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Liquor Licensing

Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 25 March 1975

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3.33 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to liquor licensing.
I wish to draw attention to—[Interruption.]—

Order. Will hon. Members who wish to leave the Chamber please do so quietly?

I wish to draw attention to what is in danger of becoming a public scandal, the plight of 27 people of some eminence who between them gave up a total of 48 months, and the civil servants who assisted them, and all the bodies and individuals that took the time and made the effort to give evidence to produce the Erroll Report on Liquor Licensing for England and Wales and the Clayson Report on Scottish Licensing Law, two eminently sensible and moderate reports. The first was presented in December 1972 and the second in August 1973. I allow my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that since then we have had two General Elections, but now is the time to implement the modest proposals in those reports to reform the liquor licensing laws.

I have not been encouraged by the almost pusillanimous and certainly inconclusive statements by Ministers on the topic since February last year. The time for implementation of the reports' recommendations is now. The object of my Bill, which has support from both sides of the House, is to give the Government an opportunity to implement the three main Erroll Committee recommendations for England and Wales.

The first recommendation concerned access to licensed premises. The Bill would not reduce the age of access or the age at which one was allowed to drink, but it would allow publicans, with the approval of the justices, to set aside rooms for the use of families, and would facilitate the continental café-pub idea which has for so long been prevented by legal technicalities from being introduced into this country.

The second of the major Erroll proposals was that the permitted hours should be from 10 a.m. to midnight. I can find no one who can provide an ordered and sensible justification of our present licensing hours. They are antediluvian. They have no basis in social practice, economic logic or just plain common sense. It is time we did something to put them straight.

Erroll's third recommendation was that the licence for a pub should be separated from the licence for a publican. At present the two are interleaved. There is no logical reason, and it militates against the removal from the list of a publican who is not fit to be one, or the removal of a pub with inadequate facilities or hygiene.

I am introducing the Bill because my main specialist interest in the House is in consumer affairs. For too long these matters have been decided by a conspiracy between the temperance lobby, the brewers and the publicans. I am concerned with the drinkers. Our licensing hours should be designed with at least their interests in mind.

I have received many letters since I announced that I was to introduce the Bill. A large proportion of them were in favour of changing our outdated laws. Those against raised some points that I should like briefly to answer.

On access, they said that pubs were unsuitable, and that parents want to get away from their kids when they go into a pub. My Bill would put no obligation on a publican to have a family room. He would be able to apply to the justices to have one if he wanted, but there would be no obligation on the justices to allow such a room. They would have to be satisfied that the premises, both the specific room and the pub itself, were suitable.

As for parents getting away from their kids, there would be no obligation to have such a room as I have said, and I believe that if the Bill were passed children would not be allowed in the majority of rooms in almost every pub.

Two points are raised on the question of hours. One concerns disturbance to those who live near public houses. The second is the question of the problems of the publicans. The Bill would give the justices power to order a pub to close at any time up to two hours before midnight if they felt that it would cause a disturb- ance if it were open later. Under the Bill there would be no possibility of brewers making publicans open at all the permitted hours. They would be able to open for the hours that they wished.

I am trying to get away from the idea of one law for the rich and another for the poor. At 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m. the rich can go to a night club or restaurant and have their drinks. I know of no fish and chip shop which has been licensed to serve drink after hours.

I am glad to say that I have received no objections to the proposals on licence separation. I believe that the justices and the trade would welcome this reform.

There are some who are opposed in principle to any change in the licensing laws. I believe that that is an irrational position, but there are some hon. Members who adopt it. I ask them to read the report by John Davies and Barrie Stacey for the Scottish Home and Health Department on teenagers and alcohol. They showed four simple things. First, the heavy drinkers tend to be those who are introduced to drink at a late age. Second, those with disapproving parents who give alcohol the image of forbidden fruit are likely to induce their children in practice to be heavy drinkers in later life. Third, parents who make their children think that alcohol is not only forbidden fruit but some thing associated with adulthood and "grown-upness" will tend to make their children heavy drinkers later in life. Fourth, the commonsense and real limitation on drinking heavily is simple economic restriction.

It is the amount of money one has in one's pocket which in the end determines whether one becomes a heavy drinker if one wishes to do so. It is not access or hours, which have nothing to do with the case.

