Monday, 8 June 2015

State management

If there’s one thing that brewers hated, it was government interference in their trade. Especially the pub trade.

A tied estate was an essential element in the brewery’s trade. That’s where the vast majority of their beer was sold. Except for Guinness and, to a lesser extent, Bass. The idea of state management – the government effectively nationalising pubs – scared the shit out of them.

It had happened before. During WW I the government nationalised the beer trade in a couple of key munitions manufacturing areas. In some areas, such as Enfield Lock, the scheme ended soon after the war:

HC Deb 18 April 1923 vol 162 cc2093-4W
Mr. C. ROBERTS asked the Home Secretary whether houses in the Enfield Lock State management district, in which intoxicating liquor has been sold under his authorisation, are now being disposed of; and whether applicants for a licence in respect of these premises will he required to take out a new justices' licence?

Mr. BRIDGEMAN All the properties formerly owned by the State in the Enfield Lock State Management District have now been disposed of. In two of the five licensed premises acquired by the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) in 1916, the sale of intoxicating liquor was discontinued by the latter Department, and these premises have been sold as unlicensed premises. The three other premises, where the sale of intoxicating liquor had been continued by the State, have been sold as licensed premises, and, as I understand, no question of applications for new licences has arisen."

But in Carlisle, where the local brewery and all the pubs were nationalised, state control continued until 1974.

That’s why breweries saw the Licensing Bill as such a threat. This is the chairman of Ansell’s:

The Licensing Bill.—During the year we have seen the Licensing Bill fight its way on to the Statute Book to the resentment both of our licensees and our customers. Part I of the Licensing Act, as it now is, provides for the State management of the licensed trade in all new towns.

Fortunately, the spontaneous opposition of the trade and the public had its effect on the Government and resulted in important modifications of the original Bill.

The fact remains, however, that the Government has obtained wide powers which, with the growth of new towns, constitutes a serious encroachment on the freedom of our industry. It will be necessary for us to watch with great vigilance any attempts at infiltration, whether by State management or municipalisation, and to resist unwarranted attacks designed to damage the structure of the industry or to limit our freedom to develop on the lines which have been so effective in the past.

It has always been your company's policy, and, indeed, that of the trade, to give its loyal support to whatever Government is in power. That will always be so. But if any Government at any time introduces legislation prejudicial to your company's interests then your company, in line with the rest of the trade, will seek to protect itself as best it may. We have no political colour as a trade. We serve the public; we support the Government of the day; but we are bound to protect our own interests.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 84.

The brewers didn’t have anything to fear. Because the Labour government which had come up with the proposals lost power the following year.

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