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Column 269satisfy us that the citizens on whose behalf we are complaining can be made content, they might, with some judiciousness, bring forward legislative change.
We are embarking on the change much too hurriedly, without sufficient examination. In doing so we do a disservice to the constituents we serve. Therefore, I ask my hon Friends to support the amendment and to eliminate clause 17.
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) properly drew attention to the fact that, on Second Reading of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 1985, I spoke against. Since then I have conducted some inquiries.
The hon. Member for Hamilton drew attention to the experiment carried out in Dundee. As a result of my inquiries into that experiment I tabled two amendments at the Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill. My objective was to draw attention to the problem, which is not opening licensed premises, but drinking in open spaces around such premises, as the hon. Gentleman said, and--what is worse--under-age drinking.
Under-age drinking should be a criminal offence--not merely selling alcohol to people who are under age--and, more importantly, the police should have powers to deal with that offence on the spot. We are attempting to deal with a social problem and to do so by the wrong mechanism. I can explain why it is wrong with my hand on my heart because I am teetotal, so it does not matter to me what the licensing laws are.
I am concerned with my constituents, as is the hon. Member for Hamilton. Why should the distillery shops in my constituency not be able to sell their products to the many thousands of visitors who come to my constituency and who visit the distilleries ? We quite properly want all those overseas visitors to acquire a taste for Scotch whisky and to buy it in quantities--as many of them do, but we want many more to do so. With exports at £2,000 million it is very important that our licensing structure recognises the importance of the Scotch whisky industry to the Scottish economy. It is vital that we deal with that narrow, but important, aspect.
It is also true to say that instead of banning things we should be liberalising, so that we can deal with the social problems, which do exist. If hon. Members had been seriously interested in the problem I would have hoped to see many more of them here. A number of hon. Members are present and I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudon (Mr. McKelvey), who supported me in my efforts to get the Government to deal with the real problem--a problem that exists on other days--which is people drinking in public places. My hon. Friend the Minister said that the byelaw procedures would be encouraged--I hoped that the hon. Member for Hamilton would recognise that. I am paraphrasing, but my hon. Friend told me that the experiments had been encouraging, although there had been problems, to which I and the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) drew attention during the debate on my amendments. If an area is outlined and detailed and alcohol consumption is banned, there is a danger of moving the problem somewhere else.
Column 270In his reply to the debate on my amendments my hon. Friend the Minister said that other areas could also be designated and that the Government would look kindly on that. That is part of the method of dealing with the problem, but I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton that we should have legislation that addresses the real problem-- anti-social drinking at whatever age by anyone. That is no reason for not allowing the off-licences, which quite properly are in competition--I am a great believer in competition--to open on Sundays. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and I am probably as good a Christian as he is--at least I hope I am. I try very hard, but as with many other things, one is never as good as one would like to be. I take the view that Sunday is a day when I want to do the things that I enjoy. If I enjoy going to church, that is fine. If I enjoy doing other things, that is also fine, but I have never seen Sunday as a day on which I want to prevent others from doing what they enjoy.
I have always thought that, in Scotland, Sunday is the day when we enjoy our family life and get together. Although most of my family are teetotal, my brothers and sisters have inherited the fine Scottish habit of consuming a wee dram. They often do that on Sundays and I have never noticed any adverse effects. If they were to run out, they would want to go out and get supplies, particularly when they have barbecues on Sundays.
We should look seriously at the real problems and not try to prevent drinking through the mechanism of this legislation.
Mr. Maxton : This debate is creating some very strange alliances across the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) was supporting the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and I am about to support the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and, presumably, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch).
There have been very few occasions on which I have been in alliance with the hon. Member for Tayside, North. I have been convinced of the arguments for opening off-licences on Sundays, particularly in supermarkets, but a strange anomaly developed, which the hon. Member for Ayr did not take into account. Supermarkets were opening illegally in England, but were able to sell drink from their off-licence departments yet no action was taken against them whereas in Scotland supermarkets were opening perfectly legally--it was within the law for them to do so--but their off-licences were closed. Although Scots were able to go into supermarkets and buy what they wanted perfectly legally, they could not buy drink as part of what was often their weekly shopping. My wife often does a full weekly shop in Safeway on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, she cannot buy a bottle of sherry, whisky or wine along with the rest of the shopping. That is absurd. It is equally absurd that hotels and pubs are perfectly able to sell drink for consumption outside their premises, while supermarkets and off-licences which may be just a couple of doors down the street from the pub or hotel cannot sell it. As the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside pointed out, when people have to go into a pub or hotel to buy their drink, they pay considerably more.
