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Commons Chamber

Volume 115: debated on Friday 8 May 1987

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House Of Commons

Friday 8 May 1987

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Petitions

Rates (Ealing)

9.34 am

I beg to ask leave to present a petition to

The honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the Greenford Residential Group for the Environment, showeth
That Ealing Council is demanding an extravagant increase in rates from the residents of Greenford, and the rest of the borough of Ealing to which we object most strongly.
The petition is signed by a large number of residents especially from the Greenford area. It stands in the name of Mr. N. D. Keating and Mrs. C. A. Keating, chairman and secretary respectively of the Greenford Residential Group for the Environment. They are protesting most vigorously with thousands of other signatories against the horrendous, hideous and totally unjustified rate increase by Ealing Labour council of 65 per cent. for domestic ratepayers and 57·3 per cent. for industrialists.

Domestic ratepayers are finding it extremely difficult, and many find it impossible, to pay the horrendous increase. The increase in industrial rates is expected to threaten jobs, has already caused people to lose jobs and will increase prices.

As I have said, there are thousands of signatories.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will do everything in its power to help us in our protest against this outrageous rates increase.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc.

To lie upon the Table.

It would be for the convenience of the House if the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) presented his second petition now.

Residential Development (Northolt)

9.36 am

I have the honour to present a second petition.

To the Honourable the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the Northolt Village Residents Association, showeth:
(1) That we wish to register the strongest possible objections to the proposal for change of use of the `Sadia' site in Rowdell Road, Northolt, to incorporate a housing and non-industrial development;
which includes a mosque.
(2) That we believe that the proposal, and the circumstances under which the London Borough of Ealing purchased the land and intend to dispose of it need full, frank and public discussion
and a public inquiry.

The petition is in the name of the chairman of the Northolt Village residents association, Mr. Harry Hellier, the vice-chairman, Mr. Adams, the hon. secretary, Mrs. Carole Adams, and the treasurer, Mr. Douglas Greatorex, and many thousands of signatories. The petition concerns the proposal of Ealing council to sell an industrial site which has always been a site for jobs and industry to a group which proposes to change its use, build a mosque and residential housing in the middle of the industrial estate. That will add greatly to the traffic difficulties in an already congested area and to the difficulty of residents with jobs on the site. The site is an industrial site and not a residential site. It has never been a residential site. There are strong objections about the proposal and local people have not been consulted by Ealing council.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will support our demand that Ealing Council immediately set in motion the procedures to hold a full public inquiry to review the purchase, disposal and future use of the site
along the lines of the public meeting that I called, attended by 500 people.

And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc.

To lie upon the Table.

Retirement Age

9.38 am

I am pleased to present the petition from citizens of Leicester, other local residents and the officers and members of the pensions and retirement care campaign concerning the state pension eligibility for men.

At present women may retire at the age of 60 on state pension and men may only do that at the age of 65. While some hon. Members and others are fit, willing and anxious to remain at work into their 70s and 80s, too many people who are desperate for a dignified and decent retirement at 60 are forced to stay at work until they are 65 and to retain jobs that others who are unemployed are desperate to have. I pay my special tribute to the Leicestershire union of mineworkers and its leader, Mr. Jack Jones, for collecting so many of the signatures, of which there are over 500.

The petition is from the citizens of Leicester and other local residents.

It sheweth that
the present State Pension Eligibility Age for men is 65 years and that this is discriminatory to the extent that women are elibible at age 60, although they may work to age 65.
Wherefore your Petitioners Pray that your Honourable House will urge the Government to ensure the taking of immediate steps to establish a Voluntary Retirement Age of 60 for both Men and Women.
The petition is presented in the light of a petition of over 1 million signatures, of which this is the first stage, and a predecessor of which I had the honour to present some years ago, and in the light of the totally unacceptable arid wretched level of unemployment of Leicester arid throughout the country.

To lie upon the Table.

Orders Of The Day

Licensing (Amendment) Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Clause 1

Variation Orders Etc

9.41 am

May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker? When the House adjourned last Friday, I was speaking to amendment No. 1, but also to amendment No. 13. The two are interlinked in such a way that you recognised that there should be one debate. Therefore, I hope that you will allow me to pursue the argument on which I embarked, because of the interrelationship of the two amendments.

I am sorry. I did not make it clear that my selection remains as it was last week, and that with amendment No. 1 we shall take amendment No.1 3, in page 1, line 22, after '11.30 p.m.' insert

'with a two hour break between the opening hour and closing hour'.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 22, leave out '11.30 p.m.' and insert '11 p.m.'.

