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|(1)A registered club may apply to the sheriff for any one of the following orders, that is to say—|
|5||(a) an order providing that during the winter period the permitted hours in the club on weekdays shall not be those set out in paragraph (a) of sub 5 section (1) of section four of this Act, but shall instead be the period between eleven in the morning and two in the afternoon and the period between four and half-past nine in the evening; or|
|10||(b) an order providing that during the winter period the permitted hours in the club on Sundays shall not be those set out in paragraph (b) of the said sub 10 section (1), but shall instead be the period between half-past twelve and two in the afternoon and the period between four and eight in the evening, and that for the purpose of the sale or supply of exciseable liquor for consumption off the premises there shall be no permitted hours in the club on Sundays; or|
|15||(c) an order which contains both the aforesaid provisions; and the sheriff shall, if in his opinion the conditions set out in the next following subsection are satisfied, make the order applied for.|
|(2) The conditions referred to in the foregoing subsection are—|
|20||(a) that the premises of the club are structurally adapted and bona fide used, or intended to be used, wholly or mainly for the purpose of providing facilities in connection with the carrying on by members of the club and their guests of athletic sports or athletic games;|
|25||(b) that one or more of such sports or games is or are usually carried on out of doors and, when so carried on, can (unless artificial lighting is used) only be carried on during the hours of daylight;|
|30||(c) that the said premises are regularly used, or are intended regularly to be used, during the winter period, for providing facilities in connection with the carrying on by members of the club and their guests, during the hours of daylight, of such a sport or game as is mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph;|
|35||(d) that having regard to the time at which the said sport or game is usually carried on by members of the club and their guests, the permitted hours set out in paragraph (a) or (b) or paragraphs (a) and (b) (as the case may be) of subsection (1) of section four of this Act are not suitable for the supply of exciseable liquor in the said premises to persons who participate in that sport or game.|
|40||(3) On an application for an order being made under subsection (1) of this section by any club the sheriff clerk shall forthwith give notice thereof to the chief constable who may, within twenty-one days of the date of the receipt by him of such notice, lodge with the sheriff clerk objections to the making of such order on the ground that one or more of the conditions set out in paragraphs (a) to (d) of the last foregoing subsection has not or have not been satisfied in relation to the club, and shall, on lodging any such objections, send a copy thereof to the secretary of the club; and if any such objections are lodged and not withdrawn, the sheriff|
|45||shall as soon as may be hear parties upon the application and objections and may order such enquiry as he thinks fit, and shall thereafter make or refuse to make the order applied for, and may award expenses against the unsuccessful party.|
|50||(4) An order made under this section by the sheriff in respect of any club shall expire on the date on which the certificate of registration which is in force in respect of the club expires.|
|(5) In this section the expression "the winter period" means the period beginning with the first day of October and ending with the thirty-first day of March.|
|Brought up, and read the First time.|
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
Mr. Speaker, there is a consequential Amendment to this Clause in Clause 5, page 7, line 16, to leave out from "or" to "six" in line 17 and to insert:
section (Alternative permitted hours in certain athletic clubs during winter) or, as the case may be".
Would it be convenient for this Amendment to be discussed at the same time as the new Clause?
If that is the general wish of the House. I do not know whether the Opposition can help me in deciding whether that is the wish of the House.
I am grateful for that agreement.
The application to clubs of the principle of standard permitted hours throughout Scotland has been one of the very difficult questions raised by the Guest Committee's recommendations. The Committee recognised this. At present, under Section 124 of the Act of 1959, clubs can fix their permitted hours to suit the wishes of their members, within certain limits—not very wide limits. Clause 4 of the Bill implements the Guest Committee's recommendation that registered clubs should have the same permitted hours on both weekdays and Sundays as licensed premises. On the whole, this provision has been welcomed and any inconvenience which may arise has been accepted as the price of the advantages of standardisation. It is the case that very few social registered clubs have objected to these proposals.
On the other hand, in the case of clubs which are primarily for some athletic sport or game, the hours at present fixed by the club within the existing statutory limits are, naturally enough, fixed as far as possible to meet the convenience of those who have been playing the game concerned. It must be accepted that to a certain extent the standard permitted hours do not fit in with the hours at which games are played as well as do the hours at present fixed by the club. Here there is a clash between two objectives, both of which are desirable.
We are generally in favour of the standardisation of hours and standardisation has been welcomed, but in our view it would be wrong to take standardisation to such a length that in some cases the standard permitted hours blatantly did not meet the obvious needs. The Government have received, I have received as Secretary of State and many hon. Members have received, a considerable number of representations from sporting clubs about the disproportionate inconvenience which it would cause in their circumstances. The question which we have to consider is whether anything should be done to meet this difficulty and how far it is desirable or possible to go without endangering the benefits to be obtained from standardisation.
I recognised this difficulty in my speech on Second Reading, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State undertook in Committee that we should introduce a new Clause to meet it. This is the Clause. The essence of the Clause is that if, for reasons beyond the club's control, the standard permitted hours and the club's main activities do not and cannot fit in with each other, there is a special case for a departure from standardisation. This is the case with outdoor athletic clubs in winter, when the short hours of daylight prevent play during the hours which fit in with the evening period of permitted hours. The effect of the new Clause is to devise procedure whereby a club may apply to the sheriff for alternative permitted hours on week-days and Sundays, or both, during the winter months. The sheriff will be obliged to grant an order allowing this if the four conditions in subsection (2) are satisfied, and if the club is devoted to outdoor athletic activities in the winter.
Subsection (1) sets out the procedure. The clubs apply to the sheriff for an order or orders. The week-day order provides for permitted hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. instead of the proposed standard hours. For Sundays, the alternative hours will be 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The general prohibition of Sunday off-sales is written into the provisions of such an order. A club which wants both Sunday and week-day alternative hours can have these in a single order.
The sheriff is obliged to grant an order if he is satisfied that a club meets certain conditions set out in the subsection which follows. As in the case of the club registrations, he is not given a general discretion to grant or refuse the application but he must grant it if certain matters are proved to his satisfaction. This seems to us appropriate, since the sheriff is a judge of a court of law and, unlike the licensing court, is not an arbiter of social questions.