It seems to me that the argument of both the hon. Member for Ayr and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton was about not selling drink for off- licence
Column 271purposes in Scotland so that people could not drink outside or anywhere else. That is not an argument for closing off -licences and leaving pubs and hotels open.
Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) : Does my hon. Friend have information on the amount of alcohol sold for consumption outside pubs on Sundays ? What would the figures be if alcohol now became available in off-licences as well ? Would not there be a tremendous increase in the amount of alcohol sold once it became available in the other outlets ?
Mr. Maxton : I am not sure that that would be so. I openly admit that I have no figures, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend has, either. If he can produce figures to prove his point, that is fair enough, but I doubt whether he can.
I accept the arguments which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton made against outside drinking and tighter controls on under-age drinking and off -licences generally and I should like to see the review that he suggests. However, those arguments apply for the six days a week on which off- licences are now open and it would not make an enormous difference if they were also open on Sundays. So although his arguments are legitimate, they are not necessarily against keeping the clause in the Bill.
Mr. George Robertson : I welcome the remarks by my hon. Friend and distinguished constituent. But are not the products sold by pubs and hotels, which can sell on the seventh day of the week, different ? Although most pubs and hotels are entitled to sell alcohol, they are wary and usually do not sell Buckfast fortified wine and some other products that seem to be available in licensed grocers, with only one destination. Although I am asking for a review because a change in the law is proposed, many people who live in close proximity to off-licences and licensed grocers have at least some relief from the aggravation that they suffer on one day out of the seven.
Mr. Maxton : My hon. Friend has made his point but it is not an argument against opening off-licences on Sundays. I should have been happy to accept an amendment that would allow the opening of off-licences only in supermarkets. I put forward the idea as a possible way to deal with the problem but it was not widely accepted by other Opposition Members. It would have been a way to deal with smaller off-licences, but it was not suggested that I should table such an amendment.
I have tabled a new clause, which has not yet been debated, on putting fluoride into water in Scotland. The only argument that has been put to me against my new clause is that public opinion in Scotland is against putting fluoride into water. Evidence from all opinion polls on this issue in Scotland shows that an overwhelming majority of Scottish people favour opening off-licences in Scotland. Reluctantly, therefore, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton is my Member of Parliament, I shall be in the opposite Lobby to him tonight, voting against the amendment.
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn) : The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) has made a good suggestion in a private conversation here in the Chamber--that more such matters
Column 272should be examined by the licensing board, which consists of men and women who live in the community and know the problems close at hand.
United Distillers and Tennents breweries are in my constituency. They are both excellent employers and I want no harm done to their sales. It is all very well for hon. Members to say that they would like to buy a bottle of wine in a supermarket on a Sunday because they have run short and are having friends for dinner. But in some parts of my constituency shopping facilities have housing above them, and to enter the housing one has to go through a door situated in the centre of the shops. Because of the terrible weather that we have in Glasgow, when young people and people over a certain age buy their carry-outs and cans of super lager it is natural for them to consume them in the close mouth. It is not a question of saying, "Keep the Sabbath holy", but at least those tenants will have one day a week with a bit of peace and quiet.
That brings me back to the argument about Sunday opening. No one ever gave a thought to the fact that most of our major cities in Scotland have tenement property, and that people in such property are being annoyed on a Sunday by drinkers urinating in the close mouth. Sometimes, because of the behaviour of those drinkers, people are ashamed to invite their friends and relatives to visit them. If they want to meet them, they do so in the town and elsewhere.
I recognise that perhaps that problem does not exist in a big supermarket complex that has received all the considerations of the planning committee and the advice of the planning officials, and where it is away from built- up areas. People who go to a supermarket to buy alcohol usually go there by car. They are not drinking and driving ; they buy the alcohol, put it in the boot of the car and go home. But a few hardened drinkers gather in little congregations all over my constituency--sometimes around schools. They call them "garden parties". In fact, if we have good weather, there they are with their cans of super lager. Quite frankly, they demean the area. If we said that we should undertake a review of under-age drinking and of the people who are abusing alcohol, it still would not address the problem, but it would go some way to doing so if we gave the local licensing authorities a chance to say, "This is an application for a licence for Sunday opening in a built-up area. What do the neighbours have to say ?" The neighbours could then go to the licensing committee and say, "It is all very well for someone living in the leafy suburbs, but we live next to multi-storey flats ; the off-licence is at the bottom and people will be hanging around the lifts after they have bought a drink and annoying women and elderly people."
