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Clause 5—(Permitted Hours For Licensed Premises And Clubs Generally)

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.

I beg to move, in page 9, line 30, to leave out from "to" to "shall" in line 32 and to insert:

"the following subsections, in any licensing district in England and Wales the permitted hours in licensed premises".

It will be convenient to discuss the following Amendments at the same time:

In page 10, to leave out lines 1 to 17.

In line 5 to leave out from "evening" to the end of line 6.

In line 9 to leave out from "desirable" to the first "and" in line 12 and to insert:
(4) The licensing justices in any licensing district, if satisfied that the requirements of the district make it desirable, may by order modify for the district the hours specified in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above, within the following limits—
  • (a) the total number of hours on any day shall be nine (ending at half-past ten in the evening), or, where subsection (2) above applies or is adopted, nine and a half (ending at eleven in the evening), and the hours shall not begin earlier than ten in the morning; and
  • (b) there shall be a single break of not less than two hours in the afternoon.
  • (5) In this Act "the general licensing hours" means in relation to any licensing district the hours specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) above, with any modification applying in the district by virtue of subsections (2) to (4) above.
    (6) An order under subsection (3) or (4) above may make different provision for different periods of the year or for different weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, or may make provision to take effect for particular periods only, or for particular weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, but so that no alteration of the general licensing hours shall take effect within eight weeks of another.
    In line 16, to leave out "this subsection" and to insert "subsection (3) or (4) above".

    In line 28 at the end to insert:
    Provided that no order under subsection (3) or (4) above altering the beginning or end of the general licensing hours shall invalidate any permitted hours previously fixed under this subsection, but so much of the hours so fixed as falls before the beginning or after the end of the general licensing hours as altered shall from the expiration of six weeks after the date of the order be treated as excluded from the permitted hours in the club premises.
    In line 29, to leave out from the beginning to "to".

    In line 31 to leave out "hour from two to" and to insert:
    "period (if any) between the end of the first part of the general licensing hours and".
    In line 33 to leave out "hour" and to insert "period". In line 44 at the beginning to insert:
    "This subsection shall apply to any premises for which a restaurant licence or residential and restaurant licence is for the time being in force, except that it shall not apply to any such premises where by the conditions of the licence the time before the afternoon break is excluded from the permitted hours; and in other cases".

    Shall we discuss at the same time the following two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman):

    In page 9, line 34, to leave out from the beginning to the first "the" in line 35.

    In page 9, line 37, to leave out from "afternoon" to the end of line 40.

    They cover the same point.

    We come to the question of permitted hours. The Amendment which I have moved is paving and the substantive Amendment is that in page 10, line 9.

    When the Government introduced the Bill they introduced a system of uniform hours for licensed premises but on Second Reading and in Committee they were pressed to introduce a greater flexibility on the ground that local needs demanded this. In Committee I said that on Report we would try to combine a measure of flexibility with the pattern of uniform hours, which had much to commend it, and I hope that the House agrees that these Amendments achieve that purpose.

    The principle of uniform hours is retained, but licensing justices are given a discretion to depart from the uniform hours, if they think fit, in certain directions. The uniformity of total hours—nine or nine-and-a-half—is retained and there is no discretion for the justices to depart from that. The closing hour is retained at 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m., and there is no discretion to depart from that. But licensing justices are given discretion to vary the afternoon break, which stands in the Bill as 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

    Under the Amendments it will be possible to fix the break at any time after noon for a period of not less than two hours. That is the first departure. I have received many representations asking me to provide for this flexibility in the afternoon break.

    Secondly, justices are given power to depart from the uniform hours in respect of the opening hour which, if they think fit, can be at 10 a.m., as opposed to 11 a.m. under the uniform hours in the Bill. The third variation which justices are empowered to grant is a certain amount of variation according to periods of the year, or even days of the week. It will be possible for justices, for a limited period of the year or for certain days of the week—I have in mind Fridays or Saturdays—to allow different hours for licensed premises from the hours obtaining for the rest of the week. For example, it will be possible to have 11 p.m. closing on Fridays and Saturdays and 10.30 p.m. for the rest of the week.

    That, again, is a point which was represented to me on many occasions, and I think that it is a sensible approach. Hon. Members may think that this introduces too much flexibility, but it is fair to point out that licensing justices, who, given this power to vary hours according to days of the week, might feel bound to grant the additional hours under the Bill in respect of all days of the week—may well just grant them for Fridays and Saturdays. Therefore, it should not be thought that this variation will necessarily lead to an increase in drinking hours. Those are the principal ways in which the Amendment departs from the principle of uniformity in the Bill. It accords, with one exception, with the views expressed in Committee. That exception was the view expressed that there should be different hours for different parts of a licensing district. I could see the merit in that proposal, but the more I examined it the more I saw the difficulties involved. That part does not feature in these proposals.

    With that exception, I should like to think that we still have the principle of uniformity, which commends itself to the Government, but I am satisfied that there is a case for local needs requiring variation, particularly in the middle of the day. On Second Reading I said that I thought that when dealing with permitted hours the House wanted the best of both worlds. I hope that the Amendment, when read in conjunction with the Bill, goes as near to that as possible.

    The Amendment in page 10, line 28, relates to club hours. We have made one very small variation there. In the Bill as it stood it was possible for clubs to have two of their five hours on a Sunday during the early afternoon and the other three in the evening not before 6 o'clock. It has been represented by sporting clubs that 6 o'clock in the evening makes it a little late for them to make full use of their facilities. Therefore, this Amendment will make it possible for clubs to start their afternoon session at 5 o'clock in the afternoon instead of 6 o'clock, which will commend itself to them.

    Perhaps I may reply later to any points raised by hon. Members who have Amendments that are being taken with this group. I repeat that this implements the proposal to introduce more flexibility into our licensing system.

    I shall be brief, because I realise that we all want to make progress and get away as soon as possible. It is true, as the Minister of State said, that under pressure from his own side he indicated in Committee that he would introduce on Report provisions to allow a greater period of opening hours in different parts of the country. Most of us logically are in favour of uniformity. The right hon. Gentleman said several times that he was wedded to, or wanted, uniformity, but the only uniform thing about these proposals is their non-uniformity. I say that because there are areas now under the provisions which are proposed that can have a variety of hours, and this will mean something which I am quite sure the Home Secretary and the Minister of State himself want to obviate, namely, a rushing of drinking and "pub crawling" from one area to another because in one place the public houses are open half an hour later than in another. None of us wants that sort of behaviour, especially since it is sometimes done in motor cars. We wish to get uniformity of closing hours even if we have not got uniformity of opening hours earlier in the day.

    11.0 p.m.

    I appreciate that in a market such as Covent Garden, or in some country market, there is a good deal to be said for having the public houses open when the demand is there. For one thing, it saves the licensee from a lot of extra hanging about, and from expense which he would not incur if he could shut the public house; and it prevents the inveterate "pub crawler" who, when the pub is open, whatever the hour, will be in it doing his drinking. There is a lot to be said for varying the hours, but that has the drawback that, late at night and, to some extent, during the day, those who live only to drink and to swill from pub to pub will find themselves in a kind of dreamland. That will happen to such people when they can go from one area to another and drink almost all the clock round; and that is something which none of us wants.

    Nevertheless, the Minister of State in reply to representations from his own side of the Committee, decided to introduce this Amendment although I for one would like to see some of it not there. We are powerless in this matter and we shall have to let this go, despite the desire for uniformity which many of us share.