Subsection (2) sets out the conditions which the club must meet. These are that the clubhouse must be genuinely used for facilities in connection with athletic games: that one or more of the games is outdoors and needs daylight or artificial light; that the clubhouse is used for such facilities for such a daylight game during the winter; and that the standard permitted hours are not suitable for the times at which the games are played. These are the main conditions in the subsection.
Subsection (3) provides for objection by the chief constable on the ground that any one of these conditions is not satisfied. Subsection (4) provides that the effect of the order should be coterminous with the currency of the club's certificate of registration—that is, until the annual expiry of the certificate by virtue of section 172 of the 1959 Act. Subsection (5) defines the winter period as 1st October to 31st March. This seems to be adequate to cover the period during which athletic clubs will be hampered by shortage of daylight.
The Amendment to Clause 5 provides for the extension—that is, an hour's extension to the permitted hours for drinks with meals. The Amendment alters Clause 5 so that the hour's extension is applied to the alternative permitted hours for athletic clubs.
Order. I propose to call some of the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). If another hon. Member wined to speak to the new Clause before the Amendments were moved, it might be inconvenient for the hon. Member for Kilmarnock to begin moving Amendments now.
No. The hon. Member can speak to the Question, That the Clause be read a Second time. No doubt in the course of that speech he would deal with such of his Amendments to the new Clause as have not been selected. I did not want him to preclude himself from moving an Amendment by something which he was about to say. Subject to no one else desiring to speak, I am willing to call the hon. Member for Kilmarnock at this stage, but I did not want him to be misled into a difficult situation.
In Committee, I was inclined not to vote against the Government's intention in this respect, because I thought that the least we could do was to wait to see what they said about what, on balance, was a reasonable case—that in respect of certain clubs this might well be justified from the point of view of the short daylight hours in the winter. But at that time the position was very different from what it now is. That was at a much earlier stage and it was only later that I discovered how gutless the Government are about their own proposals—and I have chosen my words carefully.
It is one thing to agree to a proposal when the Government are supposedly standing by other proposals relating to the supervision of licensed premises, albeit clubs, and quite another when, without a satisfactory explanation, the Government allow the provisions for that supervision to lapse. They cannot expect me to look with exactly the same eye as earlier on the provisions now before us.
The Government have not given any definition of an athletic club, nor the extent of such clubs. It is obvious that this revision will not apply to cricket clubs, although to meet these provisions cricket clubs could erect a practice net outside the clubhouse and play there in the winter time. But I am not satisfied that even with floodlighting such a club would come within the Clause.
However, I gather that golf clubs would be included. I have one apology to make about what I said in Committee when we discussed another plea of registered clubs and when I said that I had heard little about it. The plea about which I had heard nothing was for the sort of 'provision which we now have before us. I have had letters from at least two golf clubs, neither in my constituency, but both clubs which people from my constituency would be likely to visit—the Irvine Golf Club and Kilmarnock Brassie Club.
The Government are concerned about the hardship of golfers in the winter time who, having finished a game of golf before the hours of darkness, would be precluded by the present permitted hours provisions from getting the solace of a drink. That is to say, they would have to wait until five o'clock. One of the first arguments about this proposal was that clubs would go out of business if they did not have licences and that we had to bend every effort to ensure that they had the maximum right to purvey drink to the "drouthy gowfers".
If that is true, there is one obvious defect in the Clause, for the hours of morning will not be affected and any change which is necessary should not be made in the morning. But the Government are changing morning hours from 11 to 2.30 to 11 to 2, their only justification being to allow another half an hour in the evening drinking period. Yet that is the time when no one playing any game, golf, or anything else, will be worried about the light. Such a person would be concerned to get an extension in the earlier part of the day.
The sheriff has no discretion at all and must give this alternative permitted hour permission in respect of any club which satisfies the conditions in paragraphs (2, a), (2, b), (2, c) or (2, d). If a club
does not satisfy the conditions of paragraph (a), it should not have a licence in the first place. That paragraph is completely redundant. The other conditions are:
(b) that one or more…sports…are usually carried on…and when so carried on, can (unless artificial lighting is used) only be carried on during the hours of daylight;
(c) that the said premises are regularly used, or are intended regularly to be used "—
whatever that means—
during the winter period, for providing facilities in connection with the carrying on…
(d) that having regard to the time at which the said sport or game is usually carried on by members of the club and their guests, the permitted hours…are not suitable for the supply of exciseable liquor in the said premises to persons who participate in that sport or game.
Is it only the people who participate in the sport or game who will have the benefit of this change?
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will appreciate that there will be members of the club, who, possibly through infirmity, are no longer fit to use the privileges of the club, but who still keep their membership going. Are they not entitled to the same benefits?
But they will not be concerned with the motives which have prompted this change, because it is only the people who have been playing and who, because of the natural consequence of daylight not lasting as long in the winter as in the summer, will not be able to finish a game, or will have to finish it so early that they will have to wait an hour or an hour and a half to get a drink. That would obviously not apply to people who, because of infirmity, could not play the game anyway.
I am not at all satisfied with the wording, but my much more serious objection is that the granting of the order by the sheriff is more or less automatic. In some cases that might be justified. If my Amendment is called—I do not know which Amendments are being selected for discussion——
I am sorry. I made great efforts and I thought that the list of provisional selections had already been paraded for the hon. Member's attention.
It may have been paraded, but it has not reached me yet, Sir. The fault may well be mine, but as the parading of lists is a fairly irregular Parliamentary practice, and subject at all times to any decision by the Chair, it is not for ordinary Members to anticipate whether their Amendments will be selected.
I desire to help the hon. Member, not to interrupt him, but I will tell him which I propose to select. They are in line 6, after the first "and", to insert "half-past"; in line 7, to leave out "half-past"; in line 29, after "daylight", to insert "during the winter period"; and in line 36, at the end to insert:
(e) that having regard the location of the premises the public interest as represented by the desirability of maintaining uniformity of permitted hours in the locality will not be undermined by the making of the order.
but none of the others. I hope that that helps the hon. Member.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
No latitude is given to the sheriff and if the applicant satisfies the tests, the granting of the order is automatic. The only person who can make an objection is the chief constable, and he can object only on the ground that a condition in (a), (b), (c) or (d) is not satisfied. He has no say about public order or the desir ability of having such an order at all. In fact, he has no power. All that he can do is to lose money for the county, because if the sheriff turns down his objection he can be ordered to pay the costs, and presumably this would mean them being paid by the town or county council.