We must admit that we are living in a society in which more and more of our aged citizens are being frightened. It is, perhaps, not the danger that they are in but the danger that they perceive themselves to be in. That adds to their insecurity. I recognise that it is a serious problem.
Are we supporting the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) ? I pay him the compliment of saying that there is a large supermarket in the centre of the town of Ayr with a big notice telling everyone to campaign and lobby him-- it uses his name--to say that the drinking laws should be changed in favour of the supermarkets. I believe that his amendment gives some consideration to his constituents and many other people who feel that, if one wants to get a
Column 273carry-out--that is what it is called in Glasgow ; if one wants to buy some products from the off-licence, it is called "getting your carry-out"--one can do it six days a weeks.
Mr. Martin : Perhaps it is the same in Plymouth ; I do not know. It can be done. I know that, when we try to control the sale of alcohol, we find ourselves involved in all sorts of ridiculous legislation. We must consider those who want a wee bit of peace and quiet on a Sunday.
Mr. Galbraith : I fear that I shall develop a reputation as a killjoy, which would amaze some former colleagues from my previous incarnation. I support the amendment--for a number of reasons, but first on the basis of the general principle that this is not the way in which to handle Scottish legislation that significantly affects the nature of Scottish society. I think that even my hon. Friends--and any Conservative Members who support Sunday opening for off licences--ought to oppose this method of introducing an important piece of Scottish legislation that should have been subject to wide consultation, considered in the Scottish Grand Committee and only then introduced in the House. It is premature and wrong.
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : May I remind my hon. Friend that the Government introduced the proposal in the considered setting of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, enacted in 1990, but it was rejected by a Scottish Committee and went no further ? They are now trying to reintroduce it in a particularly back-door way.
Mr. Galbraith : I agree. Once again Scottish legislation has been tacked on to a United Kingdom Bill at an inappropriate time, and I hope that my hon. Friends who favour Sunday opening for off-licences will none the less oppose it on that basis.
A number of matters must be considered. I make no apology for again using the "Keep Sunday Special" argument, but it need not be advanced from a Christian perspective ; it can be advanced from the perspective of a society in which, for non-Christian reasons, it is considered appropriate to set aside one day when people can have a bit of peace and quiet and not be bothered by the run-of-the-mill hassles of everyday life. That is an important requirement that is at the heart of Scottish culture and society, and we should not throw it away without further consideration.
The measure will not only affect supermarkets--my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has agreed that the position may differ there--or off-licences ; it will affect licensed grocers. Together, the two constitute a problem. Licensed grocers often operate on large housing estates that may be areas of deprivation, trouble and hooliganism ; they can open at 8 am on Sundays and start selling huge ranges of cheap alcohol. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart suggested that that was no different from pubs being open, but it is. Pubs are generally open for people to consume alcohol on the premises. I do not know the figures, but it must represent at least 95 per cent. of Sunday sales. They do not have a wide range, and alcohol is expensive. People do not
Column 274generally come out of pubs with large amounts ; it is drunk on the premises. That does not apply to licensed grocers, which are poorly regulated and sell other products.
Off-licences, too, are a problem in my constituency. I receive numerous complaints about off-licences' opening at 8 am, when queues of customers-- often from the outer parts of my constituency--have already formed, and corner boys hang around disturbing the neighbourhood. Surely we can allow local residents one day on which they will not be troubled in such a way ; surely that is not too much to ask. It is all very well for those of us like myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart who disappear elsewhere at weekends, but many others find it a disturbing time, and I hope that we can consider them.
The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) claims that this can all be dealt with through byelaws banning open-air drinking. I caution hon. Members against that argument. I have no doubt that such measures would deal with the problem to some extent, and I hope that my local authorities will introduce them soon--I have already spoken to them--but we should not be deceived into believing that they would effectively eliminate it.
Let us remember that the experiment was carried out in three areas. It is in the nature of experiments that they change things and the results of an experiment are always preferable to what happens when the subsequent legislation is introduced because the police and the shopkeepers are on their toes during an experiment and everyone involved is engaged in keeping the areas under a microscope. The results are not so good once the experiment involves the general population.