    I welcome the Amendment as we have had it explained by the Minister of State. My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) kept talking of "we", but I do not think that he was speaking for every one of us on this side. I see that he shakes his head in confirmation. We are quite free to speak and to vote as we wish on this matter, and I am in favour of the Amendment. It will help such towns as those at the seaside where I live. I would remind hon. Members of what the Secretary of State himself said on this subject during the Committee stage:

    "The reasons for a modest increase are to conform to the different pattern of leisure which exists today and to place a little more responsibility on the consumer to exercise his own choice of hours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th March, 1961; c. 551–2.]
    I applaud that. This Amendment is wanted in seaside towns. People who go away for a holiday and have not to get up early in the morning to go to work are happy to break their routine and have a little extra leisure, getting all the refreshment they can from doing something which is different—getting all the benefit they can from that. I say "Good luck to them", and it is important that they should have this opportunity. Contrary to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley says, they do not get drunk; not one tithe of them do anything so silly. What they do is to spend a modest evening, listening to yarns or whatever it may be, and I thoroughly applaud the fact that they do it in a modest way which brings no disgrace whatever to anybody. In the circumstances, we need the opportunity to go on more regularly to 11 o'clock generally, and to 11 o'clock for specified periods of the year.

    I have put down an Amendment to the Government's Amendment in page 10, line 9, to insert new subsections (4), (5) and (6), which, perhaps I may mention now. I do not know whether it was to be called or not. It is an Amendment, after the second "evening" in new subsection (4, a), to insert:
    "and in either case if in their opinion special reasons exist ending at eleven thirty in tile evening".
    That Amendment would give the magistrates opportunity, if in their opinion special reasons exist, to make the closing hour 11.30 in the evening. My own view is that this would be another very modest step forward.

    My hon. Friend says "too early". He and I have been lone voices pleading these liberal or libertarian causes in the House. If we could make this modest move forward to 11.30 p.m., that would be very good.

    We do not have in mind the extension of general drinking hours to 11.30 throughout the country or, indeed, to any great extent. We want the magistrates to have the opportunity to make up their own minds about it in conditions at holiday resorts particularly, where the demand may exist, so that an experiment could be tried to see whether there is such a demand for people to stay out late enjoying themselves, on the sea front, perhaps, which ought to be met. It could be done.

    It will be said that this is hard on the publican and hard on the staff in public houses. I agree that it is. But all of us who work in the hotel trade, whether the licensed trade or not—I say "us" because I have worked in the trade—have to tolerate hours which are not convenient. People who work in the ordinary hotel trade and in the public house trade have to serve people at those hours of the day when they require service. Just as I regret the fact that a milkman has to get up at 4.30 in the morning in order to deliver our milk early enough, I regret that workers in these other trades have to work inconvenient hours; but in a trade which exists to serve the public, we have to serve people in a spirit of service. I do not think it would be an undue burden to ask people in the licensed trade, particularly in holiday resorts where they are helping people to have a good time during their leisure days, to undertake this extra half-hour where magistrates think that there is a very special reason for allowing it.

    After listening to today's debate, I feel that someone must begin to be a little more libertarian. A great many restrictions have been plausibly advanced. I pay my tribute to those who advocate them; they believe in their cause sincerely, but I ask them to understand that, on the other side, some of us feel libertarian equally sincerely. We do so not because we are drinkers—I do not touch much alcohol myself—not because we want to do all these things ourselves, not because we want to see liberty turned into licence, but because we believe that people have the wisdom and leisure to make a choice for themselves in these matters, without the grave dangers which were present in the past when there was too much opportunity for indulgence.

    It is in that spirit that, first, I support the extension which the Minister has made and, second, I plead with him to give us a chance, in the particular circumstances to which I have referred, to allow magistrates, if they think fit, to have an experiment and permit the extension of licensed hours to half-past eleven.

    I feel like saying "Whoopee" after feeling the breath of fresh air brought in by that expression of view by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). I have been rather like David fighting against the Baptist Goliaths.

    Yes, I am happy to make that amendment requested by the hon. Member.

    I agree with every word spoken by the hon. Member for Northfield. I considered very carefully whether I should put down an Amendment to make the finishing hour 11.30 or 12 o'clock. I do not think that "special reasons" are necessary. It is quite sufficient to include "until half-past eleven in the evening." I invite the Government to do it. They have had a considerable change of view since Second Reading. It will now be seen from the Amendment in page 10, line 9, that the Government have now written into the Bill what is the whole principle of flexibility. This was the real battle which I regarded as the major fight on the Bill, and I have been fighting all the Amendments on all the Clauses more or less upstairs and downstairs and everywhere.

    What I regard as the outstanding matter to the country as a whole, to the consumer, not to the trade, any trade, any interest or any religious views but to the ordinary man who wants a drink, is subsection (6) of the Government Amendment to which I referred. This is the provision which enables magistrates to
    "…make different provision for different periods of the year or for different weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, or may make provision to take effect for particular periods only, or for particular weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, but so that no alteration of the general licensing hours shall take effect within eight weeks of another."
    This is to ensure flexibility.

    The position now is that we have a nine-hour licensed day, except in London which is given a preferential advantage and regarded as an important city and is still given a 94-hour day. That is wrong. I see no reason to draw a distinction between the number of hours in the Metropolis and in the rest of the country.

    First, the licensed victuallers, the licensees and others are not prepared to stand for longer than nine hours, or nine and a half hours in London. We must accept that, whether we view it as trade unionists or from the other side. It is pointless for the Press to print a lot of nonsense about the country not going in for liberalisation. It is not the country. The matter stands four-square on the trade. It will not work longer than that I take the view, which I think a great many hon. Members share, that we ought to have flexibility and also a reasonable totality of hours and that they should not be more than nine and a half hours in one day. That is also the Government's view.

    But I still plead with the Government—and there is plenty of time, for they have changed their ground considerably—that these nine and a half hours should be within the choice of the licensee within the totality in one day. I see no reason why in the Isle of Thanet, where we want it, public houses should not be able to remain open in the summer months until midnight, by adopting a system whereby they would be open from 11 o'clock until 3 o'clock and from 6.30 p.m. to midnight or 11.30 p.m. if the magistrates are prepared to fix those hours—and they are. In that way we should have the afternoon break, quite rightly provided for by the Government, and we should be within the totality of nine and a half hours but nevertheless have public houses able to provide drink up to midnight. In restaurants, special hours certificates could provide for another hour and where there was music and dancing provision would be made to remain open until 2.30 or 3 a.m.

    In the industrial Midlands, in Nottingham and Derby, for example, it is true that people want a relatively early closing hour in the middle of the week. They are probably quite content with 10.30 or even 10 p.m. then, but on Friday and Saturday nights men want to be able to stay up drinking until 11 o'clock and possibly until midnight.

    11.15 p.m.

    It is not that the Government are against this. It is not that my right hon. Friend wants to be difficult, or the Home Secretary, or anybody else. They are merely trying to do what they have tried to do throughout, which is to get the feeling and spirit of the country, the House and the trade and industry. I think that the men who have not truly understood the position in their own interests are some of those engaged in the trade who are afraid of long hours and who were particularly afraid of the provision that brewers could enter into agreement with licensed victuallers which would compel them to remain open for the period of the licence. Clause 7 provides that they have the right to close, and the trade, through the brewers, has given perfectly satisfactory undertakings now, but at the time when we were discussing these matters with the trade it did not then have those undertakings satisfactorily.

    Frankly, the industry has never been very united. The brewers do not really speak with one voice. The leaders do but not the majority of the brewers. The licensed victuallers do not really speak with one voice. Therefore, it is not easy to get the exact views of the trade in that respect. It is, however, easy to get the exact views of the hotel trade because its associations have a unity of view which is absent with the others.

    Therefore, I feel that we have to look at this entirely from the point of view of the public, the consumers, bearing in mind in this House that we can do only what is practicable, that we cannot ask the men in the trade to work longer hours than they are prepared to do and have done habitually for some time past, and that those hours must certainly not exceed nine and a half.

    Therefore, I endorse and accept everything that comes in the Amendment. I hope that we may be able to get some favourable publicity about this and that we shall continue the battle, and that another place, accepting what has now been done, will use its flexibility to bring about one change only, and then I think that this major part of the Bill will be perfect. By that I mean that it should ensure that within the framework of nine and a half hours—anything more than that will only lead to a war with the trade—a choice shall lie at the application of the licensee but subject to the endorsement of a bench. It requires only a very small Amendment. It would then enable people to choose within that "umbrella" their hours between, say, 10 o'clock in the morning and midnight. The Amendment goes a long way towards it.

