Orders of the Day — Licensing Bill
Mr Robert Young (Newton)
In rising to make a few comments on the contents of this Bill, I wish to say that I do not claim to speak for any of the temperance organisations in this country, although I know that many of the members of those organisations will agree with what I am about to say. When I took part in the Third Reading discussion on the Civic Restaurants Bill I said that it was probable that I would come to a decision on the question of the sale and control of liquor in quite a different way from some of my temperance friends. A decision on that basis now confronts me I have no difficulty in making it, because it has come in an unexpected way which justifies itself. I trust that when this Bill is passed, the Government of the day will see that no encouragement shall be given to the system whereby many sites in our towns are disfigured by collections of public houses, which dominate conspicuously the chief street corner positions. We do not want that sort of thing in the new towns.
I, therefore, congratulate the Government on their prevision and prescience in relation to these towns. It would, however, be a mistake to regard this Bill as designed to promote temperance or increase sobriety. There is no compulsion in that direction. It is a Bill to improve the machinery for the control of the distribution, location and government of intoxicating drink selling facilities in existing State areas as well as in new towns, designated and actual. I am glad of this early taking of powers to improve and protect the amenities of these towns so that in the future, the threatening and insidious dangers of a great social evil will not imperil the influence of those new towns in ruralising "England's green and pleasant land."
On two occasions I have visited Carlisle for the express purpose of seeing and learning something of its liquor trade control. I do not say that I was satisfied with all I saw and heard. Perhaps it was because I had not successfully suppressed my teetotal objections, for the purposes of investigation, to the use of and therefore to the facilities for the consumption of strong drink. I should have liked to find a much greater interest in the scheme by the inhabitants of the city, but that failure I learnt—I trust the Home Secretary will take note of it—was in large measure due to the lack of some measure of local control in the management of the scheme and its financial disbursements.
On the other hand, the general opinion of representative men, temperance organisations and religious bodies was a decided preference for their system of control over pre-State management days. Those who were aged enough, readily said that they would regard a return to pre-State management methods as a moral mistake, while the middle-aged and younger people, themselves frequenters of public houses, stated that in their opinion the public houses in Carlisle were equal in amenities, and in many cases in other directions superior, to such other places in other parts of the country. I ask myself after what I have heard this afternoon wherein lies the approval of State control in Carlisle. It has reduced the number of premises where strong drink is sold, from 321 to 178. There has been no outcry against that.