The issues should be considered fully before any decision is taken. The Government are remiss in tagging this proposal on to a United Kingdom Bill. For that reason, I hope that my hon. Friends will oppose clause 17 and accept amendment No. 86.
Mr. Galloway : I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) on the sincere and powerful way in which he moved the amendment. The last time I agreed with him in public was in George square in Glasgow when we shared a platform during the "Save the Whale" demonstration.
I deal first with the allegation made in a number of speeches by Labour and Conservative Members that the amendment is intended to stop people in Scotland having a whale of a time on Sunday. My hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) has just said that it is not necessary to sign up to the Keep Sunday Special campaign to accept that there is a certain rhythm to life on these islands, that Sunday has been a different kind of day from the rest and that many people like it and want to keep it that way, especially with regard to licensing hours. I am a lower case "keep Sunday special" man : I do not think that I fit easily the caricature of the Sabbatarian killjoy, and I am certainly not arguing from that standpoint.
As in Committee, I am tonight arguing from the standpoint that has been identified by a number of my hon. Friends. The first argument that I hope the serried ranks of my colleagues behind me will find persuasive is that we are debating what is, in effect, a constitutional outrage. The Government are trying to slip in a proposal that would materially change the rhythm of Scottish life and they are trying to do so by means of a little clause added on to a controversial United Kingdom Bill, which has absolutely nothing to do with when and where people in Scotland can and should consume alcohol. Indeed, it was voted on by a
Column 275Committee where the majority was provided by English Members of Parliament who knew nothing about the arguments but were whipped to support the legislation.
If such a change is to be considered, there should be full public consultation in Scotland involving Scottish Members on a Scottish Committee. I should prefer consideration to take place in a Scottish Parliament, but, if it is to take place before there is such a thing-- before the next election--it should be done properly after an informed debate in Scotland, not by this subterfuge.
Through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I caution the Minister to be very careful in the current climate about inadvertently misleading the House. It cannot be true that the only reason why the proposal was withdrawn in 1990 was the lack of parliamentary time. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) cited the then Secretary of State's assertion that it was to be withdrawn under fire from all sides in an appropriate place--a Scottish Committee. If it is to be reintroduced, that is where it should happen. That is the first argument against the clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) talked about unusual alliances, but I find myself in the usual position of disagreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) in the nicest possible way. We are not talking about the Oddbins, pukka, posh wine shop in the Elysian fields of Hamilton where he lives--he has fought for those fields over the years--or, for that matter, in Byres road in my constituency. We are not talking about the person who decides to have a barbecue on a nice day and rolls up to Oddbins in the west end to stock up on Chablis or Chateauneuf du Pape.
We are talking about what is effectively a super-lager lout's charter. The problem is not in Hamilton's Elysian fields or in Byres road ; the problem is in the peripheral housing estates--the deserts with windows--which were constructed by ill-advised Governments and councils in the past. People are imprisoned on those housing estates, and at the moment they have one day's relief from the problem which has been identified in the House this evening but which is worth repeating. I refer to the problem of the licensed grocery which, all too often, is owned by a shopkeeper who is not sufficiently alert to the fine print of the licensing laws--and not only the licensing laws, but this is not the place to develop that argument.
We are not talking about the posh Oddbins in the west end of Glasgow, but about barbed-wired, iron-barred licensed grocery stores in housing estates. They are usually in a parade of shops with, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) correctly said, people living above them and in the surrounding houses and tenement buildings. Those people have to go to the shops to buy their milk, bread and newspapers on Sundays. If this measure is passed, they will have to run the gauntlet--as they do on the other six days of the week
They will have to run the gauntlet of corner boys and louts who are drinking their high-octane, super-charged
Column 276super-lager and cheap wine. That is the social problem that we are dealing with. We simply ask : why should people who are already suffering that six days a week, have to suffer it on a seventh day ?
Why should they suffer that, especially when there has been no proper debate about the matter in Scotland and the measure is not being taken in the full light of informed public opinion ?
I have followed his argument very carefully. The abuse which he mapped out very dramatically over the six days seems to be a result of the working of the existing licensing codes in granting licences to these grocers' shops. The answer to the problem which he has identified so accurately is to prevent the grocers from being given licences in the first place ; or, alternatively, to police them far more fiercely than they are at present.
It is quite clear that there are alternative retail outlets which could provide alcoholic beverages if necessary. The sale of alcohol in this manner is wholly inappropriate in particular areas. My hon. Friend should be attacking that problem, not the Bill.
