I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause, standing in my own name and that of several other hon. Members, is regarded, I believe, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a hardy annual, and it has come to be known as a hardy annual because ever since the present basis of licence duties was fixed by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in 1910 at half the annual value of the premises for publican's licences and one-third of the same for beer-house licences, the retailers of this country have regarded it as vindictive. Since 1910 not only have the trading hours been reduced by a half but the keenest competitor of the licence holder, the working man's club, has increased in numbers from 8,152 to 17,211—those are the latest figures available. In recent years the cinema has proved another competitor with which the average licensee cannot hope possibly to compete. The sobriety of the nation and the fact that members of the licensed trade conduct their businesses in an exemplary manner, notwithstanding the serious financial crisis through which so many of them are passing, is surely sufficient justification for their claim to consideration at the hands of the Government. For years there has been no equality of sacrifice so far as these traders are concerned. Time after time they have been promised that the consideration which is their due will be given to them when circumstances permit.
In 1929, when the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was an arrangement between the licensed victuallers and the Government that if the licensed victuallers were conceded a 25 per cent. reduction in duty they would withdraw their objections to the sale of half bottles of spirits by the off-section of the trade. The off-section in 1923 were allowed the half bottle concession, but the licensed victuallers got no reduction in their licence duties. In 1935 a similar Clause was given sympathetic consideration by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury. To-night I ask that the sympathy of the Government should take a practical form and that they should remove a long standing grievance—nay, an injustice—which thousands of our loyal, honest, law-abiding licensed victuallers have had to suffer.