    I am sorry to have taken a little time on this matter, but I think it is a very important one. If I cannot get all that I ask for, I shall certainly be glad to get 11.30 p.m. I am sure that not a single hon. Member representing one of the tourist and seaside resorts will be against me on this aspect when I say that in the summer we should certainly like the public houses to be open till 11.30 p.m. It would mean that, with the restaurants, we could go to midnight or later.

    Is there a doubt that London would like to go until 11.30 or midnight? Clearly it would, and clearly it is in its interests that it should. Therefore, while we retain a broad uniformity in that regard, let the choice be as flexible as possible. Let us advance what has already been evolved by the Government in these more flexible arrangements which I believe are those which will really meet the widest number of the largest majority in the country.

    The last two hon. Members who have addressed the House have pleaded for longer hours, until 11.30 p.m.

    Yes, a later hour. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) spent some time dealing with the question of whether we were liberal enough in our attitude to this problem. Everyone has his own opinion about what is a liberal attitude and for several hours we have had to do without the benefit of the advice of those who speak with a capital "L" for Liberal. I do not believe that merely to have later drinking is an act of liberalising our living habits. I do not regard that as necessarily a sign of progress. I know that some of my hon. Friends do, as do some hon. Members opposite.

    A case is being made for variations of hours in different places, in market towns and other places. I realise that there is a case for variation during the day, but I am appalled at the prospect of justices being able to permit closing at 10.30 p.m. in one area while other justices permit closing at 11 p.m. in another.

    Every big city has its suburbia, and if there is permitted closing at 11 p.m. within the city and the time in the suburbs is 10.30 p.m., we shall have teenagers racing in their cars into the centre of the city in order to get a last drink for the night. We all know that this is not nonsense but that it can happen. If half the stories about people being so anxious to get a drink late at night are true, there will be this movement from the 10.30 area to the 11 p.m. area.

    If the Minister of State consults the police in the large towns and talks to the hospital authorities, he will find that at closing time on every Saturday night the graph of accident cases taken into hospital goes up at a sharp angle. That is already happening and if hon. Members make inquiries in their constituencies they will find that it is so. If there are uneven closing hours at night, the possibilities of accidents will increase. This is now a matter not of teetotalism versus drinking, but of protection of the people on Friday and Saturday nights when that graph reaches its worst in every city.

    If the Government wish to vary hours of closing during the day, well and good. I prefer uniformity in this matter and I notice that the Government, who like uniformity so much in other respects, drop the principle when it comes to Wales—but that is a battle to come.

    The Minister has not given us an adequate reason for permitting different closing hours in different parts of the country and I do not like the difference, even though it is only half an hour. I believe that people will suffer from it. The Government have been very forthcoming on major Amendments tonight, and I hope that they will seriously reconsider this matter to see whether, although variations might be permitted during the day, there should be uniform closing hours at night for public houses and licensed restaurants.

    If the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is under the impression that the Amendment we are now discussing makes any change in the closing hours he is, of course, mistaken. Closing hours have not been changed since the Bill was first published. The closing hour is 10.30 p.m.—and 11.0 in London, as it is at the moment—in those districts where the magistrates, the licensing justices, say there is to be a half-hour extension. Therefore, there has been no change at all in Committee or at this stage in the Government's attitude towards closing hours. Though there is greater flexibility in licensing hours generally in the middle of the day, the Government have adhered to the principle of getting uniformity of closing hours as far as possible. There is that difference, of course, because it exists in London at the moment, and because I think there are parts of the country which have a good case for a later closing hour than 10.30.

    The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) suggested that in acceding to these Amendments I was under pressure from my own supporters, but I think that there was universal support in the Committee and among the public at large for some greater degree of flexibility in the Bill, and that we have made.

    The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), adopting a more welcome and liberal approach as we discovered in Committee and at this stage this afternoon wanted to go further and extend the closing hour to 11.30. I very much doubt, having lived with the Bill for twelve months, whether there is a great demand for a later hour than 11.0 on the part of the trade, even if there is on the part of the public, but, of course, it would mean having three closing hours, 10.30, 11.0 and 11.30, because I am quite certain that many parts of the country would then want a later closing hour. The Government do not feel they would be right in going beyond 11.0 in respect of the closing hour, and on that we agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West.

    I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the Amendment moved earlier today by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) for a modified special certificate which, I believe, will be of great value and possibly of more extensive application than is generally realised, particularly in the part of the country in which, I think, he lives, but not which he necessarily represents. That, I think, will meet the need of those special cases which want something beyond the hour of 11.0.

    My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I know, wants a greater degree of flexibility still. We have gone some way to meet him but we still feel that the earliest opening hour, 10.0, which is that fixed in the proposal of the Amendment, and a closing hour of 11.0 is reasonable in all the circumstances and generally accords with the debates we have so far had on this Bill.

    Therefore, I am glad that hon. Members who have spoken have welcomed the changes we have made. I do not think that the Government would wish to make any further changes in respect of permitted hours.

    When moving the Amendment I failed to refer to the Amendment which, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think your predecessor in the Chair called, the Government Amendment in page 10, line 28—the proviso. It allows clubs a period of grace in which to adapt their hours to the modified hours which justices may operate. That is because clubs can alter their hours only at annual meetings, and so there must be a delay before they can bring these hours into operation.

    The Government Amendments in page 10, line 29 and line 44, provide for She late lunches the closing hour of 3.0 at restaurants where the licensing justices choose the closing hour for the afternoon break earlier than that. That problem did not arise when the Bill was first published, but if the afternoon break is earlier than first envisaged it will be probably necessary to provide for late lunches, as, indeed, happens at present. That will automatically extend to restaurants with licences which request it.

    I believe that these proposals go as far as possible to meet the various representations which have been made in respect of permitted hours.

    I think it would be right if the right hon. Gentleman would just confirm—I think I am right in saying so—that the powers to vary hours apply only to weekdays. There is considerable concern about Sunday opening. There was when the Bill was introduced, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to confirm that that would not be possible because this change relates only to weekdays.

    That is quite right. In moving the Amendment I referred inadvertently to Sundays. This Amendment applies only to weekdays.

    Amendment agreed to.

    11.30 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 9, line 39, after "to" to insert "half past."

    This Amendment was widely supported when it was moved in Committee, and at that time I thought that it had been accepted in principle. It received very favourable consideration from the Government. It has a mass of support, not only from those of my hon. Friends whose names appear on the Notice Paper but from many others in Committee and in the House. There is good ground for it, because it is in the nature of a swop.

    There was a lot of criticism about public houses being allowed to remain open until 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, because of the fear that Sunday joints would be ruined. As a result, an Amendment was made which made them close at 2 p.m. Now there is no less than five hours' break between when they close in the afternoon and when they open again, at 7 p.m. in the evening. The law has been restricted in that respect. Previously a public house could open for any three hours between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and there was a break between 2.30 and 6 p.m. Therefore, I submit that we should at least restore the balance by allowing public houses to remain open until 10.30 p.m.

    There are two or three very brief but strong arguments in favour of the Amendment. First, it is only reasonable to say that people coming out of the cinema or similar entertainment on Sunday evenings should be able to get a drink in public houses before they go home. They are too late to do so if the public houses have to close at 10 p.m., but they may be able to do so if the extra half hour is added.

    Secondly, the Amendment is of very great importance to the restaurant trade throughout the country, and the whole catering trade supports it. I move it not in that spirit, however, but as one who feels strongly on the matter itself. I expect that many other hon. Members return to London from their constituencies on Sunday evening at about 7 p.m. and then go to a cinema or other show, and find over and over again that when they come out they are unable to get a drink.

    I appeal to the Minister to give us this quid pro quo, having regard to the reasonable attitude which we adopted in Committee. We should be delighted if the Minister would accept the Amendment.

    I beg to second the Amendment. I moved a similar Amendment in Committee and was under the impression, when I withdrew it, that the Government had accepted it in principle and were going to find a better form of words in order to introduce it into the Bill, possibly with some modifications to allow for local variations. I was therefore very disappointed not to find a Government Amendment on the point.