Mr. Galloway : Can my hon. Friend see that if we cannot prevent this behaviour six days a week, we have little chance of preventing it seven days a week ? I am well aware that, to some extent, the current law is not being implemented properly. But we will not solve that problem by visiting it upon people on a seventh day. People ask me : if these abuses are occurring outside off-licences, why cannot people telephone the police ? In Scotstoun in my constituency if people telephone the police on a Friday or Saturday to say that there is a lout urinating outside an off-licence, they will be lucky if the police arrive the next day. There are not enough police in the areas that I am talking about. When I was in Newton Mearns the other day, I saw plenty of police on patrol, but there do not seem to be quite so many police around when one needs them on the housing estates that we are talking about. It involves a different class of criminal.
The women, children and others who have to run that gauntlet and walk past the lout with the bottle of cheap sherry in one hand, who is urinating, shouting abuse and indulging in all the other anti-social behaviour that takes place outside licensed grocers and off-licences, are saying to us, "Solve the problem for the other six days a week before you try to force it down our throats on the seventh day."
My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton carefully set out the improvements and reforms that we would like to be made before we would agree to allowing alcohol to be sold on the seventh day. If the Government said that they had proposals to deal with the abuses and problems, and if they said it persuasively enough for us to believe them, no doubt we would drop our objection. Unlike the hon. Member for Ayr, we do not oppose in principle selling drink on a Sunday. We are mounting the case, persuasively, I hope, that our people--working-class people in Labour constituencies--are those worst affected by the problems. We shall not
Column 277solve the problems by introducing a seventh day in the week on which they will be allowed to get worse. On behalf of those people, and in support of the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, I hope that the amendment will be accepted.
Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute) : I, too, have much sympathy with the amendment and I shall certainly support it. However, I was interested to discover that the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) is not making any alternative suggestions. I am not sure how the Minister will react to his proposal, but I hope that it will be favourably.
I am sorry that the amendment tabled by my hon. Friends and myself was not selected for debate, because we suggested that the opening of off-licences on Sunday should come under the direction of the local licensing board. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) suggested, board members are the people who should have the right to decide whether off- licences should open.
I believe that there is no need for off-licences to open on a Sunday. There are already plenty of outlets for the purchase of alcohol, and, as we have heard, we have enough problems already with alcohol, alcoholism, alcohol- related crimes and under-age drinking. We do not need to add to those difficulties by allowing a greater supply of alcohol, especially on a Sunday.
I am prepared to argue on behalf of the many churchgoing communities in Scotland. They will be appalled if clause 17 stands. Over the years they have seen their Sunday, which they believe is holy, and should be treated as a day of reverence and of rest, eroded. Many others, too, believe that Sunday is a special day. It is a day for the family, a day on which people can try to recover from the traumas of their lives during the rest of the week.
The hon. Member for Ayr said that he supported the Sunday Trading Bill. I did not. Although we already had deregulation in Scotland, I was aware that if it came about in England, too, many stores that did not previously open on a Sunday in England would start opening on a Sunday in Scotland. Only this afternoon, a measure was passed that will allow more gambling with betting offices being opened for off-course betting. So, on a Sunday, we shall see gambling and more alcohol, which I believe that the people of Scotland, on the whole, do not want.
Sunday is a special day and it is a day that the people of Scotland want to keep special. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said that the tourists would not be able to buy whisky. However, they can buy whisky on every other day of the week and it will not spoil their visit to Scotland if they go there to find that we have a different day and a special type of Sunday, which we cherish and care about.
Mr. Bill Walker : I trust that the hon. Lady is not suggesting that, in Oban, it is any different from the position in Pitlochry on Sunday, where all the shops are open and all the traders are catering for the many thousands of visitors who we welcome. It seems that the hon. Lady is making allegations that just do not represent what happens in our constituencies, where we are very much for tourism. They are full of life on Sunday. It is not a day of rest. All the people working in the shops are certainly not resting.
Mrs. Michie : I referred to the fact that there are many places in many parts of Scotland where people care deeply about their Sunday. Indeed, there are many people in Pitlochry who also care about their Sunday.
Mr. Kynoch : With regard to those people who want to keep their Sunday different and want to have a day of rest, does not the hon. Lady agree that they can still have their day of rest ? First, they do not have to open if they are a shopkeeper and, secondly, if they are a customer, they do not have to buy. There is no compulsion in the clause. It is freedom of choice.
