Minister, surely this House should not tolerate that. It may be that the inquiry has shown that it is not evidence of drunkenness, but an inquiry directed to the question of drinking would have yielded a different result.

    This is an increasing problem. Young people today have more money than the young people of years gone by had. Their social surroundings are different They also have greater precocity, an earlier maturity. Whether it is a question of maturity of precociousness, I hesitate to say, but the fact is that as time goes by, because of those reasons, there is an increasing danger to young people from this facility.

    Finally, I wish to say a word or two to those who claim that it is a great con-venience to certain parents that their children should be able to go to off-licensed premises to buy their drink. Hon. Members who represent industrial constituencies assure me that that practice is declining all the time. Even if it were increasing, it would be absolutely wrong. I support the spirit and content of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said on that point. What possible deprivation or inconvenience is it to any parent not to be able to send his children to off-licensed premises to buy his beer or spirits? Since in the last three or four years cases of drunkenness among young people have doubled, this House should set aside any such inconvenience or deprivation, even if it existed—I am convinced that it does not exist—and act in this matter so that we reassure, not only hon. Members on both sides of the House who have signed and supported the Amendment, but all shades of opinion, whether total abstainers or not, throughout the country.

    I rise to support the new Clause and to express my disappointment at the reply of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. Together with other hon. Members, I am not convinced by the evidence he has obtained. Nearly all of this debate and our decision on the new Clause must hinge on the view that we take about whether there is evidence of evil arising from the present state of the law owing to the fact that off-licences can sell liquor in sealed bottles to children over five years of age.

    My right hon. Friend said that he had not evidence of a sufficiently compelling character to lead him to think that an amendment of the law was necessary. He referred to the fact that in response to the invitation he made to me on Standing Committee I had sent to him one or two cases. I feel quite sure that my right hon. Friend will not mind my saying that that is not fairly or adequately stating the case. In fact, I sent to him nine cases with full particulars of the persons and sources from which the information was obtained. As some hon. Members have expressed doubt whether in fact an evil exists in this matter, I propose briefly, because other hon. Members want to speak on this and subsequent items, to give some of the evidence that I sent to my right hon. Friend.

    The first case that I sent was an extract from the report of the chief constable of the county borough of Middlesbrough, as presented to Brewster Sessions in 1959, in which he stated:
    "Our investigations into this matter have also revealed"—
    that is on the question of juvenile drinking and juvenile drunkenness—
    "that in some cases intoxicating liquor has been obtained from off-licence premises, and whilst it is extremely difficult to stop this practice, I hope that off-licence holders will do their best to ensure that young persons are not allowed to buy drink for their own consumption."
    I sent my right hon. Friend a statement of the warden of a community association who gave five cases within his own personal knowledge and experience; then the testimony of the vice-chairman of a juvenile bench; and then a statement by a youth leader at South-port, by a minister of a church in my constituency, by a youth worker at Cheltenham, and by a youth worker at Leeds. I also sent him two newspaper cuttings, one, significantly, from the Morning Advertiser, which reported a case of three boys, one age 15 and two age 16, who were convicted in Neath County Juvenile Court of having obtained and consumed liquor from an off-licence, and the other a report from the Crawley Weekly News of the highly-unsatisfactory position existing in Crawley new town as a result of children and young persons obtaining liquor from an off-licence, the off-licence holder having, of course, no legal authority to refuse to supply them in the present state of the law. I do not for one moment accept the thesis which is, apparently, accepted by some Members of the House that no evidence of a substantial character exists of evil arising from the present state of the law in this regard.

    I have found that a great many well-informed people, with whom I have discussed this matter, are entirely ignorant of the present state of the law. I have found it difficult to convince large numbers of people to whom I have spoken that the law is that a child of 5 or over can purchase liquor in an off-licence. I have not found anyone who is prepared to defend that legal position nor anyone who is prepared to oppose the substance of the new Clause.

    In view of the publicity concerning the existing state of the law which will result from this debate, the fact that multitudes of children and young people will be made aware as a result of this debate that they can go to an off-licence if over five years of age and purchase liquor, whatever the case might have been before this debate, this debate makes it inevitable that Parliament should deal with this matter in view of the increased evil which must arise as a result of this debate if we do not tighten the law.

    I do not understand why my right hon. Friend thought it necessary to make these inquiries. He did not make them in regard to liqueur chocolates, which is a very small matter compared with the issue that we are now debating. He did not say that he had to ask the chief constables and the magistrates' clerks whether there was evidence of evil arising from children and young persons buying liqueur chocolates.