    When I first came to London as a young man I used to go to a cinema, and when I came out afterwards I found it very difficult to get a meal, and if I wanted a drink I had to rush to do so. From the point of view of the community as a whole, and especially from the point of view of young people living in towns and cities who wish to have some entertainment on a Sunday evening, it is right and proper that there should be this extra half hour in which to have a drink at a restaurant or elsewhere.

    Many people go into the country on a Sunday. When they return, they like to have a drink before going home—without going on to the M.1 or anything of that sort or wandering through the byways of Sussex or Surrey—and it is right and proper to provide this amenity for those who have been out for the day on a Sunday.

    I am probably at fault in misunderstanding the conclusions of the Standing Committee because there was an expression of opinion that closing time should be extended to half-past ten on Sundays. When the Government introduced the Bill, they extended Sunday hours from five to six hours by creating an additional hour in the middle of the day. That proposal was not exactly popular, particularly with the trade, and the Government returned to the present figure of five hours. The Amendment moved by my hon. Friend seeks to put back half an hour at the end of the day. That would give us five and a half hours on a Sunday, as opposed to the existing five. The extension of weekday hours will, of course, vary from half an hour to one and a half hours over the existing time. I therefore think that it would be popular if there was an extension of half an hour on Sundays from five to five and a half hours.

    I have been at some pains to discover whether opinion in the trade is in favour of the proposal. I think that on the whole it is, and certainly this point of view was expressed in Committee upstairs. It has been expressed again tonight by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), and the Government advise the House to accept the Amendment.

    What effect will this have on restaurants? Will they also have to shut at 10.30 p.m. on Sundays?

    This will be the closing time for permitted hours. Under the Bill as it stands it is possible to have a supper hour on Sundays, and restaurants can go over that time with an extension. Half-past ten will be the normal closing time for those subject to the normal permitted hours.

    As I see it, this will be the normal closing hour for public houses on Sundays. That means that after the public house has closed at 10.30 p.m. there will be drinking-up time of at least ten minutes, the clientele will then have to be cleared out of the premises, and then the staff will have to get down to cleaning the tables, sweeping, washing glasses, and so on. They will not be out of the place until well after midnight.

    I think that we ought to have a heart for the staff of public houses. They do a good job and try to serve their customers to the test of their ability. I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that, as far as he knew, the trade was in favour of this proposal. I hesitate to say that I doubt it, but frankly I hesitate to accept the view that the majority of them want to work for an extra half hour at least on Sunday nights.

    After the liberal way in which the right hon. Gentleman and the Home Secretary have met us on the other Amendments, I am sorry that at this late hour, more or less on the spur of the moment, when few, if any, of us expected a change of view such as this, it is the general wish and will of the House that the Minister should accept the Amendment. I do not know what we can do. We are probably in a minority. In fact, I am certain that we are, but if that were not so, and if it were not late at night, I for one would be willing to go into the Division Lobby against this proposal.

    I put in the strongest possible protest against this Amendment being accepted on the spur of the moment at this late hour when a large number of our colleagues have gone home, not expecting anything of this kind to happen.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has rendered the House a service by uttering a word of caution and warning. I believe that I am right in saying that the Government proposed an extra hour for drinking on Sundays, but there was such a storm of protest from people in the trade and from the housewives that they felt obliged to give way. Now they are adding half an hour at the wrong end of the day. I believe that it is the wrong end of the day and in this matter, time and again, I have had the support of those responsible for law and order.

    If hon. Members spoke to those responsible for maintaining law and order in their constituencies, they would find that such people always dislike longer hours for drinking. They can better bear it during the day—it is all very well for the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) to sit recumbent and laughing at this question, but it is a matter of considerable importance to those responsible for maintaining law and order.

    I believe that this is also an important matter for those in the trade. My right hon. Friend was right to say that this will mean a substantial addition to their working hours. It will mean an extra three-quarters of an hour, or forty minutes if we add on the ten minutes drinking-up time at the end. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members must forgive me if I am backward on this subject, but I am not well versed in matters concerning drinking. I want to know from the Minister of State whether the ten minutes is added. If it is, I am right. There will be forty minutes after the closing time originally suggested. I submit that this proposal will mean that closing time, instead of being ten o'clock, will be twenty minutes to eleven. [HON. MEMBERS: "Half-past ten."] Hon. Members opposite have been very quiet all day: I should be glad if some of them would make speeches on the subject. The night is young yet.

    I wish to ask the Minister of State not to rush this question without further consideration. It is a major matter concerning drinking hours and he should take the opportunity to look at the matter again before committing himself.

    I have no objection to this for those who want it. But I envisage that in some country districts there will be small demand for the public house to remain open for the half-hour after ten o'clock on Sunday nights. What will be the position of the licensees of such premises?

    11.45 p.m.

    I wish to support what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). It would be very unfortunate if at this late hour the House adopted the suggestion of the Minister of State without reflecting what is involved in this Amendment.

    My recollection is that when the matter was before the Committee there was no general demand that the Bill should be changed in such a way that the normal closing time on a Sunday was 10.30 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., which would be the effect of the Amendment. In Committee we debated permitted hours generally and, with one or two exceptions, the Committee were agreed that the Government's original proposal to extend mid-day opening from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. was desired by nobody. It was not desired by the patrons, the licensees or the public. That proposal was sensibly dropped.

    When we were discussing the remaining questions of Sunday opening the Minister of State said:
    "There is a demand which I should like to consider that there should be a possible extension from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. I should like to consider, in conformity with the Government's proposals for week-days, whether another extension is possible if the justices think fit. I should like to consider that—not a general extension on Sundays but an extension, at the justices' discretion, of half-an-hour".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th March, 1961; c. 563.]
    That is one thing, but this proposal is quite different, because it proposes to standardise the closing time on a Sunday at 10.30 p.m. subject to whatever the House agrees about drinking-up time. It goes very much further than the Minister of State contemplated in Committee, when he said that he would discuss the matter with the Home Secretary. It comes as a surprise to us that the Government suggest that the general closing time on a Sunday, in the country districts as well as in the cities, should be changed from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. without any discretion from the justices.

    I believe that the general feeling in the Committee was against that. There may be a case for giving the justices a discretion, but surely there can be no case for saying that in future the normal closing time even on Christmas Day should be 10.30 p.m. Will the Home Secretary give his mind to this? Is he satisfied that there is a demand that in future the closing time of public houses on Christmas Day, Good Friday and Sundays should be extended from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.? That is the proposal which the Minister of State is rashly prepared to accept. It is wrong to make a drastic change of this kind in the licensing hours without anything like due consideration and without any evidence that there is a public demand for it or evidence on the trade's attitude. From such representations as I have received, I am convinced that most licensees and their staff attach importance to being able to close earlier on a Sunday than on other days of the week, partly because the transport hours are different on a Sunday and partly because they want to get home earlier than on week-days.

    I very much hope that before we pass from this discussion—it will not be possible to conclude it tonight—we shall hear from the Home Secretary whether he really thinks that it is sensible to make a drastic change of this kind in the Bill at this stage.

    I want to follow the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) that, if any half-hours are to be given away—I find no fault with that—this is the wrong end of the day to put them. There is one small, perhaps not totally unimportant, section of the community whose convenience has been too little studied in our proceedings so far. I refer to churchgoers. There is a long-standing tradition of refreshment after worship. In many areas of the country the churches "loose" at 11.30. It is a long time to wait until 12 noon.

    I do not suffer too much from that, because, although I live in an area where these hours of worship obtain, by a most convenient arrangement we collect the Sunday papers—which we all read after church because we like to hear both sides—at the village pub. We have to wait until they arrive at about 12 noon. I should not like to compromise our landlord by saying Whether his respect for the law or his sense of hospitality wins.

    I am sure that in other parts there is a great demand by many people who wish to meet and be convivial with their friends on Sunday mornings. By the time they have washed the oar, or done the garden, or fixed the washer on the tap at the kitchen sink, they are ready fox it at 11.30 and they can get back at a reasonable hour which suits the convenience of the rest of their family.