Mrs. Michie : But that is not the reality of what happens. We have heard what happens, especially on the housing estates. What will happen in the smaller communities ? I can think of one where the people will be in church and, if the betting office is open, it will be just alongside the church. In the next street, the off-licence will be open and, up the road, the big superstore will be open. What I am trying to say is that Sunday is a special day in Scotland and something that we should care about.
Every community is different. They are different in the north of Scotland in comparison to the south. I accept that. Strong views are held in some communities and perhaps less strong views in others, but by including clause 17 in the Bill, the Government will be riding roughshod over local opinion. That opinion should be reflected by community councils, local organisations, and district councils, and any action taken on that subject should be done by the licensing boards, as I have already said. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment and perhaps consider coming back here, or in the other place, to introduce legislation under which local licensing boards have the authority to allow places to be open or shut. That would be acceptable to the majority of hon. Members and to the majority of communities in Scotland.
Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) : On this occasion, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), who moved the amendment, and I also disagree with some colleagues with whom, formerly, I would have agreed. May I also declare an interest ? I was a former chairman of a licensing board and had the reputation of being a liberal chairman-- with a small "l" and with a big heart. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), who spoke so eloquently about his passion for keeping Sunday safe, supported me in some of the liberalising measures, such as being the first area in Scotland to have pavement licences. He very much applauded that.
I am also the chairman of the all-party Scotch whisky group. It has a very serious interest in allowing premises to be open on Sunday, not so much for the sale of whisky from off-licences as for very important tourist reasons. The 100 or so distilleries that open their doors for visitors on a Sunday and allow them to see the reception areas and the museum areas, because the distilleries are part of the heritage of Scotland, find it an anomaly that, while they may provide the visitors with a free dram, which they regularly do, once those visitors to our shores have acquired an instant liking for the spirit of life, they cannot--they are somewhat disturbed by this-- purchase whisky
Column 279on a Sunday from the distillery. They could, of course, go to the nearest pub to buy the same drink at an inflated price. However, I have never argued that inflated prices should be paid by visitors to our shores. Tourists, especially in highland areas, add a great deal to the local economy.
Mr. Galloway : We find ourselves in the very foreign relationship, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) says, of disagreeing with each other. It strikes me that, if it was so much in the distilleries' interest to seduce the visitor or to hook him on the spirit of life, they could give it away in miniatures as a kind of loss leader. Discovering that they like it so much, the tourists could buy it on Monday in great quantities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead will be interested to know that it will soon be the 500th anniversary of the discovery--or invention--of Scotch whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association has put together an up-to-date programme listing the 42 distilleries which, on a Saturday, will welcome anyone to their premises and which will give free entry in most cases. In all cases, they will give a free dram to those who wish to see how a distillery works and to understand and learn about the history of Scotch whisky, as part of our heritage. The visitors will even be allowed to purchase, perhaps on a Saturday, a bottle of whisky. It is the nonsense of the legislation--or the lack of it--to which I object.
It is crazy to say that on a Saturday, the licensed grocers or the off- licences can open and dispense their drink, but not on a Sunday. If there is a difficulty about the drinks that they are dispensing, that is something with which we must deal. The one big mystery is where the lager louts go on a Sunday. Where do the groups of people who hang about and urinate in the closes on a Saturday go on a Sunday ?
I agree that all licence-holders should be very careful about what they sell on their premises. However, I have yet to come across a publican who would not give someone a carry-out provided that he had the money to pay for it. Anyone can buy a case of strong lager from the pub. He can then, presumably, hump it on his back to the nearest close where people can gather in a group, start to drink and do all the unpleasant things of which they are accused. I know that lager louts gather in groups in some housing schemes and that they create difficulties for respectable people. That problem should be dealt with instantly by the police. Authorities already have that power. We asked the Minister about an amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). Through our amendment, we said that we wanted the measures that had applied in the experiment in Dundee and in other areas to be introduced elsewhere. The experiment was partially successful, certainly in central areas where a large number of lager louts had been gathering and creating abuse not only for Dundee's respectable citizens but, visitors as well. It also happens in some central areas in our capital city. In the experiment, we were able to legislate to disperse the lager louts and--I agree--in some cases
Column 280simply to move them to back streets or some underground howff which they may have chosen. However, they could still be pursued if the areas were extended.