I am not satisfied with the new Clause in its present form. In view of what the Secretary of State for Scotland said about supervision, I do not think that he has made out a case for the new Clause. The more we depart from uniformity and the standardisation of hours of drinking, the greater is the need for police supervision. So long as I knew that there was to be adequate police supervision I was prepared to accept this change, but I am not now persuaded that it would be in the interests of Scotland to allow this new Clause to be read a Second time.
The Guest Committee, in paragraph 76, strongly recommended the standardisation of permitted hours. If we depart from the principle of uniformity, the Secretary of State for Scotland will have to deal with applications for all sorts of exceptions. Indeed, there is already on the Notice Paper a new Clause for an exception in which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) is interested, but I will not pursue that point. This is symptomatic of the trouble in which the right hon. Gentleman will find himself. He will be faced with applications to make all sorts of exceptions from the general principle.
The Guest Committee's Report says, in paragraph 76:
Almost all of the organisations from whom we have received evidence have urged on us the desirability of there being standard permitted hours throughout Scotland, that is to say of a system whereby the same permitted hours will be fixed by statute for all areas and individual licensing courts would not have power to vary them.
The Report then goes on to deal with the importance of such a decision.
What does the Secretary of State mean when he talks about athletic clubs? There are many clubs which will use this provision to open the door a bit wider to provide drinking facilities, and, although the intention may be to include golf clubs in this provision, I want to know what it is proposed to do about other types of clubs. Certain junior and juvenile clubs have the title, "So-and-So Football and Athletic Club". There are hundreds of such clubs which may wish to join in this liberalising campaign which is being conducted throughout Scotland to provide more facilities for drinking, and this is supposed to be a progressive movement. Like golf clubs, some of them can claim that they are in need of money.
In opposing the new Clause, I want to point to some of the pitfalls with which the right hon. Gentleman may be confronted in the future. What I have said relates not only to junior and juvenile football clubs, but to senior clubs, and in his efforts to help one type of club the right hon. Gentleman may find himself faced with applications from many different types of clubs for the facilities which he proposes to grant in this new Clause. I am opposed to it because it runs counter to the recommendations of the Guest Committee that there should be standard permitted hours for drinking, and that no exceptions should be made.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock said, it is astounding that the conditions referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) should obtain in any case, and it appears from paragraph (d) that if the time of the game does not coincide with the permitted hours for drinking we have to make those hours coincide with the playing of the game. This begs the criticism of the Guest Committee, that one of the greatest criticisms of clubs is that one of the primary purposes of being registered as a club is that it exists not primarily for drinking purposes, but in this new Clause the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make it possible to make the hours of drinking coincide with the hours of the game. The whole thing is preposterous and I shall be disposed to vote against the new Clause.
I, too, think it desirable that there should be some uniformity in the hours during which people are permitted to drink. We in Scotland have been plagued with this problem for many years. One licensing area permits an extra half-hour, or hour, in which to drink at night, while its neighbour does not, with the result that a great deal of trouble and inconvenience is caused to the police because people are able to go from one area to another to continue drinking.
The provisions set out in the new Clause may be slightly different, but they still represent a departure from the principle of uniformity, and the Lord Advocate seemed to imply that it was not necessary to be a member of a club to enjoy the facilities of drinking in it. Apparently somebody can call himself a member of a club and thus enjoy an extra half hour's drinking.
When I nodded just now I was dealing with the question of whether those who participated in the game were entitled to take drink during those hours. I indicated that participation in the game was not necessary, provided the person was a member of the club. He has to be a member, unless a member stands him a drink.
If I happen to be in a club of which the Lord Advocate is a member, and is present, and the police come in to see whether the club is complying with the regulations, all that I need do is to say, Well, Mr. Lord Advocate, I happen to be your guest", and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a reasonable man I have no doubt that he would accede to my request for a drink. It is very simple to overcome the strict letter of the law. We have a duty to see that the law is applied equally to all sections of the community, and I say that it is a bad principle to depart from uniformity in permitted drinking hours.
I counsel the Secretary of State with all the sincerity at my command to try to maintain as far as possible the uniformity of licensed hours. I could argue the merits or demerits of permitting an extension of drinking facilities, but that is not my duty My responsibility is to urge that uniformity of treatment should be given to all people, and that it is very bad to depart from this principle of uniformity, even in what may be regarded as a small way
The Minister will be well advised to cast aside his preconceptions and revert to the idea that in all clubs and licensed premises the hours of drinking should be completely uniform. That would make things much easier not only for chief constables but also for the Minister of Transport, who deprecates the drinking of liquor when driving motor vehicles because of the numbers of deaths on the road which are caused by this practice. If persons have had a certain amount of drink and know that within a very short distance they can carry on drinking for even another half an hour many of them will be tempted to rush by car to that place, and this is likely to cause accidents.
I therefore implore the Minister to give great consideration to this matter before he departs from the principle of uniformity and of providing equal facilities for all persons.
I hope that the Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate will explain subsection (5) of the new Clause. I should like to know why winter in Scotland is defined as beginning with 1st October and ending with 31st March. What is the precedent for this? What has happened to autumn and spring? Are we to understand that the Lord Advocate or the Secretary of State has made a study of climatic or lighting conditions in Scotland? Why should winter in Scotland occupy half the year? Is there anything alcoholic in this?
Any farmer in my constituency would regard the proposition that winter begins in October and ends in March as thoroughly unsatisfactory. I should like to know why these dates have been inserted in the Clause.
I remember the story of the American who, after spending a year in Scotland, said, "The one thing that struck me about the Scots climate was the way in which spring merged imperceptibly into winter."
In Committee, we had a considerable discussion on the subject of licensing hours for registered clubs, especially sporting clubs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has reminded us, the plea was then made that the bar of such a club really financed it. I have never accepted that argument. It may be that the bar provides a fair supplementation of the funds of a club, but I have never regarded it as affecting a club's whole economy.