    I must not trespass too long on your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because the next Amendment, which is in my name, is not to be called. I endorse the plea of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West that, if anything is to be given away, it should be at the beginning of the day.

    I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench will not take it amiss if I venture to remind the House again that they speak for nobody but themselves, as we all do in this debate. That exalted position at the Dispatch Box always seems to lend a certain additional gravitas to anything which is said from it. My right hon. and hon. Friends speak in one sense only for themselves, but throughout today, and again in this part of the debate, there has inevitably been a certain representative character in much which has been said by hon. Members on both sides. There are those who speak quite openly and unashamedly on behalf of the trade. There are those who speak for what I may call without offence to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who I know will not take this as in the least personal, because we all have a great affection for him, the teetotal Lobby.

    I speak only for myself, except that in so far as I speak for anybody else I speak for the ordinary average moderate-drinking man who does not belong either to the trader—licensed victuallers or brewers—or to the teetotal extremists, the teetotal Lobby.

    My hon. Friend was correct to remind us that the original proposal to extend permitted hours from two to three o'clock on Sunday afternoon was very unpopular. It did not meet with any wide acceptance either in the trade or, which to my mind is much more important, among the public generally. I agree with my right hon. Friend who reminded us of the hard work put in by those who work in public houses. We certainly should have concern for their welfare. It would be easier to do so if they were more thoroughy organised in their appropriate trade unions, but I will let that pass. What we ought primarily to be concerned with is the consumer, the ordinary member of the public who wants to, and is entitled to, get food and drink at what seem to him to be reasonable times.

    The proposed three o'clock extension on Sundays was not popular, but the evening half-hour will be popular with a very large number of people; ordinary members of the public. I personally would go a little further, but the extension of drinking in public houses to 10.30 p.m. does mean, unless I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, that with meals in restaurants one will be able to get a glass of wine or other drink until 11.30 p.m.

    Good. Possibly my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West does not accept this or understand it. He said that he was willing to learn; I would be glad to teach him practically as well as theoretically. In a great metropolis such as London is supposed to be, although I think it is sometimes rather a dim and shabby one on a Sunday night, there are at such a time a great many people who have been to some form of entertainment, to a theatre or a cinema, and who have not had time to have a meal first.

    In many cases, although this may surprise my hon. Friend, that is because they have been to church. People do not always go to church in the morning, they go in the evenings, too, or instead. Last night, for instance, on an important occasion in a church which I know very well, hundreds of people would have left the church at about 7.30 p.m., or soon afterwards. Many would have foregathered in a public house round the corner for a quarter of an hour or so and then gone to a cinema or one of the theatre clubs, such as the Arts Theatre Club or perhaps to a youth club. They see no harm in that, but think of it rather as a way of spending a civilised and Christian Sunday; enjoying themselves after divine worship by going to a show of some sort.

    That is what they do, but when they come out after the show, at 10 or 10.30 p.m. they will need a meal, and what is now proposed will be of great advantage to them. As the law stands, people who come out of a cinema at about ten o'clock can go to a restaurant, indeed, but they cannot get a drink at all. They have to be there before ten o'clock and that, in the circumstances which I have described is difficult for them. My hon. Friend does not believe in strong drink at all, but I know him not to be so intolerant as to say that those who have a meal must not have a glass of wine with it. To such people this concession will be most welcome. I wish that it could have gone a little farther, but I personally welcome it for what it is.

    The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) is right. It is possible under what we propose to buy a drink with a meal up to 11.30 p.m., and to consume it until midnight; but I would remind him that his hon. Friends on the Front Bench have put down an Amendment to leave out the extra hour. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) put down an Amendment, and, as I have said, we have left this to somebody else to take the initiative. It was taken, and has been supported fairly strongly from both sides of the Committee. So I do not think we have done wrong there.

    12 m.

    Thirdly, I did think that this should be at the justices' discretion, but, on reflection, I suggest that there is merit—this should please the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—in retaining uniformity at least for Sundays, and to accept justices' discretion on a difficult night of the week could possibly give rise to the "pub-crawling" which we are anxious to avoid. Therefore, though we can consider it further, we think that the Amendment proposed is correct.

    I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and of other hon. Members to Clause 7 (7) where under licensees may close before closing time. We discussed this at an earlier stage. The Bill gives authority, if it is necessary, for licensees to close before closing hours. It may be thought that the brewers' agreement would prevent this. The Brewers' Society has made it quite clear that it will not enforce upon licensees the additional hours introduced by the Bill, and therefore it would be possible for a licensee in my hon. Friend's constituency to close before 10.30 p.m., as I believe many will.

    I beg to move,

    That the debate be now adjourned.
    I move this Motion in order to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary what his intentions are. As I understand it, there was an informal arrangement that we should, if we could, reach the end of Clause 5. It was hoped that we might do that at an earlier hour than this. It is now after midnight and we are nowhere near the end of Clause 5. Moreover, we have had a rather startling innovation from the Minister of State, who has accepted an Amendment which makes a revolutionary change in the Bill, not the slightest hint of any such acceptance having been given in Committee. At the most, the suggestion was made that justices might, in their discretion, allow public houses to be open a little later on Sunday—

    Order. I was wrong in allowing the right hon. Gentleman to move to adjourn the debate, because he has already spoken to the Question now before the House. That was not in my mind.

    I was not speaking to the Clause, Sir. I was speaking to the new matter, that the debate be now adjourned.

    To the Question which is before the House the right hon. Gentleman has already spoken. Perhaps we can deal with this first, and then I shall not interfere with him.

    I have not yet spoken on the Amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I think we have not been treated at all well on this issue. The Bill was published in November. The Minister says that he has now ascertained that the trade is in favour of the change. It is very extraordinary—I say this with all respect to him—that he did not realise it before. Why should we have to wait until midnight tonight to be told suddenly of the Minister's conversion, which, again, if my recollection is not at fault, was not foreshadowed in our discussions in Committee? The question was raised, if I remember aright, as to whether there should be some discretion given to justices. [AN HON. MEMBER: "NO."] If my recollection is at fault, it is at fault, but that is my reading of what happened. We are now suddenly confronted by the Minister's acceptance of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), which has been, correctly I think, described as making a revolutionary change. [Laughter.] At this late hour, although hon. Members may guffaw about it, the fact is that several hon. Members have gone, and the matter cannot receive full consideration. We are confronted by a proposal to add an extra half-hour. It will affect the whole country, country districts and urban districts. It is bound to cause a great deal of inconvenience for those who have to work in licensed premises.

    The Minister says that he has now ascertained that the opinion of the trade is in favour of the change. When did he ask people in the trade about it? Did he ask them in November last year? Did he not ask them before November last year? When was his inquiry made? Why have we these sudden, extraordinary conversions on the Minister's part when he suddenly wakes up to the fact that there is support for a change which he and his colleagues never proposed at any earlier stage of the Bill?

    If the matter could be discussed when all hon. Members were present, when the public might be reassured that everyone's view would be properly expressed and considered, we should not, perhaps, be so much concerned. But for the Minister to ask the House to sit at this time and suddenly confront us with this volte face which has not been previously foreshadowed is not treating the House properly. If the Minister intends to address the House again I ask him to tell us why there has been this sudden conversion. When did he discover that the trade was so much in favour of it and what sections of the trade are involved? Does it include those who work in licensed premises? Does it include those in country districts who, if the public houses are to be emptied at twenty minutes to eleven, have to get public transport to get to their beds and have to do some cleaning, and tidying up before they leave for home?

    I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has properly considered the implications. He should say categorically what sections of the trade advised him that they were in favour of this change, when they so advised him and in response to what questions of his. He ought not now to ask that we should come to a conclusion on this matter. It is one of great importance and it has been suddenly sprung upon us. It is true that it was on the Order Paper and that we all saw it, but I hope that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet will not think me discourteous to him—I certainly do not intend to be—when I say that we are used to startling proposals by him being listened to by the Government Front Bench and turned down.