When the House adjourned last Friday, I was on the point of summing up the case for the two amendments, which is concerned with flexibility and hours of opening. It might help the House if I summarise the beneficial effects of my two amendments on licensees and public houses, and above all in relation to public order, road safety and health.

I have always made it plain that the overwhelming majority of licensees are decent, hard-working people who need some protection from the pressure of the drink industry for ever-increasing consumption and the extended hours in which it can take place. Hon. Members will know from their own experience that the desire for extended opening hours is not universally held by all licensees or by their wives and families.

Two days ago I was delighted to receive, out of the blue, a letter from Mr. Eddie Johnson, landlord of The Crown, a public house in High road, Loughton. I have never met Mr. Johnson, but he gives me permission to read the letter to the House. He says:

"Dear Sir Bernard,
I would like to congratulate you on your stand against any relaxation of the licensing laws.
As a publican of 28 years, I have seen how the erosion of everything we hold dear in this country seems to have been accompanied by an increase in drunken, yobbish behaviour."
Mr. Johnson is making the point that I have made more than once in the House. He continues:
"I enclose a copy of an article that I had published in the Morning Advertiser three years ago. Since then they have put an embargo on any correspondence from me pertaining to the Flexi Laws campaign—indeed one of the features of that newspaper now is that opposition to the measure they say is nil whereas I know that most publicans of my acquaintance are against reform."
In the article, Mr. Johnson made it clear that, in his view, longer and more flexible hours are not needed. He also met head-on the argument that tourists grumble about afternoon closing and argue for later opening. He says:
"Pressure on the Government from the Brewers Society, the Tourist Board and would you believe, the National Union of Licensed Victuallers to allow our pubs to stay open later and longer, is getting stronger. As far as the NULV is concerned, it must be the first time in history a group is supporting an idea that will mean much more work for its members for much less pay. One reason given by the Board is that our licensing laws make tourists stay away and that the laws are silly. Do tourists stay away? London already can't cope with the numbers."
In 1985 report by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry concluded:
"the tourism industry would greatly benefit by a liberalisation of the existing laws. We consider that, both in regard to opening hours, and in provisions for families to take children with them into public houses, a change in the legislation is needed."
But where is the evidence for the claim that the availability of drink is a major determinant of people's choice of holiday location? The Scottish experience provides no such evidence. Between 1979 and 1985, the number of overseas visitors to Scotland increased by 8 per cent. In England and Wales over the same period, the number of foreign tourists increased by 54 per cent.

It is perhaps just possible that the failure of licensed premises to cater for families with children could be a significant factor in persuading British families to holiday abroad, but it is highly unlikely. For there is nothing in our existing law to prevent licensees from setting aside family rooms, provided that the rooms in question do not contain bars. The apparent unwillingness of many licencess or the brewery companies behind them to cater for whole families within the current law surely must be taken as showing a lack of demand for such facilities.

Compared with factors such as the value of the pound and the idiosyncrasies of the British weather, the difficulty of obtaining a drink in a public house at 4 o'clock in the afternoon is surely of minimal significance in deterring foreign tourists from coming to this country. Would American tourists, for example, be deterred from holidaying in this country by a two-hour break in the drinking day? I think not. Indeed, in the United States, alcohol consumption is falling precisely because of greater public awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol. One third of adult Americans are, in fact, teetotal.

In New Zealand, as I said last Friday, the Minister of Justice is being urged by a departmental committee to introduce a period of closure of public houses between 2 pm and 4 pm—in view of what has been happening in the House, this reads strangely—on the ground that it would help public houses in New Zealand achieve the "favourable image" characteristic of English pubs. How ironical, and how sad that at the very moment that our system is prasied and may be copied, the sponsors of this ill-considered Bill are seeking to abandon it in this country. There is no reason to believe that the tourist trade would be damaged by acceptance of amendments Nos. 1 and 13. Indeed, it can be argued that acceptance of the two amendments would help to retain the attractiveness of England and Wales to foreign tourists.

In our previous debates, much of our discussion has focused on road safety. I should like to summarise my views on that as it relates to the two amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) pointed out last Friday, the issue between the supporters and the opponents of the Bill is primarily concerned with the facts. I agree with him that, in relation to road safety, the primary issue is the nature of the relationship between the availability of alcohol, and death and injury on the roads, and whether increased availability would be likely to increase the number of alcohol-related deaths and injuries.

