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Licensing Laws (Erroll Report)

Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet able to state what plans he has for implementing the recommendations of the Erroll Committee's Report.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when changes may be expected in licensing hours on the lines suggested by the Erroll Committee.

There have been serious differences of opinion about a number of the recommendations in this report, and these need to be carefully weighed. My right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to make a statement.

Does the Minister consider that an extension of drinking hours up to a set total limit within any one day will hinder or help the increasing drunkenness that we can observe at and after closing time every night?

That is one of the highly controversial features of the Erroll Report. It is known that the problem of drunkenness and alcoholism, especially among young people, is substantial. The Government, therefore, have to give careful thought to any change in the law which might aggravate it.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I received an exactly similar answer to a question which I asked on 19th December last? Is she aware that the number of tied houses is increasing, the number of licensees is diminishing, exhorbitant rents are being demanded from licensees by brewers, and a growing monopoly situation is being created?

As my hon. Friend says, these problems do exist. They were all taken into consideration by the Erroll Committee and are dealt with in the report. The fact remains that there is great difference of opinion about many of the committee's recommendations.

Will the Department now emerge from the hibernation which it has endured for more than one winter, recognise that the first tourists of spring are with us, and allow the people of these islands to join them and make them welcome at any hour they wish?

I can only say that for every one person who agrees with the hon. Gentleman there are many who disagree.

I recognise that there are disagreements, but there is a large measure of agreement that the Home Secretary should introduce legislation and that the licensed trade is ready for an extension of hours, provided that a global total is chosen by the trade. Would not that action secure greater liberalisation and, at the same time, effective control? There has been a long delay, for which we are all responsible. I do not blame the Government for that.

The report was debated in the House of Lords in March 1973 and in this House in October 1973. I assure the House that the comments made by hon. Members are being carefully considered.

Is the hon. Lady aware that many of us applaud the cautious note which she has sounded this afternoon? In view of the rising trend of offences involving drunkenness and the increase in alcoholism among young people, is there not a strong case for not taking action until the full social consequences of the present trends are fully assessed?

I should inform the hon. Gentleman that in 1973 there was an increase in offences of juvenile drunkenness amounting to 32 per cent. in the male 14–17 age group.