    My right hon. Friend accepted the view in Standing Committee without any persuasion that that was a matter that should receive attention and that if the right were to be given to confectioners to sell liqueur chocolates, clearly there should be a restriction on the right to sell to young persons. I cannot see how my right hon. Friend requires so much more conviction in regard to a larger matter when, on a smaller matter, he was prepared so easily and so readily to accept the need for this restriction.

    I do not feel that this House would be discharging its duty if it were to fail to go into the Lobby this evening to make clear to the Government the sentiment of this House. I am certain that in so doing, we should be reflecting the sentiment in the country. I am certain that my right hon. Friend is anxious to do what is right. The trouble is that he has asked the wrong questions of the wrong people and he is sheltering behind the fact that he does not have enough evidence when the evidence is available on every hand if we seek for it and obtain it.

    I understood my right hon. Friend to say that the chief constables and the magistrates' clerks who had been consulted were overwhelmingly opposed to an amendment in the law in the sense of the new Clause. If that is so, I must say with great respect to the people concerned that they have gone beyond their proper functions in expressing a view on that matter. It seems to me entirely proper for chief constables and magistrates' clerks to provide information on matters of fact in response to inquiries addressed to them, but when they take upon themselves to abrogate to themselves the duties of Parliament—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—and to seek to influence this House as to what this House ought to do on a matter of legislation, that seems to me to be going beyond the proper duties and the proper scope of the activities of people like magistrates' clerks and chief constables.

    If my right hon. Friend has asked the wrong questions of the wrong people, who, in my hon. Friend's opinion, are the right people and what are the right questions for resolving this issue?

    What I would like to have asked would have been whether there was evidence of drink being consumed as a result of the present state of the law and not evidence as to drunkenness, because the two things are quite different.

    9.0 p.m.

    Are we prepared to accept the position that a child of 6 can consume drink as a result of this loophole in the law, provided that he does not consume it to the extent of becoming intoxicated? I am not prepared to accept that position. Therefore, the test with me is not whether drunkenness results but whether consumption of liquor by young persons and children results. That is the question I should like to see addressed. [HON. MEMBERS: "To whom?"] My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has shown himself very willing to respond to the mood of the House today. We are all grateful to him for his willingness to seek to give effect to what is the majority view of the House and I hope that on this matter he will see fit to do the same thing, to reflect the view of the House and of the country and make an important step forward in social and temperance reform.

    I am rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State intervened when he did in the debate. I fully appreciate that he did so because of an undertaking that he gave when the Bill was passing through Committee that he would seek evidence on this matter. There is no doubt that he has sought evidence but, as far as I am concerned and I gather from what has been said in the debate as far as other hon. Members are concerned, it is not such evidence as most of us would accept.

    One naturally pays attention to what chief constables and magistrates' clerks say because they are engaged locally in dealing with matters of this sort, but they are not the only people whom we should consult, and, if the situation is as the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) alleges, it looks as though the right hon. Gentleman has put the wrong questions. Certainly, if he asked whether these people were in favour of any change in the law and overwhelmingly they said they were against it, one must take the assertion for what it is worth. It is not a question that we should ask chief constables. It is for Parliament to decide on the evidence.

    Although one takes, quite properly, all such evidence as chief constables and others offer, it is not the only evidence that the House should take into account. My hon. Friends, both in Committee and in the House, have brought overwhelming evidence to show that drunkenness among teenagers is growing. I do not suggest that five-year-olds buy bottles of gin, although under the law they are capable of doing so if they are so minded. It is the teenagers who now, fortunately or unfortunately, have enough money to spend who go in for this kind of thing. There is not the slightest doubt that drunkenness among young people is growing. Even the chief constables whom the right hon. Gentleman approached could not deny that.

    Where do these young people obtain the drink? They possibly go to on-licence premises and get it there. Many of them nowadays look more than their age. Some can pass for 18, but on-licence holders are generally very strict and keen to comply with the law and they do not willingly serve anyone under 18 if they have knowledge of his age. There is not the slightest doubt that these young people are getting the drink and the assumption therefore must be that some of it comes from off-licence premises where the licence-holder cannot prevent their having it. The Minister said that out of 112 cases, nine cases of drunkenness were attributable to drink obtained from off-licence premises, but he did not say whether the liquor in the other cases had been obtained from off-licence premises or where the young people had obtained it. If in the other cases the young people were not drunk but they obtained the drink from off-licence premises though only nine went so far as to be "tight", then we have evidence of 112 cases from the chief constables to their own knowledge.

    I had better correct the right hon. Gentleman. There were 1,120 cases, in nine of which there was association between the drunkenness and sales from off-licence premises.