Everyone accepts that a definitive answer to those questions is not possible because the statistical information that would decide the matter is not available. It is partly because of the absence of this vital information that the issue between the supporters and the opponents of the Bill is also that of on whom the burden of proof should be made to lie.

That raises an interesting question. It is not for me, as an opponent of the Bill, to prove that, in the absence of the relevant statistics, the Bill is undesirable. It is those who want to change the law who must show beyond any reasonable doubt, that to do so would not be harmful. I say here and now that prima facie there is a danger that increased availability might lead to increased deaths and injuries on our roads.

If that is so, the onus should be on the supporters of the Bill to show that increased availability will not lead to increased harm. Until that is done Parliament should follow the safer course. So far the supporters have not been able to do so. Questions to the Department of Transport have not produced figures to support their argument. It is entirely wrong to argue that the onus is on those who oppose the Bill to show positively that increased availability will lead to increased harm. That argument is utterly unacceptable. If the matter in dispute cannot be conclusively decided one way or the other, Parliament must choose the safer course—which, in this instance, is represented by my two amendments. They would go some way to control the availability of alcohol and would especially help to prevent continuous drinking throughout the day.

Why must we err on the side of caution? Why would continuous drinking hours be likely to increase road traffic accidents? It is clear that the incidence of alcohol-related traffic accidents is already closely related to the hours during which public houses are open. We do not need to look into the crystal when we can consult the book of experience.

I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has denied that there is a perceptible relationship between pub opening hours and road accidents. I can only ask him to reconsider the pattern of road accidents by the hour of the day at which they occur. I should like to quote the words of Dr. James Dunbar, director of the Tayside safe driving project, who is one of our country's leading authorities on drinking and driving. Incidentally, I believe that Dr. Dunbar went to the same school and university as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood. In a telephone conversation on Wednesday night, he told me:
"There is a significant difference in the times at which alcohol related accidents and non alcoholic accidents occur. Non alcohol accidents peak during the rush hours when people are travelling to and from work. Alcohol related accidents first begin to occur significantly at midday, an hour or so after the pubs open, and then increase steadily through the rest of the day, peaking at between midnight and two o'clock in the morning, after the pubs have closed."
Of course alcohol-related traffic accidents are affected by pub opening hours—to what else would we expect them to be related? At the moment, the peak of alcohol-related traffic accidents occurs late at night. The danger inherent in the Bill's proposal for continuous afternoon drinking is that the peak would then start earlier in the day, during the late afternoon, when schoolchildren and other especially vulnerable road users, such as the elderly, are about.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood argued that extended drinking hours would encourage more leisurely drinking, which in turn would tend to reduce the likelihood of drink-related accidents. Although he cannot offer any proof, that is the basis of his case. I begin to despair, because there is no force in that argument at all. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) explained last Friday that even small quantities of alcohol impair driving ability and increase accident risk. He was absolutely right. Thus, the possibility of more leisurely drinking hardly matters in this context. Moreover, and as Dr. Dunbar has pointed out, if my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood were correct, we should expect the average blood alcohol level of drink-driving offenders in Scotland to have declined since the introduction of extended opening hours. However, Dr. Dunbar's own research into the question has discovered no such decline. In other words, there is no evidence of lower blood alcohol levels having been brought about in Scotland by extended opening hours.

Dr. Dunbar goes further. Other research that he has carried out has shown that approximately one third of drink-driving offenders, aged 29 and over, are already problem drinkers, who habitually drink to excess. They are not simply unlucky people who have been caught out on a single occasion, possibly when celebrating the enactment of this Bill. They are people who regularly drink to excess before driving. It would be naive in the extreme to believe that people with such a weakness would not take advantage of extended opening hours, and that their doing so would not make them even more dangerous drivers than they are already.

In Dr. Dunbar's experience, an accident that results in death is often an accident that follows all-day drinking. As a Scot living and working in Scotland, he is strongly in favour of a two-hour break in the drinking day precisely to reduce the likelihood of all-day drinking followed by driving, the results of which are all too familiar to him in the mortuary.

Perhaps the supporters of the Bill can now begin to understand the logic and the good sense of the recommendation of the New Zealand ministerial committee, which, believe it or not, has just recommended that there should be an afternoon break in that country, which has never had one. It has recommended that because of the splendid example set and the splendid image created for English and Welsh public houses by our afternoon break over a long period. Is that not ironic?