I believe that the changes which would be introduced by my Bill would be beneficial and would preserve the social customs of this nation but at the same time would make modest and sensible changes which are in keeping with the times.

3.41 p.m.

I wish to oppose the motion. During the last 15 years we have witnessed a lot of permissive legislation which has not been beneficial to the public as a whole. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas), I am concerned about the drinkers. What I am concerned about is that if this measure is passed I can visualise that in a few years' time we shall have a greater problem on our hands in respect of alcoholics than we have today—and Heaven knows, we have a number of alcoholics today.

I believe that if the House this day allows this measure to proceed, we shall be opening the floodgates. It is not wanted in the general consensus of people to whom I have spoken, including people who drink. Like other hon. Members, I have received letters on the subject.

Division No. 159.]


[3.44 p.m.

Aitken, JonathanGeorge, BruceOakes, Gordon
Amery, Rt Hon JulianGourlay, HarryOvenden, John
Ashley, JackGow, Ian (Eastbourne)Palmer, Arthur
Ashton, JoeGriffiths, EldonPark, George
Bates, AlfGrocott, BrucePendry, Tom
Benyon, W.Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Penhaligon, David
Biggs-Davison, JohnHarper, JosephPhipps, Dr Colin
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHawkins, PaulPrescott, John
Bradley, TomHayman, Mrs HelenePrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Brotherton, MichaelHoram, JohnRadice, Giles
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Huckfield, LesRathbone, Tim
Buchanan, RichardHunter, AdamReid, George
Budgen, NickJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Johnson, James (Hull West)Rose, Paul B.
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Canavan, DennisJones, Dan (Burnley)Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaKaufman, GeraldSillars, James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kelley, RichardSilverman, Julius
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Kerr, RussellSims, Roger
Cohen, StanleyKilroy-Silk, RobertSkinner, Dennis
Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenLamborn, HarrySnape, Peter
Conlan, BernardLawrence, IvanStanbrook, Ivor
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Lawson, NigelSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Corbett, RobinLe Marchant, SpencerStrang, Gavin
Cormack, PatrickLipton, MarcusThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Critchley, JulianLoyden, EddieTierney, Sydney
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Luard, EvanTinn, James
Dalyell, TamLuce, RichardTomlinson, John
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Mabon, Dr J. DicksonTownsend, Cyril D.
Dunnett, JackMcAdden, Sir StephenWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)McElhone, FrankWard, Michael
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)MacFarquhar, RoderickWatkinson, John
Ennals, DavidMarquand, DavidWeetch, Ken
Fairgrieve, RussellMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldWhitehead, Phillip
Faulds, AndrewMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Fell, AnthonyMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Flannery, MartinMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fookes, Miss JanetMolloy, WilliamYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Ford, BenMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Forrester, JohnMorris, Michael (Northampton S)


Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'wd)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Mr. Roger Stott and
Freud, ClementMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Mr. Neville Sandelson.


Beith, A. J.Hardy, PeterSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Biffen, JohnHooley, FrankSpriggs, Leslie
Braine, Sir BernardHooson, EmlynStanley, John
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)James, DavidStewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Cryer, BobKilfedder, JamesTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Urwin, T. W.
Doig, PeterMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Durant, TonyMudd, DavidWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
English, MichaelNeubert, MichaelWise, Mrs Audrey
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Newens, Stanley
Eyre, ReginaldRenton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)


Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesRoss, William (Londonderry)Rt. Hon. E. Fernyhough and
Gray, HamishSpearing, NigelMr. John Lee.

Question accordingly agreed to

I believe that Parliament should exerise its authority and oppose the measure because, in my humble opinion, to allow children into a pub, even though a room for them is set aside, is wrong. I would not wish to take my young granddaughter into a pub.

This is the thin end of the wedge, and we ought to oppose it.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order NO. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bill and nomination of Select Committtes at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 35.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mike Thomas, Mr. Roger Stott, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. Patrick Cormack, Mr. Marcus Lipton, Mrs. Millie Miller, Mr. Stephen Ross, Mr. John Tomlinson. Mr. Ted Graham, Dr. J. Dickson Mabon and Mr. David Marquand.