    We all assumed that that would happen to this Amendment. We all enjoy the airy, fresh and free—I will not say libertine—contributions of the hon. Member to debates on this type of matter. We thought that this was one of them, and then the Minister says suddenly in a quiet voice that he has consulted the trade and that the trade is on the whole in support. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "on the whole"? Is there much division in the trade? How is opinion divided in the trade itself?

    We have been badly treated in the sense that we had no kind of indication that this extra half-hour was to be imposed. The Bill will be part of the law for ten or twenty years, and at midnight we have this extra half-hour sprung on us which has not been hinted before. Hon. Members appear to be laughing, but I seriously say that it has not been hinted at before. I do not have the Reports of the Committee's proceedings in front of me, but I have looked them up and I think that I am right in saying that it was certainly suggested that in some parts of the country there should be an extra half-hour on Sundays but it was not suggested that it should be of universal application throughout the country and there was no hint that the Minister was suddenly going to change his mind on a major matter.

    This is not a small, technical change. It is a change of major substance in the Bill. I hope that the House will recognise that, broadly speaking, my own approach has been libertarian. I limp slightly behind the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet. I try sometimes to catch him up but generally the hon. Member outruns me. My complaint is of the way we have been treated in this matter. I hope that the Minister would think it fair to the public and to the Opposition and my hon. Friends to say that he will not invite us to proceed further tonight and come to a conclusion on the matter and that if we are to decide upon it it should be when the House is fresh and present in strength.

    It was the Government's hope that we should dispose of Clause 5 tonight. We are nearly at the end of the Clause. We should not be disappointing that hope very much if the Government decide that we should stop at this point on the Clause and revert to it tomorrow afternoon when we are fresh to consider a major change in the Bill.

    I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

    I move this Motion so as to ascertain the intentions of the Government—

    Order. We are not in Committee. The Motion which the hon. Gentleman should have in mind is, "That the debate be now adjourned".

    I thank you for your direction, Mr. Speaker. I beg to move,

    That the debate be now adjourned.
    I move this Motion in support of the submissions already made by my right hon. and hon. Friends.

    I rise to enable the Government Front Bench to realise that we have very strong feeling on this question and that it would be steam-rollering their will upon the House if, at this late hour, they decided that, regardless of the appeals which have been made from this side—which have not been answered—they would press this matter forward.

    I believe that the Home Secretary and the Minister of State have brought tolerant minds to a controversial subject. I never expected at the very beginning that all my point of view would be accepted on all issues, but I expected my view on some to be accepted. I think it most unreasonable that a half-hour extension on Sundays should be accepted by the Government when there has not even been any "kite-flying" in the country, when there has not been the slightest hint from official circles such as we had prior to the suggestion about an hour on Sundays, so that the matter could be aired among the public and feelings could be gathered. There has been none of that.

    I think that it would be a breach of faith with the country and discourtesy to those who hold the opinions that I do if the Government now said, "We are not prepared to mark time until tomorrow." Both right hon. Gentlemen opposite know the House well enough to realise that it is sometimes best to wait a little because they then get their business that much quicker. We have had illustrations recently where the Govrnment, with the strength of their majority, insisted on having their own way and steam-rollered the Opposition. They can do it tonight. The Government side of the House could push this through at any moment if they so wished. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are only six hon. Members on the Opposition benches."] We speak for more than six. We speak for a vast army of people outside the House.

    Although it is possible for us to be crushed here tonight, I warn the Government Front Bench that they will be creating an atmosphere which none of us wants. We want to bring a reasonable frame of mind to bear on this Measure. Despite our strong convictions, we are trying to be reasonable in our attitude and discussion. I hope that the Home Secretary and the Minister of State will realise that we are making a reasonable request. It need not take long tomorrow, but this ought at least to be dealt with by a full House, and it should have been aired before we reached a decision.

    I intervene for a moment or two to correct the memory of certain right hon. and hon. Members about what happened in Committee. In col. 563 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee, the Minister of State made the position only too clear.

    Referring to Sunday hours, my right hon. Friend said:
    "The Government proposed originally that they should be six, but reduced them to five in view of the feelings voiced. We have to consider an Amendment suggesting that they should be five-and-a-half. I do not think that there is much demand in the Committee or outside that we should revert to the original Government proposal of six hours. There is a demand which I should like to consider that there should be a possible extension from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th March, 1961; c. 563.]
    I was on that Standing Committee, and was very attentive to my duties upon it. I recollect our very long discussion on that matter.

    It is interesting to note that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) proceeded to get up and to say that, in view of what the Minister had said, he would not proceed to move his Amendment. I suggest, therefore, that the position has been made absolutely clear and that it will be within the recollection of most hon. Members on that Committee that that was so. The premises upon which hon. Members have moved this Motion are, therefore, absolutely erroneous.

    12.15 a.m.

    As the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) has quoted what his right hon. Friend the Minister of State said, it is only fair that he should read the rest of the quotation. The Minister said:

    "I should like to consider, in conformity with the Government's proposals for weekdays, whether another extension is possible if the justices think fit."
    The Minister completely repudiated any suggestion that there should be a general extension of half-an-hour and said:
    "I should like to consider that—not a general extension on Sundays but an extension, at the justices' discretion, of half-an-hour".
    The hon. Member referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), but the Minister said:
    "I have not closed my mind to that completely, but I suggest that the Sunday hours are about right, with a possible extension of half-an-hour in the evening if the justices are of that opinion. That was the view of the hon. Member for Dagenham…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th March, 1961; c. 563–4.]
    It was on that basis that the Amendment was withdrawn.

    My original Amendment was exactly in the terms as that now proposed by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).

    I am well aware of that, but the Minister made it perfectly clear in his opening speech—with which I do not entirely agree, but which I none the less accept—that, to maintain uniformity, about which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has strong views, he decided not to leave the matter open to the justices, but would take it as a general decision. That was made perfectly clear this evening. There is no mystery nor any misquotation.

    If what the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) says is true, and for the moment I am not concerned to deny it, what, in his view, would be the right course for the Minister to take as a result? Surely it is that the Minister should have put down an Amendment which everybody could see and debate properly, even at a late hour so long as it was there and we had been given notice. The quarrel which some of us on this side of the House have with the Minister is the casual way in which, at the end of a very long and tiring day, he accepted the Amendment when not even an hon. Member opposite expected him to do so.

    The Question before the House is, "That this House do now adjourn," to which I have not spoken.

    No. The Question is, "That the debate be now adjourned." I confess that I cannot remember whether the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) has spoken on that.

    On a point of order. The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) rose to speak on the Motion (moved by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), but had already spoken on it and, therefore, could not speak on it again.

    I think that I frustrated the efforts of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) to move that we report Progress, but for another reason. I think that it was after that that the right hon. and learned Gentleman began to speak on the Question then before the House.

    I certainly thought that that was what I was speaking about. I do not know what other hon. Members thought that I was trying to speak about, but that was my intention.

    I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) about whether my recollection is correct, but my recollection could not have been more amply confirmed than it was by the citation which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) read. My recollection was that the Minister said that he might consider the extra half-an-hour, subject to the justices' discretion. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) said that his Amendment was in exactly the terms of that of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet. So be it, but, with respect to both those hon. Members, I attach even more importance to what the right hon. Gentleman's attitude was, and that was his attitude. Perhaps it is not very profitable to discuss who is right on that point. I put it to the Ministers in charge of the Bill that surely they will accept that this is a major matter, not a minor matter; that it is very important. Surely they must accept that it is a matter which should not be debated at 12.20 at night, when the House is considerably depleted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because it is a major matter and both sides of the House are considerably depleted. I know that the ranks on the Government benches can be seen to be far more replete on other occasions than they are at the moment.

    The House is not here at full strength. There is fair selection, if I may so put it, both in looks and talent, and in other respects, but not complete in numbers.

    What I am saying is that this being a major matter which affects everybody, almost the 50 million of us who live in these islands, and which is not technical, but is a matter of substance, then surely the Ministers in charge must recognise that it is in the interests of the public and of the dignity of the House that it should be considered not tonight but when the House is here in full strength so that all opinions can be voiced, and so that a collective decision can in the true sense be taken upon the matter.

