Friday, 14 January 2011

Scottish pubs and English pubs

From Hansard, 27th February 1952, some observations on the differences between Scottish and English pubs:
Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire): I hesitate to come into this rather fluid argument about the qualities of beer, but that is not the main question of the Bill. I also apologise to those who belong to south of the Border if I introduce some elements which are rather strange to them and which belong to the north of the Border. For that reason, I say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that there should have been a separate Bill for Scotland. …

I see no reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not have left Scotland out of the Bill altogether. All the arguments that have been given in support of introducing the Bill apply to English conditions, and not to Scottish conditions. We in Scotland would have been quite pleased had there been no Bill at all. I should be very surprised if the Secretary of State could show any instance where there has been the slightest demand from Scotland—even from the drink trade—for the Bill.

The Scottish attitude to drink and to the drink trade is quite different from the attitude south of the Border. One of 1202 the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland—the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith)—when making the case for the Opposition against the previous Bill, gave as his reason his nostalgia for the atmosphere of the old English inn. That may be understandable, but it was noticeable that he never mentioned the atmosphere of the Scottish public house. That atmosphere, as most people who have visited Scottish public houses know, consists of smoke, fumes, noise and sawdust. The English inn may have the smell of violets, but the conditions in a great many Scottish public houses may be said to reek of nothing but drink.

The Scottish houses afford an early example of time and motion study, so that drink can reach the customers' lips with the least passage of time and the least traversing of space, so that the maximum amount of drink can be consumed in the shortest possible time.

Mr. Maudling I am not sure of that, not being an expert on Scotland, but is it not a fact that most of the houses in Scotland are free houses, for which the right hon. Member's colleagues are pressing?

Mr. Woodburn I think that the hon. Member is quite wrong. There is quite a lot of control of the public houses in Scotland by the brewers also.

That does not alter the fact that the atmosphere in Scottish public houses is not a leisurely one, in which people sit and talk with their wives and friends. It is an atmosphere of people standing at the bar, drinking beer and whisky as fast as they can be served. Any respectable woman in Scotland would think twice, if not three or four times, before going into a public house, but I understand that that is not the case in England. At those places which I have visited in England, anybody could go in, whether they were drinking or not people sit around and talk, and men are there with their wives. That could not happen in most of the public houses in Scotland. It must he realised, therefore, that the attitude of people in Scotland to this whole question is quite different, and it would have been far better to have left us out of the Bill altogether.

The Home Secretary quoted the attitude of temperance people who sat on 1203 the various Commissions. I said on the Second Reading of the previous Bill that it was an extremely curious thing that some of our temperance friends took the view that it was wrong to make public houses such that people could go into them without feeling ashamed. In other words, they think that drinking is encouraged by houses which are reputable and into which people can take their friends. That, of course, leads to the perpetuation of the very kind of thing I have been dealing with, but if I were to choose I should say that the conditions I have described tend to degrade the self-respect of people. That does not occur when people go into hotels where people may be taking tea or drinking, where drink does not dominate the situation, and where people are entirely free to do as they like.

Therefore, the intention in new towns was not to establish places with a view to making a profit out of selling the maximum amount of drink. The purpose was to establish a social institution which people could use, which had for its purpose, not the pushing of drink but the providing of facilities where people could have drink if they wanted it and where they could have other services also. All people do not drink—some do, and some do not; and there is no reason why they should not be able to mix in a social atmosphere. Non-drinkers should not be made to feel they are forced to drink by going with their friends into a mere drinking place. Therefore, I differ from some of my temperance friends, and I think it right that we should develop a decent atmosphere.

I come from a constituency where, perhaps, there is centred a greater control over the drink trade than in any other place in the country. One of my constituents controls, I understand, about £65 million of capital in the drink trade. He invited me to go to Oxford to see what a respectable public house could be like. I have not been able to go, but he is heartily ashamed of the conditions which exist in Scotland and of some of the people who run public houses there, and who will not provide conditions where people can go with self-respect.

Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries) Surely in his capacity as a Member of Parliament, the right hon. Member must have had many cases brought to his attention where licence holders are trying to improve conditions but cannot do so because of building restriction.

Mr. Woodburn I am not condemning everyone who purveys drink. I recognise that many of these people would perhaps copy what is being done in England and there may be building restrictions, but what we are talking about is a century of the drink trade during which that has never been done, although they had the opportunity. We have to take conditions as they are in Scotland.

2 comments:

  1. I can't help feeling the Honourable Gentleman was being a little disingenuous, bearing in mind previous Scottish licencing acts had went out to their way to ensure pubs were places people didn't want to kick around any longer than necessary, making sure they would be used by those looking only for an alcholic fix.

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  2. Oh, actually, to be fair, he does deal at least with the mindset that led to it here:

    "The Home Secretary quoted the attitude of temperance people who sat on 1203 the various Commissions. I said on the Second Reading of the previous Bill that it was an extremely curious thing that some of our temperance friends took the view that it was wrong to make public houses such that people could go into them without feeling ashamed. In other words, they think that drinking is encouraged by houses which are reputable and into which people can take their friends. That, of course, leads to the perpetuation of the very kind of thing I have been dealing with, but if I were to choose I should say that the conditions I have described tend to degrade the self-respect of people. That does not occur when people go into hotels where people may be taking tea or drinking, where drink does not dominate the situation, and where people are entirely free to do as they like."

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