In our proceedings on the Bill we have endeavoured to keep licensing hours fairly regular throughout Scotland. One of the great complaints about Scottish licensing hours—and the same complaint has been made south of the Border—has been that the licensing hours vary from one area to another, and that people are accordingly tempted to move from one area to another. That has made it very difficult for the police to exercise supervision of licensed premises.
That argument has been widely accepted. It was because of this that the Government introduced the Bill, creating uniformity of licensing hours throughout Scotland, so that people would know what those hours were, no matter in what part of Scotland they happened to be. This would make police supervision much simpler. It is against that background that we are now considering the new Clause, which is designed to meet the request made by a certain section of the Scottish community. It has been argued that because of the sporting activities in which some persons participate the licensing hours of clubs should be altered to meet their requirements, so that they may have a drink immediately they have finished playing a game.
I doubt whether that is a strong enough argument for changing the general rule about licensing hours in Scotland. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee feel that such people should be prepared to wait from four o'clock until five o'clock, rather than expect the licensing hours to be changed by 30 minutes in order to suit their convenience. The Lord Advocate knows quite well that golfers who finish a game at four o'clock are not going to rush straight to the bar. Most of them will at least want to change, and by the time they have done so it will be nearer five o'clock than four. I regard the case put forward on behalf of these people as being very slim. I certainly do not regard it as strong enough to warrant any alteration of the general rule.
I want to ask a question concerning the conditions which must be implemented before the granting of a licence by a sheriff. One thing that disturbs me is that the sheriff is a fairly highly placed legal dignitary. He is the equivalent to an English county court judge; in fact, he would consider himself rather higher, since his powers in court are much greater than those of a county court judge. In these circumstances, it seems odd that there should be so little freedom of choice on his part to decide whether or not he should grant a licence.
Are these provisions taken from another Act? It is strange that we should provide that if all the necessary conditions are complied with the sheriff shall have no say in the matter, and will be compelled to grant a licence. This is a fairly wide departure from the normal practice. I do not know whether it has been attempted before.
Since the new Clause will break the general licensing hours in Scotland and will confine the power of the sheriff very greatly, I think that we ought to have an explanation. If the Government cannot give a better explanation than the one they gave for the change of hours, then it will be for my hon. Friends to decide what they want to do. Whatever else happens, the Secretary of State or the Lord Advocate should make a statement about the powers of the sheriff in Scotland and explain why the Government have found it necessary so to curtail them.
I think that it will be convenient if I deal, first, with the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), because it is part of the background to the problem which we are discussing. His complaint is that the sheriff is left with no discretion. This is nothing new in our licensing law. For many years—since 1903 in regard to clubs—we have proceeded on the basis that the sheriff can take into account objections only if they come within the terms of what is now Section 174 of the 1959 Act; in other words, he is, so to speak, limited to considering those particular matters. If no valid objection is made in relation to any of those, he has to grant the certificate. Accordingly, in saying in the new Clause that he must have regard to paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), we are keeping in line with the principle we already have.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan) spoke about clubs becoming drinking clubs. I stress that any club which applies for registration can have its registration objected to on any of the grounds set out in section 174 of the 1959 Act, and they are lettered from (a) to (s), quite a number. Accordingly, an athletic club has to get over two hurdles. First, it must qualify under Section 174. Secondly, it must qualify under the four heads of subsection (2) of the new Clause. It cannot just get in under subsection (2). It must be a bona fideclub within the meaning of section 174.
Accordingly, even though it satisfied the conditions under subsection (2) of the new Clause, if the sheriff thought that it was conducted in a disorderly manner or used mainly as a drinking club, then he could and would not merely refuse the alternative hours, but refuse registration altogether. It is a double hurdle. A club is not given a loophole to escape the existing provisions of the law.
How is the sheriff to be advised about what is taking place in any club, be it an athletic club or any other? What power has the chief constable or his police officers to go into the club to see what is going on?
I think that that takes us on to a different matter. I know that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) have, as it were, tied the power of police inspection with the provisions of this new Clause, but the point is that it is up to the club to satisfy the sheriff that the conditions prescribed in subsection (2) here are satisfied. The order can be made only if, in the sheriff's opinion,
the conditions set out in the next following subsection are satisfied".
There are two points. First, the onus is on the club to satisfy the sheriff. Secondly, the chief constable has a right to object. If he goes to the sheriff and
says that he tried to find out what was going on, that he asked politely if he could investigate and was told that lie could not, the sheriff would, in fact, be very unlikely to say that he was satisfied that these conditions were fulfilled.
But once a club has satisfied the sheriff that it is a bona fide athletic club, which it can do in the first place quite simply, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan) has said, it can possibly be turned into little less than a drinking den. How is one to prove that the main purpose of the club when it was registered originally for licensing purposes has been changed if the power of inspection is curtailed?
I think that the answer lies in subsection (4). Any order made in regard to the granting of alternative hours expires on the date when the certificate of registration expires, that is to say, annually. The registration certificate has to be renewed annually and, equally, the sheriff must be satisfied annually that the club is still an athletic club and not a drinking den.
I am sorry to trouble the Lord Advocate again, but has he or the Secretary of State any practical experience in the administration of the law relating to licensed premises? Do they recognise the difficulty in obtaining the true information which is necessary for even a licensing court to come to an unbiased and clear decision on these matters?
The matter is more difficult when it reaches the sheriff. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman has any experience of these matters, he will know that, once clubs have been granted licences in the past, it is very difficult for the police to be able to report to the sheriff about what is happening in those which have become drinking dens and departed from their original purpose, and he will know how difficult it is, as a practical matter, to take away a licence once it has been granted.
Most licensing offences are dealt with in the burgh or the J.P. court and not in the sheriff court. For that reason, I do not normally come in on the prosecution side, so that I have no wide experience. I have appeared both for and against publicans in the course of my experience, with equal impartiality and, I think, equal lack of success. Also, I have been a member of the committee of management of a club.
No, I have not had that misfortune, or fortune, whichever the hon. Gentleman calls it.