    If we are voted down then—and I do not say that I would vote either for or against this particular proposal; I should like to hear it fully discussed—after it has been fully discussed, and the House by a majority takes a collective decision upon it, nobody can complain at being voted down; but we can complain and we do complain if this major change is to be accomplished at this hour with the House with its present attendance as it is at the moment. I put that point, and I strongly press it upon the Home Secretary and the Minister of State.

    I can quite see that the Solicitor-General does not like it, because I can see his expression, and I am sure that he is not the sort of person who would like it. I do not think that either of the two other Ministers would like it, and I hope that they will give way on this. I think that this is a case in which the Government are not living up to their usual standards. That may be a matter of controversy, but in this matter I think that they fall well below their standards, whatever their standards are. They are not treating us properly. I think that I can see a conversation going on between the Patronage Secretary and the Home Secretary. I hope that they recognise that there is sense in what I am saying. I am not committed to either view on this matter. I can see arguments on both sides, but what I feel strongly, and what I do press upon the Government, is that if they insist upon the House coming to a decision now they will be treating the House and the public extremely shabbily.

    I do not think myself that there is any need to adjourn or defer consideration of this Amendment. It has received perfectly adequate discussion in the last hour or so. Various points of view have been put from both sides of the House. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for echoing my reminder that our right hon. Friends on the Front Bench do not speak for the Opposition as a whole, but only for themselves. It is necessary to do so.

    If my hon. Friend had been in his place for any considerable period of time during today he would have realised that over and over again everybody on this side indicated that he was speaking for himself.

    I am perfectly well aware of that. I have been in various parts of the Chamber for a considerable period during the day, although I have not ventured to intervene until tonight. It is none the less, as I was about to say when my right hon. Friend interrupted me, important to emphasise this point, because there are three of our right hon. Friends speaking from the Opposition Front Bench and it naturally gives the impression when they speak from the Dispatch Box, that they are speaking with special authority and special weight.

    My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), in his last intervention but one, used the word "Opposition". He must, of course, have been using the word with a small "o" and not a large "O". He was certainly not speaking for the Opposition, with a capital "O", as a whole.

    I do not want to appear to be censorious of my right hon. and hon. hon. Friends, even though I disagree with them on this point. The Government have made many concessions today. The explanation of the fact that the Amendment is not in the name of the Home Secretary may be that the Government have repeatedly been taking what the Home Secretary called "the sense of the House"—because concessions have been made, in most cases, as it has seemed to me on the occasions when I have been present, in the direction of the teetotal lobby.

    Many concessions have been made which have been a source of satisfaction to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). This is a concession to another quarter, which is less welcome to him, but I beg him not to over-dramatise the situation, and not to use the tremendously exaggerated language which was used from the Opposition Front Bench. My hon. Friend said that he speaks for a "vast army" of people outside the House, but I think that that phrase is applicable neither to the trade lobby nor to the teetotal lobby; it is applicable to the millions of ordinary, moderate drinkers who like having a drink now and then, including Sunday nights.

    I beg my right hon. and hon. Friends not to use such supercharged and highly exaggerated language about this being a "revolutionary" and "drastic" change—half an hour extra on Sunday night! What sort of country is this? I do not think that we need to adjourn the discussion; the matter has been adequately explored this evening.

    There are two points for consideration. The first is whether we should now adjourn the discussion, and the second is whether we should do so specifically for reasons connected with the Amendment under discussion. I am not prepared to accept the Motion, "That the debate be now adjourned", because we had originally intended to obtain Clause 6. However, I understood that that was not convenient for the Welsh Members, many of whom had gone home, and out of a very warm heart and out of regard for the Principality—even at this late hour—we came to what amounts to an understanding with the right hon. and learned Member and his hon. Friends that we should confine ourselves to getting Clause 5. I think that that is a reasonable programme, which we should stick to. It is less than we originally intended, but it is reasonable for tonight. We will, therefore, adjourn when we get Clause 5.

    As for whether the merits of the Amendment itself are sufficient reason for adjourning, in my opinion they are not. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) and many other hon. Members opposite, together with a considerable representation of hon. Members on this side, want this matter to be decided tonight, and I think that it would be unreasonable to depart from our understanding and not to do so. His remarks about "supercharged language" are justified; this is not so drastic or terrible a matter as has been made out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am as good a Sabbatarian as anybody in the House—without wishing to dwell on the fact in a personal manner—and I should like to explain how this decision was reached.

    I was fully aware of what my right hon. Friend had said in Committee, and I thought it was clear at that stage that the Government were veering towards a decision on the lines of the Amendment, but with the approval of the justices. That is the position. Since then, we have had several conferences on this matter, and the words used by my right hon. Friend tonight were used after a discussion with myself and our advisers. We came to the conclusion that it would be better to obtain uniformity where it could be obtained. We decided that we could not get it during weekdays, partly owing to the differentiation between London and the Provinces, but we could accept an Amendment involving uniformity on Sundays, and only a moderate enlargement of the present number of licensing hours. We thought that this would help to prevent the necessity for people to go dashing from one place to another to get a drink.

    12.30 a.m.

    If the Government had adopted a non-co-operative attitude during today I could understand an atmosphere of disgust or petulence on the benches opposite, but the atmosphere has been extremely good, and I hope that we shall not spoil it now. I have adopted and accepted several Amendments, one of which at least was not in the sense desired by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). We have been very much obliged to many hon. Members, and my right hon. Friend, my right hon. and learned Friend, and I have had to accept some Amendments which have not been entirely in the sense of some of our hon. Friends. We have done that in the sense of the House.

    Taking into account that some hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that this is reasonable, and the sense of the House on this occasion, I do not think that it is unreasonable that we should make further progress and that we should stick to our decision. If another place wants to examine our decision, let it do so, but I think that we ought to accept the decision announced by my right hon. Friend.

    Question put and negatived.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I understand that the hon. Member for Birmingham, North-field (Mr. Chapman) does not wish to move the Amendment to page 9, line 43, to leave out from beginning to "shall".

    I beg to move, in page 9, to leave out lines 44 and 45 and to insert:

    "at the election of the licensee conform either to the permitted hours or to the provisions for the general opening of shops under the Shops Acts for that district".

    I think that it would be convenient if we discussed with that Amendment the Amendment in page 9, leave out lines 44 and 45 and insert:

    "be the same as the general licensing hours of the licensing district save that the licensee may select the hours during which he wishes to remain open for the sale of intoxicating liquor and shall not be required to observe the statutory break in the afternoon".

    That would be convenient, Mr. Speaker.

    This is a simple Amendment. It was pointed out during the Second Reading debate that the law relating to off-licences was such that it was possible—not, I gather, that anyone did it—for the holder of an off-licence to keep open for 24 hours. When this matter was under discussion in Committee upstairs the Minister of State agreed that perhaps 24 hours was too long, and decided to make it 14½ hours instead.

    That provision is embodied in the Bill, and the Amendment seeks to delete that and to give the off-licensee the option either of conforming to the ordinary permitted hours when his public house is open, or, if it is a wine shop, the same hours, or, if it is, for example, a grocer's shop, the shop hours normal in that locality.

    Some of us take the view, and I am speaking not for the whole of the Opposition, but for those who agree with me—and I understand that that includes some hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite—that a period of 14½ hours a day is too long, and that it would be reasonable to conform to the ordinary shop hours.

    It seems to us who take that view a strange anomaly that if a person wants bread, or milk, or sugar, he has to wait until the shops open, but when it comes to intoxicating liquor he can, under the provisions of the Bill, get it from 8.30 a.m. The argument advanced by some hon. Gentlemen opposite was that it would be grossly unfair to a man if he could not get a bottle of beer early in the morning. It was pointed out that the same applied to groceries and other things, but those who took the view I have just mentioned did not think that that had anything to do with it. Never-theless, it appears to many of us that off-licences should conform to the provisions of on-licences or, at the option of the licensee concerned, the shop hours in effect in the area. I hope that this reasonable suggestion will be accepted.