There is a strong possibility that at least one in every 20 road accident deaths involving innocent children is alcohol-related. Twice as many children and young people are killed every year by an alcohol-related road death than were drowned in the Zeebrugge ferry disaster that has so shocked the nation. The onus is upon those who want to abolish the break to prove that not one child will he harmed by the measure. Magistrates must have the power to act and to protect life by being able to place a break in continuous all-day drinking. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Amendment No.13 would not only have a protective effect with regard to the incidence of drinking and driving; it would also serve to mitigate the worst effects of the Bill in a more general sense. A two-hour break in the drinking day may not seem a great amount of time in relation to a single public house but, in a city with perhaps 1,000 public houses and clubs, the total reduction brought about by amendment No. 13 would be substantial—a maximum of 2,000 fewer drinking hours per day. Such a reduction would certainly help to reduce the harm to public health.

If anyone doubts that the increased availability of alcohol would lead to increased harm, let them explain why the highest incidence of alcohol-related liver disease is found among those occupational groups having the easiest access to alcohol—that is, those who work in the drink industry itself, including publicans and managers of licensed clubs.

More than 10 years ago I was the chairman of the first working party in the United Kingdom to look into the effects of alcohol in the place of work. I was not popular when we published figures showing which trades and professions were must vulnerable to drinking alcohol to excess. I am sorry to say that publicans and their staff headed the list.

10 am

The very awareness of the drink trade that its employees are at special risk of experiencing alcohol-related problems has led to numerous drinks companies, to their great credit, to establish special policies on alcohol problems for their employees. These often include measures to reduce the availability of alcohol during working hours. The working party's examination of alcohol in the workplace was followed up by effective action. Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive to the drinks industry published in 1982 stated:
"It is recommended that drinkable alcohol producers should have a clear and written policy aimed at protecting both the health and safety of their employees. The policy could form part of their safety policy under section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and might include the following elements:
  • (a) Control of the availability of alcohol.
  • (b) Restriction or prohibition of consumption of alcohol on the premises.
  • (c) Establishment of agreed disciplinary procedures for alcohol abuse."
  • Amendments Nos. 1 and 13 are based on the truth that the drink trade recognises and applies to its own work force, if not to its customers. The amendments would reduce the overall availability of alcohol in a locality without damaging the principle of flexibility.

    I believe that all the expert bodies concerned with health and safety who have expressed an opinion on licensing reform would support the amendments. The dangers of increasing the already huge problem of alcohol misuse are real and are far too great for us to countenance changing the existing law so precipitately in the direction of extended pub opening hours—a step so manifestly in the dark. The least the nation expects of Parliament now or at any time is that we should take the safer course if there is a risk to health and life.

    I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) will forgive me if I do not take up all the important matters he raised. Indeed, during our deliberations we have often discussed the experience in Scotland, and the content of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys' report, and argued that there does not appear to have been an increase in alcohol consumption since that change in the law. Therefore, there does not appear to have been an increase in consumption as a result of increased availability of alcohol. There is not much point in my crossing swords with my right hon. Friend on those matters again.

    Amendment No. 1 raised an important matter. The scheme of the Bill provides for licensing justices to pay regard to matters such as nuisance to adjoining residents when deciding the closing hour at night. The Government have made plain their dislike of the scheme of the Bill, not least because of the resource implications. But one is bound to have sympathy for amendment No. 1 because it grapples with a problem with which the House would have to grapple if there were a different scheme of licensing reform and we were, for example, to choose a scheme which allowed individual licensees to decide when they would and would not open.

    I am sure that if such a scheme of reform were proposed, the House would discuss anxiously what the final closing hour should be. We would certainly need to have regard to the convenience of people who lived near the licensed premises and we would have to discuss anxiously the possibility of nuisance being caused to adjoining occupiers. Therefore, it is absolutely right and proper that my right hon. Friend should have highlighted that matter in his amendment today.

    Yet again the Minister has referred to the experience in Scotland and I fully understand that it may not be appropriate to have another discussion on the different conclusions that can be drawn from it. However, I must repeat that I regret that we did not set up means of monitoring the results of the changes in Scotland. Had we done so, there would have been much more light cast on our deliberations on the Bill. There are seldom opportunities for measuring changes of what some people would call a social experiment, and it is a pity that we have denied ourselves the ability to argue further with precision the consequences of this legislation.