The operative point is this. If the sheriff is left in doubt, then he is not satisfied. If he is not satisfied, he cannot grant these alternative hours. I think that it would be undesirable, and probably out of order, if I were to attempt at this stage to go into the more general question of a club becoming a drinking den. But, undoubtedly, if the police considered that an athletic club which has got the alternative hours was turning into a drinking den, they could object, even if they did not take any proceedings beforehand, at the next renewal proceedings in order to have the extension of alternative hours refused. As I say, the onus is on the club all the way through to show that the conditions in subsection (2) are satisfied.
But the onus in asking the sheriff to disallow a licence previously granted on the ground that the club had not been conducted to the satisfaction of the police rests upon the police, not upon the club. The police must go to the sheriff and prove that the club has not been conducted in the manner contemplated when the licence was granted. There is here an obvious difficulty, reading further into the Bill, if the police have no right to inspect.
The hon. Member is mixing up two things which I am trying to keep separate. When it comes to the registration of clubs in general, whether they be athletic, railwaymen's, working men's, educational, Conservative or Socialist the onus is on the objector to show that one of the grounds laid down in Section 174 of the 1959 Act is valid. But under this new Clause, the onus is on the club to satisfy the sheriff that the conditions are fulfilled. In one case the onus is on the objector and under the new Clause it is on the club. This also applies to renewal because of the provisions of subsection (4) since the order lapses at the end of the year. Therefore, the club has to start again and to show that the conditions are satisfied.
I now deal with one or two matters raised by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I made a note of them on my copy of the proposed new Clause.
I disagree. The premises have to be bona fideused for club premises, but the operative words are:
wholly or mainly for the purpose of providing facilities in connection with the carrying on by members of the club and their guests of athletic sports or athletic games.
In effect, that means that the premises have to be suitable for the carrying on of such activities by members. It applies to the ordinary golf clubhouse, football pavilion, and so on, registered as a club and used for the carrying on of outdoor sports.
The Lord Advocate will appreciate that we start with a registered club. It has already got its certificate of registration and its permitted hours. All that it is asking for is renewal. It has satisfied the sheriff in the first instance and has withstood all the possible objections. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not want me to read the objections in paragraphs (a) to (s) of Section 174. One of the possible objectors in respect of any one of these things is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own Department.
I was surprised to hear how little experience his Department has in this matter, because the procurator fiscal is a possible objector. Condition (d) is that
the premises are, or the situation thereof is, not suitable or convenient for the purpose of a club.
Having cleared that hurdle, surely it is almost impossible to find any difficulty in clearing this one.
I do not wish to go into technical details, but that just will not do. Many of the former pupil clubs of the Scottish schools—Heriot's, Glasgow High School, Edinburgh Academicals, and so on—hold the registration certificate for the premises where games are played, but, in the main, they do not carry on athletic activities as clubs. These are carried on by the rugby club, the football club, or the cricket club. Further, it must be made clear that, although the premises of the club may be adapted for the purposes of a club, only if it is an athletic club and the premises are suitable for athletics can it get these alternative hours.
The second point of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock concerned the phrase in subsection (2, c):
or are intended regularly to be used".
I think that we thrashed this matter out in another context in Committee. The object of these words, as it is in another Clause, is to cover the case in which new premises are being built and the club wishes to know its position before it commits itself to building.
It may be a registered club, but it may wish to build new premises or a new pavilion and to take advantage of the new Clause.
I confirm what I have said about the final words of subsection (2, d), namely,
persons who participate in that sport or game.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether members could entertain their guests. That is so. On the other hand, a guest is not allowed to pay for his own drinks.
Generally, although uniformity is a good thing in many cases, we have this trouble, that when a person comes in after having played a game of football or golf, or whatever it may be, in the winter he is probably in by four o'clock. I do not think that the hon. Member for Leith is right in suggesting that the man will be happy to change his shoes for an hour before he has a drink. He may get into more trouble on the way home by driving off to a public house and getting "sozzled" there.
I did not say that he would take an hour to change his shoes, but surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not suggest that he will run up the stairs in his football strip to have a drink?
|Division No. 243.||AYES||4.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Gurden, Harold||Noble, Michael|
|Balniel, Lord||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Batsford, Brian||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Bell, Ronald||Harrison, Col- Sir Harwood (Eyre)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hendry, Forbes||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Parker, John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Hiley, Joseph||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Biffen, John||HIM, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Peart, Frederick|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Percival, Ian|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Holland, Philip||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Blyton, William||Hollingworth, John||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bossom, Clive||Hoosen, H. E.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hopkins, Alan||Pym, Francis|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hornby, R. P.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Box, Donald||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R, (B'pool, S.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Roots, William|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Iremonger, T. L.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||James, David||Seymour, Leslie|
|Buck, Antony||Jennings, J. C.||Sharpies, Richard|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Shaw, M.|
|Burden, F. A.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd &amp; Chiswick)|
|Channon, H, P. G.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Smithers, Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kirk, Peter||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Lawson, George||Speir, Rupert|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Leburn, Gilmour||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Collard, Richard||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cooke, Robert||Lilley, F. J. P.||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Corfield, F. V.||Lltchfield, Capt. John||Tapsell, Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Coulson, Michael||Longbottom, Charles||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Loveys, Walter H.||Temple, John M.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lubbock, Eric||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Curran, Charles||McLaren, Martin||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|d'Avigdor-Gotdsmid, Sir Henry||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&amp;N.Ayrs.)||Turner, Colin|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C E M.||MacLeod, John (ROBS &amp; Cromarty)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Doughty, Charles||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Duncun, Sir James||Maltland, Sir John||Wade, Donald|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon Sir David||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Eden, John||Marshall, Douglas||Walker, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Emery, Peter||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon. Sir Derek|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wall, Patrick|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mawby, Ray||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Whitelaw, William|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Fraser Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mills, Stratum||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Wise, A. R.|
|Gilmour, Sir John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Morgan, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gower, Raymond||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Green, Alan||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Mr. Gordon Campbell and|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Mr. Rees|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Awbery, Stan||Cliffe, Michael||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Dalyell, Tarn||Forman, j. C.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Hunter, A. E.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Small, William|
|Gunter, Ray||Kenyon, Clifford||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Upton, Marcus||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Healey, Denis||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(Rwly Regis)||Moyle, Arthur||woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mulley, Frederick|
|Hilton, A. V.||Oswald, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hoy, James H.||Owen, Will||Mr. Hannan aod Mr. Ross.|
|Hughes. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pentland, Norman|
These are simple Amendments. The first would mean a period of from 11 a.m. to 2.30 in the afternoon and that the period from 4 p.m. to 9.30 would be changed to a period of from 4 to 9 p.m. In other words, we would add half an hour in the morning and take off half an hour in the evening.