    I support what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). I am sure that the Minister will be ready to make another concession. Whenever I have mentioned at meetings during the past few weeks that the suggestion during the Committee stage of the Bill was that these off-licensed shops should be open from 8.30 a.m. until 11 o'clock at night there have been outbursts of incredulous laughter. I wish that the Minister could have been with me to hear them. I believe that supporters of the party opposite are as upset as anyone about this. It is something entirely new in our social habits. It will drive the proverbial coach and four through the restrictive proposals in the Bill.

    I consider it reasonable to other shopkeepers that ordinary shop hours should apply to these premises. But, if not, then the same hours should apply as in the case of the public houses. I cannot think of any ground on which the Minister can defend this proposal. I have asked myself why, if I were in the shoes of the Minister, I should wish to keep these shops open from 8.30 in the mornings until 11 o'clock at night, and yet have strict control over the opening hours for public houses. I cannot think of any good reason.

    The Minister is aware of our anxiety about young people in relation to off-licensed premises. I believe that he will accept the Amendment and send us all home in a reasonable frame of mind. We are reaching the end of our major discussions on the licensing law and I do not consider it unreasonable to ask the Minister to show that he appreciates the spirit in which the Amendment was moved by accepting some limitation on these hours.

    The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has probably forgotten that we have reduced the hours proposed since the introduction of the Bill. At first, there was no limitation at all, but during the Committee stage the Government introduced an Amendment limiting the opening hours to not before 8.30 in the morning. If all premises were to be opened for these hours there would be some cause for concern. But licensees will have a choice of the hours during which they can open. I think that it will be agreed that the present hours associated with ordinary licences would be inconvenient for shoppers wishing to patronise these premises. Certainly, the Home Office has received many representations to the effect that the hours should be freed from those restrictions. Therefore, the Government introduced the provision to free all licensed premises from the normal permitted hours.

    In many parts of the country people wish to patronise off-licensed premises during shopping hours, which they will be able to do under the provisions of the Bill, but in other parts of the country, I am advised, there is a tendency, which will remain, to patronise them during the evening. To limit them to shop hours, even if the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) is right in his understanding of the shop hours, would not be satisfactory in all parts of the country. The Government believe that the right approach is to limit the period to 8.30 a.m.-10.30 p.m. and to allow the proprietors of off-licensed premises to choose within that period the hours which they wish to operate.

    It was said in Committee that the trade would be adversely affected by this. That was never my understanding; I have always understood that the trade was in favour of these proposals. But I said in Committee that if I had reason to believe that those employed in these premises would be adversely affected by this proposal, we would think again. Since that stage we have had no representations to that effect. That is because the working hours are governed by other considerations and not by the licensing laws. Furthermore, the wine and spirit trade has since endorsed the Government's proposals.

    I am in no doubt that the national organisations of the trade are in favour of these proposals. I therefore commend to the House the fairly wide choice of permitted hours during which those who operate off-licensed premises can choose which hours suit them and their customers best.

    As I understand the position—and I hope that I shall be corrected if I am wrong—the Bill would mean that in a grocery store with an off-licence the owner could remain open for the off-licensed trade until 11 p.m. while the sale of almost every other article in the store would be illegal. That seems to me to be an absurd position. It would place the shopkeeper in an invidious position. His shop would be open for only a minor section of his trading activities. He could sell goods under his off-licence to customers up to 11 p.m., but to remain within the law he would have to refuse to sell them food and other articles which were on display in his shop because he could offer for sale only articles covered by the off-licence.

    That underlines the difficulty which we shall face unless there is some attempt to bring the off-licence law into line with the ordinary licensing hours of the area or with the hours of the Shops Acts. If I am wrong in my premise I hope that the Minister will correct me. If I am right, I urge him to deal with the difficulties which will arise.

    I do not wish to detain the House at this late hour, but I feel a little uncertain about the proposals with which the Government are left. I accept the necessity to change the present ludicrous state of the law and I recognise that there must be flexibility in the hours at which off-licensed premises are open, but I should be happier if the Government agreed to consider in another place the possibility of backing both horses by inserting a limitation on the total number of hours during which the off-licensed premises may be open in any day. I should not consider it inappropriate that the total should be the hours during which an ordinary on-licensed premises are allowed to open. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will think about that between now and the next stage of the Bill.

    12.45 a.m.

    The interpretation of the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) is correct. Equally, it would be permissible for a grocery store to open at seven o'clock in the morning and sell groceries, but it would not be able to sell liquor. There are great difficulties involved in assimilating the hours during which liquor is sold to those during which groceries are sold, particularly in view of the traditions in many parts of the country.

    I note what my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) said. I agree that the approach he put forward, which is featured in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), is more worthy of consideration than that which we are discussing. There is some difficulty in allowing a wide choice of hours to individual off-licence holders, if only because of the difficulty of enforcement. But, if one is to consider any departure from the liberal hours in the Bill, it would be in that direction.

    Amendment negatived.

    Amendments made: In page 10, line 5, leave out from "evening" to end of line 6

    In line 9, leave out from "desirable" to first "and" in line 12 and insert:

    (4) The licensing justices in any licensing district, if satisfied that the requirements of the district make it desirable, may by order modify for the district the hours specified in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above, within the following limits—
  • (a) the total number of hours on any day shall be nine (ending at half-past ten in the evening), or, where subsection (2) above applies or is adopted, nine and a half (ending at eleven in the evening), and the hours shall not begin earlier than ten in the morning; and
  • (b) there shall be a single break of not less than two hours in the afternoon.
  • (5) In this Act "he general licensing hours" means in relation to any licensing district the hours specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) above, with any modification applying in the district by virtue of subsections (2) to (4) above.
    (6) An order under subsection (3) or (4) above may make different provision for different periods of the year or for different weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, or may make provision to take effect for particular periods only, or for particular weekdays in every week of the year or of any such period, but so that no alteration of the general licensing hours shall take effect within eight weeks of another.

    In line 16, leave out "this subsection" and insert:

    "subsection (3) or (4) above".—[Mr. Vosper.]

    I beg to move, in page 10, line 27, to leave out "six" and to insert "five."

    It would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment to page 10, line 28, to leave out "six" and to insert "five."

    I inadvertently referred to this when the House was discussing an earlier Amendment. This is a short point dealing with permitted hours for clubs on Sundays. It will allow them to start their evening session at five o'clock in the afternoon instead of six o'clock. This is in response to a plea made by sporting chubs, who wish to operate their evening session earlier rather than later in the day. It does not alter in any way the total number of hours during which they can be open, but they can start earlier in the afternoon.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: In page 10, line 28, leave out "six" and insert "five."

    In line 28, at end insert:

    Provided that no order under subsection (3) or (4) above altering the beginning or end of the general licensing hours shall invalidate any permitted hours previously fixed under this subsection, but so much of the hours so fixed as falls before the beginning or after the end of the general licensing hours as altered shall from the expiration of six weeks after the date of the order be treated as excluded from the permitted hours in the club premises.

    In line 29, leave out from beginning to "to."

    In line 31, leave out "hour from two to" and insert:

    "period (if any) between the end of the first part of the general licensing hours and."

    In line 33, leave out "hour" and insert "period."

    In line 44, at beginning insert:

    "This subsection shall apply to any premises for which a restaurant licence or residential and restaurant licence is for the time being in force, except that it shall not apply to any such premises where by the conditions of the licence the time before the afternoon break is excluded from the permitted hours; and in other cases."

    In page 11, line 8, at end insert:

    "and subsection (5) above shall apply, with any necessary modification, to premises licensed under that Act."

    In line 9, leave out "Subsections (1) to (5)" and insert:

    "As regards licensed premises and club premises, the foregoing subsections."—[Mr. Vosper.]

    Further consideration of the Bill, as amended, adjourned.—[ Mr. Hughes-Young.]

    Bill, as amended ( in the Standing Committee), to be further considered this day.