    That is even worse than I thought—1,120 cases where drink had been obtained in sealed bottles from off-licence premises.

    No; 1,120 cases of drunkenness among young people, of which nine were associated with off-licence sales.

    How was it known where the 1,120 young people had got their drink? Surely there are only two sources. One is an on-licence and the other is a shop or off-licence premises.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman realise where in practice most of the drink is obtained, certainly for bottle parties? If the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) were present, he could tell us with absolute certainty. It will be found that it is done by telephone, and this has not yet been mentioned. It is ridiculous; we have been talking about evidence and so on. If young people of 17 or 18 want some drink, they can telephone an off-licence or anywhere else and have it sent round to them in crates with the greatest of ease, and do not need to go to an off-licence at all. That is how most of it comes about.

    That only shows that we are not going far enough in this Bill, and we can at any rate stop this one loophole, if we want to, by accepting the Clause moved so ably by the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartbpools (Commander Kerans).

    I honestly do not understand the right hon. Gentleman. I have been sitting here trying to puzzle out how his brain has been working over this matter. He is, to our certain knowledge, a very humane Minister. He has for years taken a great interest in work among youth, and his activities in that respect have been rather fruitful- He is quite definitely in the eyes of all of us, I hope, someone who takes an interest in young people and wishes them well, and yet here, where there is obviously a loophole in the law and there is a feeling on both sides of the House that this is an opportunity to close it, the right hon. Gentleman refuses even to consider the evidence which has been sent to him and fobs us off—I must use that phrase, because it is the only one which fits the situation—with evidence that he has got from a certain number of chief constables some of whom, perhaps—I hesitate to say this—are of a temperament which does not want interference of this kind or extra work put on their officers who are overworked anyway.

    This is the last Bill of this kind that we shall have for a long time. It is obvious that, given the atmosphere and temper of the teenagers of today and all the violence that we read about in the Press, this kind of thing is likely to continue and that the young people will get drink if there is this way of getting it. The number of cases which have come to the notice of the Minister do not appear to be great, but many of us believe that they are much greater than the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, or than he has evidence about. That being the position, and as it is likely that this kind of thing will get progressively worse and we shall not have another Licensing Bill for a long while, the proposal which has been made could do nobody any harm.

    As my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has whispered to me, if he sends his son along to the tobacconist he cannot get a packet of cigarettes but if he sends him to an off-licence he can get a bottle of gin, a bottle of whisky or anything else. That is an absurd anomaly in our law. Here is an opportunity to cure it. I am positive that when we reach the end of the debate the right hon. Gentleman will find that more people than he imagines, even from his own side of the House, will support the hon. and gallant Gentleman's proposed new Clause.

    I hope that after listening to the debate my right hon. Friend will think again about his attitude to the new Clause. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) spoke of bad habits. The only justification for allowing young people to purchase alcohol from off-licences is if they are buying it as agents for their parents. I would not say that it was a bad habit for a father to have his son get the beer, but we are going through a period of great social change.

    When I was a youngster, we went to off-licences for a pint of draught beer, but nowadays beer can be bought by a juvenile from an off-licence only if it is in a sealed container, and it is important to remember that if the seal on a bottle is broken, the game is given away to the parent.

    Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is only if the child is under 14 that the beer must be provided in a sealed container and that children over the age of 14 can buy it whether it is in a sealed container or not?

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. What I was going on to say was that the breaking of the seal gave the game away to the parent only if the child was buying the bottle on behalf of the parent and took a nip on the way home.

    I well remember that when I was an apprentice and I was marking my name on my tools my mate said, "It is no good marking them because they will pinch the name as well as the tools." That is the case with a sealed container. If the child or young person is purchasing the liquor for his or her own consumption, the sealed container will give no evidence to anyone, because when the child has consumed the contents, the seal will go the same way as the container—into the nearest dustbin.

    We are seeing great social changes and it is time that we ended this anomaly whereby a young person can go to an off-licence and purchase two or three pint bottles of beer, or a bottle of whisky, but cannot purchase ten cigarettes for his father on the same errand.

    My right hon. Friend said that there was a balance which we had to maintain, and I believe that on balance all parents will say that they would rather go to fetch their own beer than allow the present situation to continue, with young people, purchasing supplies of liquor and going into a quiet corner and holding a bottle party or a record party or whatever it is, unknown to their parents, and getting into a great deal of difficulty. I am sure that on balance most parents would want my right hon. Friend to reconsider the matter, so that even if parents are given a little more difficulty, at least the younger people are not given so much opportunity or so much temptation to get into drinking at an early age.

    Dr. Horace King
    (Southampton, Itchen)