Hon. Members will wonder what is the reason. We were told that the reason for the proposal in the Clause concerning athletic sports or games, which evidently cannot go on without liquor for those who have been hard at it in the field, is that daylight ends rather quickly in the winter, and, therefore, the time in the afternoon must be brought forward. There was no trouble about the morning hours, which, according to the permitted hours, are from 11 a.m. until 2.30 p.m. The Bill as printed gives the period as 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but I believe that there is an Amendment to change 3 p.m. to 2.30.
If there is no difficulty about mornings, why make a change? Let us keep this slight measure of uniformity and retain what uniformity there is concerning the morning. The difficulty evidently arises only in the afternoon, because daylight lasts such a short time. I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is not present, because he would tell us that daylight ends much earlier in that part of Scotland in wintertime. I had experience of that during the war, when one of the wild Scottish units with which I was connected—the Highland Light Infantry—spent some time in that part of Scotland, and in winter daylight ended about lunch time. Therefore, any pretence that the change is for the greater benefit of all the people of Scotland is considerable eyewash. Is there any reason why, in making a change in the afternoon, we should interfere with the morning? I suggest that if a change has to be made in the afternoon it should be balanced by taking off an equal amount of time at the end of the day.
The two Amendments to the proposed new Clause go together, and I suggest that they really are sensible and in keeping with what the Under-Secretary of State told us in Committee he was proposing to do, that he was going to bring forward the club's hour of opening in the afternoon but lop off time in the evening. Actually, many people want it both ways. I thought that really a further compromise and that there would be made a change in the standard hours in the morning, to save the extra half hour in the evening. Instead, we are only getting this slight change.
I think that there would be no difficulty at all about this half hour change. I do not think that any golfer is worried about the state of play at nine o'clock at night, at the coming down of darkness. According to the arguments presented to us in Committee, evidently the only reason why anyone plays golf in the winter is that after the eighteenth hole he can go on to the nineteenth. No one in a golf club or any club that has not a licence is very much worried about the permitted hours, but for those in the hallowed golf clubs who cannot go on without a drink we must change the standard hours—to suit them. If we must make this change, let us do the decent thing about it.
The whole new Clause is shoddy and hardly worth discussing. I wish that the Secretary of State had paid a little more attention to what went on in Committee about this, because the behaviour of the Government on the question of the clubs has been disgusting. Let him keep the one promise he did make, which I was prepared to support, that if he brought forward an earlier time in the afternoon he would take equal time off in the evening.
I have considerable sympathy with what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said, but all the same I think that we ought to stick to the hours set out in the new Clause, and I will tell him our reasons. Admittedly, the Amendment he proposes to the proposed new Clause would give the clubs half an hour at a time which would seem useful for the purposes which we are aiming at in these new provisions, but if we accepted his Amendment to the proposed new Clause we should be saying that the afternoon closing hour in the alternative set of provisions should be 2.30 while the opening hour would be four o'clock, which would give only a 1½hour break in the afternoon.
It has been argued in other connections that the two-hour break is advantageous from the point of view of the staff. I freely accept that that argument is not as strong an argument as regards clubs as it is in the case of other licensed premises—
But in the case of other premises we are going a little further to try to give what the people concerned regard as adequate time in the afternoon. We shall seek to do that by a later Amendment which I cannot now discuss. That is to provide a break for the staff. We feel that there is a considerable amount to be said for maintaining this much of standardisation, the two-hour break between the afternoon closing time and the time when the premises open again.
To close at 2.30 p.m. might represent a relaxation, but from discussions we have had with Scottish sporting clubs we are assured that the hour of two o'clock would be adequate to avoid any major inconvenience to their members, and we have set out to do what we could to avoid clubs having any grave inconvenience in making the maximum standardisation we could. As we want to maintain an adequate break for the staff in the afternoon, I suggest we leave the hours as they stand in the proposed Clause.
This is purely a drafting Amendment to ensure that these facilities are for games actually played during the winter period and to safeguard the definition of what it is for which these alternative hours are provided. I am not very happy about the wording. I would gladly listen to the Lord Advocate on this question and be prepared to accept his judgment on it, but I thought that my Amendment to the proposed new Clause would tighten up the definition and interpretation and make it watertight.
I can, I think, reassure the hon. Gentleman on this point. Our intention is precisely as he has stated it. I am advised that the phrase "during the winter period" in the subsection is adequately governed by what follows and that it would be tautological and unnecessary to insert the phrase again at the later place, and that that might, indeed, make matters a little more obscure. I think that what the hon. Member wants is ensured by the new Clause as drafted, and I hope that he Will accept this assurance.
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman or the Lord Advocate would look again at the terms of subsection (2, C):
that the said premises are regularly used, or are intended regularly to be used, during the winter period, for providing facilities in connection with the carrying on…of the club
and so on. I realise that we are no longer in Committee but are at the Report stage, and so I will not seek to press the point further, but I am not particularly happy about this wording and I hope that the Lord Advocate will have a look at it. In the meantime, I beg to
ask leave to withdraw the Amendment to the proposed Clause.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 36, at the end to insert:
(e) that having regard to the location of the premises the public interest as represented by the desirability of maintaining uniformity of permitted hours in the locality will not be undermined by the making of the order.
I was hoping, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that with this would be taken my consequential Amendment to line 41, to leave out "(d)" and insert "(e)". However, I am sure that if the House accepts this Amendment the Government will be prepared to accept the consequential one.
This is by far the most important of my Amendments to the proposed Clause because it would allow the sheriff a new criterion on which to judge whether or not an order in respect of alternative hours should be granted, and the consequential Amendment, in line 41, would give the chief constable, in carrying out his duties, a wider and, to my mind, far more reasonable field of objection in which he could, if he thought fit, object to the proposed order.