I hope that the Minister is not going back on the promise that he made at the time. At the Dispatch Box, he said that, if any authority applied for areas where drinking in public would be a criminal offence, the Scottish Office would move with alacrity to supply the means to do that.
We were also concerned that the measure might go too far. If people are having a garden party or a barbecue out in the country and a bottle of wine is produced, suddenly half a dozen detectives could swoop on them from the trees and whisk them away. That is not what is intended, but it could happen if the Government are not careful about the way in which they couch the legislation. There is no need--and there should not be a case for it-- for respectable citizens to be molested by drunken louts on any of our streets. As it is an offence, the police have the right to take care of that sort of situation, and they should do so.
Are we suggesting that drunkards do not pour out of pubs on occasions, and that we do not see gangs of drunken louts, not particularly at close heads but in the main streets of Glasgow, creating difficulties for people and visitors ? They are there. At certain times of the night when clubs close, there is a huge exodus of people who are high sometimes on drink and sometimes on illicit drugs. There are great difficulties in those areas and we must legislate for that.
To come out with pious nonsense and say that we must keep Sunday special in order to give a rest to people who are molested six days a week is intolerable. I do not want anyone to be molested for six days a week. I do not want them to be molested for five, four, three, two days or one day a week. I would agree with legislating along those lines. Some may argue that this is an underhanded method of finding a piece of legislation, but if one happens to agree, it is acceptable. [Interruption.] That happens in the House time after time. If legislation happens to be introduced, by whatever device, and we are in favour of it, we often find that it is acceptable. It is not a question of principle. I stand here as principled as other hon. Members, but perhaps a bit more honest than some.
Mr. Gallie : The hon. Gentleman referred to the problem of drugs on our streets. Recently, I heard him talk about the problems of alcoholism ; he said that there is no real cure. Clause 17 will exacerbate the problem because it goes too far. Will the hon. Gentleman consider his position with regard to his recent comments on alcoholism and accept that it is something that cannot be cured totally ?
Mr. McKelvey : I accept that the situation is not out of control. With the police acting promptly, the problem can be solved. There is absolutely no need for anyone to tolerate the sort of scenes that have been outlined in the debate. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me that town councils and local authorities should have more power, not less, as has been happening under other Government legislation. Licensing boards should have, as they once did, the power to legislate and not to grant licences where either an off-licence or a licensed grocer was selling to children, or where a public house was not being kept properly. Today, if there is evidence of under-age drinking in public houses, the licence can be
Column 281taken from the publican. The publican safeguards the licence and regards it as a precious piece of property since, in effect, it is his livelihood.
It is not true that we are awash in Scotland with outlets for drink. Recent surveys have shown, incredibly, that the macho-like Scots are not--as they might imagine--the heaviest or hardest drinkers in the United Kingdom. In some parts of England and Wales, the drink consumed per capita is one and a half times what it is in Scotland.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does the hon. Gentleman remember Dundee in the days when the pubs closed at 9.30 ? There were enormous problems with drunkenness in the city of Dundee, which vanished when the licensing laws were changed and were made much more sensible and relaxed.
Mr. McKelvey : My hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead, who spoke so eloquently, may recall that on Friday evening, it was a great event, as a child in Atholl street in Lochee--where I lived and where my hon. Friend was born--to wait until the pubs emptied so we could line up in the streets and see the street fighting. It was not the kind of gang attacks which occur there now--it was quite artistic pugilism when the pubs emptied.
I argued at the time on the licensing board that one of the reasons why we had so much trouble at half-past nine was that those people who finished their overtime at 9 o'clock got into the pub and downed as many nips and halves as they could in a short period which knocked them squidgy. They went outside, were not their usual selves and some trouble occurred.
When we extended the licensing times, the holy Willies told us that it was hell and damnation and that the whole nation would be drunk from morning till night, and even beyond that. In fact, that has not been the case at all. First, people could not consume that amount of alcohol and remain on their feet. Secondly, there is the question of cost. People simply cannot afford to spend their money over that period of time.
Irrespective of the means by which the legislation has been introduced to the House--I should have preferred it to have been done through a proper survey--I have a strange feeling that, even if in a referendum 90 per cent. had been in favour of opening, the same opposition as we are hearing tonight would have been voiced in the Chamber for a variety of reasons.
I firmly believe that we should legislate to bring the matter into a proper balance. If the experiment were to be done, it would show that, in the long term, no additional harm would be done to our society and to the life we live in Scotland. There would certainly be no reason why life would be any worse.