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New Clause—(Limited Special Hours Certificates)

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

(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.