My Amendment suggests that a judgment should be made on the effect which the granting of an order would have upon the place in which it would operate, and the judgment should be based on the public interest as represented by the desirability of having standard hours in the locality. I state "locality" quite definitely because I do not mean a wide area. I am thinking of a small area. The Guest Committee recommended—and I think that at this stage of the Bill the Government accept the desirability of this in respect of licensed premises in Scotland—having uniform hours all over.
I think that the reasons were obvious. Whether English or Scottish hon. Members like it or not, when in adjoining towns there was half an hour's difference in closing hours late transport was at a premium. People actually went from one place to the other to get the extra half hour's drinking time. I think that the Government accepted the advice of the chief constables that it was desirable to put a stop to this and to have uniform hours.
We are now opening up the position again by the change we are making in the new Clause which has been read a Second time. I want to put this to the Minister. Is it right or desirable that on, for instance, Sunday, we should now have the position where the permitted hours for licensed hotels, restaurants or any other place with a restricted hotel licence should be 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. whereas in the club it should be from 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.? In other words, a person drinks in a club until 2 p.m. after which, if he likes, hr-, can go to a hotel and drink for an extra half hour. He can then go back to the club at 4 o'clock, two and a half hours before the other places are open, drink till eight and then go out of the club to a hotel and have another two hours' drinking. Therefore, he will have an extra three hours' drinking time in this way.
Some people may think that this is far-fetched. There is quite an important game going on at Troon at the moment. I am concerned how Eric Brown is doing. I do not know how many hon. Members know Troon clubhouse which, I assume, is licensed. As far as Eric Brown is concerned, the game is mare important than the drink. Just next door to the clubhouse—I am sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin-grove (Mr. Lilley) will recollect this—is a licensed hotel. It is only a dozen steps away. Here we are going to have permitted hours in the one place and alternative hours in the other.
The variation is not just half an hour. In the case of a Sunday afternoon it is two and a half hours, with an additional two hours at the other end. When a person finishes drinking in the clubhouse all he has to do is to walk a dozen steps in order to have another two hours' drinking time. It may be said that people will not do this. True, they may not do it in Troon, but they will do it somewhere else. The fact is that we took steps to standardise licensing hours just because people moved out of Ayr into Prestwick and out of Glasgow into somewhere else. This happened all over Scotland where there was a variation of licensing hours in two adjacent places. This is what is going to take place in small areas.
I wonder if the Government have thought of the desirability of having uniformity of hours in the public interest. There may be areas in which there are clubs where it would not happen at all. I can think of many clubhouses which are miles away from anywhere, and I am quite prepared to believe that people will not jump into their cars and go as quickly as possible elsewhere to get a drink. The fact is that if next door to a clubhouse, where the people have been drinking from teatime till 8 o'clock, there are licensed premises which remain open for two hours after the clubhouse is shut, one cannot blame them for taking advantage of the facilities which have been made available to them by the Government. I think it undesirable in the public interest that that should be so. I am sure that every other hon. Member can think of such——
We are not trying to clear it up in this connection. That is covered by the principal Act. I do not know to which hon. Friend the hon. Gentleman was referring, whether he meant his hon. Friend sitting beside him or some other hon. Member, but what he said is quite irrelevant to the discussion of this Clause. If he thinks it an anomaly and thinks it undesirable, then why should he seek to multiply the anomaly in different parts of Scotland by introducing these alternative hours? The logic of what the hon. Gentleman has stated in his intervention is that he should have voted with me the last time to ensure uniformity. I hope that I have said enough to the hon. Gentleman to show why I think that a change of the kind I propose should be made in the Bill.
This would enable the chief constable to raise an objection in relation to this kind of problem within a narrow area. It is only in certain places that it may arise. I think that the Government, having decided to depart from the original idea of the Bill, should at least have this measure of get-out in relation to problems which may arise in certain localities.
Paragraph (e) extends the criterion for the sheriff. It gives him this measure of latitude. It is reasonable that the chief constable should be the judge in relation to whether or not there might be such scope for drinking as between the alternative hours and the permitted hours as to cause offence in the public interest, and thus make the objection to the sheriff. It would then be up to the sheriff to decide.
I think that this is a very reasonable Amendment and I sincerely hope that even if the Government do not like its actual wording—I plead guilty to having prepared it rather hurriedly over the past few days because I did not see the new Clause until Monday—they will, if they think that its object should be inserted in the new Clause, have it put into proper legal language. I feel that the reasons why we initially set out to get uniform hours are equally valid in a more local sense in relation to the problem which the Government have now created by their departure in respect of alternative hours for athletic clubs.
I wish to support the Amendment. By the acceptance of the new Clause a breach has been made in the principle of uniformity in respect of licensing hours. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is right in trying to persuade hon. Members that, although that principle has been breached, an attempt should be made to maintain it within a certain area, on a narrow front to use his term.
I am sustained in this view by what appears in the Guest Committee's Report. The Government must not object if hon. Members on this side of the House refer constantly to the Report of the Guest Committee because, so far as I can judge from the debates, this Report was their Bible during the proceedings on the Bill. In paragraph 78 the Report states:
We are in entire agreement with the, suggestion that permitted hours should be made standard. In regard to the rush between neighbouring areas at closing time"—
The Committee admits that rush—
we feel that it would be invidious to single out particular examples in case it should be thought that we are directing criticism at the actions of individual licensing courts, but we are quite satisfied that real abuse occurs….
The Under-Secretary of State and his hon. Friends will be living in cloud. cuckoo-land if they do not recognise that the acceptance of the Clause will lead to abuses. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock has cited an example of what could happen within his area. The Amendment asks that regard should be paid to the local licensing rules within an area, and that at least the principle of maintaining uniformity, which has been forsaken by the Government, should be preserved on a narrow front. I hope that we have convinced sufficient hon. Members that this reasonable Amendment should be supported.
The Government ought to look at this matter again. They will not lose anything by doing so. They have secured the new Clause. It is only now a question whether in a given area opportunities should be provided for the misuse of the facilities for drinking during permitted hours and the new athletics clubs and, I predict, before long to a great many other kinds of clubs. Why should not there be allotment association clubs? Tending an allotment is a pastime which takes place in the open air. I can think of a host of organisations whose members would wish to avail themselves of the opportunity which is provided and will find reasons for making application. If the Government are sincere in their statements about the importance of the Guest Committee's Report, they should at least agree to accept this Amendment.
I am sure that many hon. Members will live to regret the fact that they voted in favour of the new Clause because a breach has been made in the basic principle on which the Bill was based, namely, that there should be uniformity in the Scottish licensing laws. This was the recommendation, more or less, of the Guest Committee on which the Government have, apparently, based their ideas. Now that we have made the breach it would be only reasonable and equitable to accept the Amendment.
A chief constable has a definite responsibility for maintaining law and order and it would be unwise for the House of Commons in any way to seek to undermine that responsibility. We shall be making it much more difficult for a chief constable to maintain the law unless we give him, or the sheriff, power to curtail in a given area the extent of the violation of uniformity in the licensing laws. This is a reasonable suggestion. It is not unreasonable to expect the Government to regard reasoned Amendments with care and consideration.
I asked what exeperience the Lord Advocate had of licensing courts or the work of licensing committees. I also asked whether the Secretary of State had had much experience in that respect. Some hon. Members have had considerable experience of the work of licensing courts, and of police committees charged with the responsibility of keeping law and order. Some hon. Members are justices of the peace and they have the duty of trying to enforce the laws which we, as legislators, seek to put upon the Statute Book. In view of the general agreement that the licensing laws should be made uniform, it ill becomes the Government to breach that principle.
Here we have a set of circumstances where, in a confined locality, there might be a differentiation in the licensing laws and that would mean ultimately that law and order would be undermined to a certain extent. I counsel the Government to be extremely careful about the road along which they seek to travel. Every organisation in Scotland, the temperance organisations and others, extended a welcome to the Bill in some degree. Although in principle some of the organisations may be opposed to extending facilities for drinking, they welcomed the Bill because of the principle that the licensing laws would be made uniform. It is a great calamity that a breach has been made in that principle and I consider that many hon. Members who voted for the new Clause will live to regret their action. As one who has had a reasonable amount of experience, I counsel the Government to give serious consideration to this Amendment.
I fully appreciate the cogency of the arguments which have been advanced in favour of standardisation. As was said by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter):standardisation is one of the major factors in the Bill which led to its acceptance and the general welcome to it in Scotland. The Bill has achieved standardisation between various areas and its provision will prevent the movement of people from area to area in order to continue drinking. The Bill's provisions would impose standard hours on clubs. Previously, within a wide bracket, clubs could select hours which suited their members. Acceptance of the Bill's provisions has not been achieved without causing inconvenience to various people who had hitherto selected permitted hours to suit themselves. But we thought it right that, in the pursuit of standardisation, a certain degree of inconvenience should be accepted by some.
We have departed from the principle of standardisation in this single instance where because of the principal activity of the clubs concerned—outdoor games—we felt that a greater degree of inconvenience would result. That we have tried to put right by the Clause which has been accepted. This Amendment, for reasons that I well understand, asks that, within a certain area, discretion should be given to the sheriff to make a selection between sporting clubs which qualify for the alternative set of hours granted under various arrangements, provisions and safeguards which we have been discussing. It asks that the sheriff should be able to make a selection not only on the merits of a case which could be advanced by a club, to prove that it fairly qualified through the nature of the pursuits carried on there to apply for the exceptional hours, but also on the circumstances of the location of the club.
If one golf club has a perfectly good case and, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, there is no pub near it, there can be no objection to granting it the alternative set of permitted hours. But another golf club may stand absolutely four-square on the merits of the case, and its members may have just as great a cause for wanting this provision but, because it happens to be next door to a pub, there might be a temptation for the members to go next door. It does not seem right that that club should be denied this choice. Any scope for abuse is extremely limited. This provision would apply only to members of the club and their guests.
There is a second consideration of a slightly more esoteric nature. The Amendment would place on the sheriff the burden of making a choice, not of ascertaining a fact. As a matter of social judgment he has to decide whether in the interests of an area this should OT should not be done. I understand that that is not the sort of decision normally placed upon a sheriff. I hope that on reflection hon. Members will feel that the degree of danger in this proposal is so small and the degree of inequity between one sporting club and another would be so great that we would not be justified in accepting the Amendment.
We are told that there are two reasons why the Government have decided that they cannot accept the Amendment. The first is that it would lead to differentiation between one club and another. I have had all the literature sent to me that other hon. Members have had. I have had the pressure which has moved the Government to introduce this Clause; all of us have had it. The Government have made it quite clear that they have introduced the Clause so that those taking part in outdoor sports will be able if they wish to buy a drink for themselves and their friends after whatever game they have been playing has finished. That is their one main case for this Clause. If the Amendment were accepted it would still be possible for those members to buy a drink for themselves and for their friends.
The Under-Secretary said that the sheriff would have to decide that one club could have these extended hours and another club could not have them.
They are the permitted hours for these sports clubs. The sheriff is a most responsible person in Scotland. In this new Clause little or no discretion is deft to the sheriff. It seems that almost automatically he would have to grant this permission to clubs merely in order that these people should have a drink. If in the view of the sheriff there are other licensed premises near the club, in the locality of the club, if they wish to have drink they can still have it in those other premises. It seems very wrong that the Secretary of State should reject this simple Amendment.
The Minister said that it was not a matter of fact which has to be decided, but it seems to be a clear matter of fact. If it is confined to a locality the sheriff has to decide whether or not there are licensed premises in that locality. One of the main points made by the Guest Committee was that there should be uniformity of permitted hours so that there should be no rushing from one lot of licensed premises to another. If the Clause is not amended, that may happen. If it is not amended there could be the real abuse about which the Guest Committee spoke.
Very little is asked for by this Amendment, but it is something which might have serious results in a particular area. There is a golf club in my constituency from which the sportsmen could transfer to a hotel within five minutes. Many of them do not play right up to the last minute of their permitted hours. If they had been drinking and felt that they should be able to drink for a further time there could be serious consequences. I ask the Under-Secretary to think about this again.