    Obviously, there is a great deal in what the hon. Gentleman says, but he would not wish to ignore the statistical evidence which is available—he will acknowledge that some important messages attach to it. The statistics reveal that since 1978—that is after the reform had been in place for a year or two—the number of drivers killed over the legal limit has decreased. Certainly one does not see a picture from the statistics that exist of an increased number of deaths on the roads in Scotland, although there has been an increased availability of alcohol.

    Those figures are certainly encouraging, but, without wishing to stray beyond the limits of debating the Bill, there have been other changes in Scotland since 1978, including an increase in unemployment, so lower incomes and people having relatively less to spend on drink than previously. That may well be a factor affecting that period.

    It is difficult to analyse these matters with precision. Had we thought this through when the changes were made in Scotland, we might have devised more methods of monitoring the situation than we did. I am aware that there are figures. Indeed, the Minister has mentioned figures and survey information and I would not deny their existence. But there are differences of opinion among experts who have examined the figures as to what precisely happened and why. We have missed an opportunity, but that is water under the bridge.

    Amendment No. 1 suggests that the latest time to which a licensee may keep a pub open should be 11 pm instead of 11.30 pm — in other words, the normal practice in London. In some parts pubs close even earlier than that now.

    The second amendment seeks to establish a two-hour break at some point in the drinking day. I should like to say something about the significance of these proposed changes. It has been said that tourism, which we all want to encourage, is deterred by our licensing laws. There may be arguments for changes in our licensing laws, but the argument that more tourists would be attracted if we changed them is not a powerful one, because there are many other motives for coining to this country.

    In the past one of the deterrents to tourism was the inability of tourists visiting many parts of Britain to get a decent meal. That is changing and the quality of food in ordinary, inexpensive restaurants has gone up, although as I am a London Member I do not have the same chance to visit other parts of Britain as hon. Members with far-flung constituencies. That improvement has been more important for tourism than the licensing hours.

    Secondly, many tourists stay in hotels and, as many hotels are licensed, guests can go back to their hotel and have a drink at any hour. As hotel residents they are not limited by the licensing hours and can more or less treat the hotel as their home. The House recently passed a Bill that relaxed the hours during which people may drink with meals. The previous provision that people could not drink with meals after 3 o'clock in the afternoon has gone. In so far as we wish to encourage sensible drinking, drinking with a meal is probably the best way to do that and all the medical evidence supports that view. All this makes greater our ability to attract tourists and we do not need to use the argument about extending licensing hours.

    I shall now turn to the arguments about extending the hours to 11.30 pm. People may have difficulty in getting home because public transport is not what it ought to be. This is not the time fully to debate public transport and you would soon call me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I attempted to do that. However, there is clearly a relationship between the time people stop drinking and the method by which they get home. It is fine if they are in their local pub and can walk home. That is the most desirable situation. But sometimes they have to find public transport. We know that after 11 o'clock at night public transport is hard to get and after 11.30 it seems to stop altogether. Therefore, there would be an extra incentive for people to visit pubs by motor car, and that is precisely the danger.

    Sometimes when I am on my way back from a constituency meeting after 11 o'clock, I am conscious that I have to drive a bit more carefully in case I encounter people who have left pubs. Such people are quite noticeable sometimes. They are also noticeable at times such as Christmas eve and new year's eve, and at such times my wife and I do our best not to get into a motor car at all, because now and again one observes people who should not be driving.

    The later that pubs remain open in the evening, the greater the danger that motorists will have been to them and will have had a bit more to drink than they should have had. As I have said before, it is perfectly clear that even if a motorist is below the legal limit—and in my view the legal limit is too high—his driving ability may be impaired. All the research suggests that every drink will impair a person's driving ability a little, even though the way that it works differs from one person to another. Everybody's driving ability is affected for the worse by having more to drink. Anything that increases the likelihood that a motorist may have an extra drink or two must be discouraged.

    10.15 am

    There is a further point about the effect of later opening on local people. There is no fixed time at which people go to bed, but certainly the later in the evening that people drink the more likely it is that disturbance will be caused to people living nearby. Many pubs are in residential areas. Where they are not, the situation may be different. I know from experience in my constituency that there can be a lot of noise and disturbance.

    Even now when pubs stops serving alcohol at 11 o'clock there is a period during which people are allowed to drink up. By the time they get out of the pub and get into their cars is can be quite late. There will be the noise of car doors slamming, and that disturbance can go on late into the night even with an 11 o'clock finish. If pubs were allowed to open until 11.30, the noise and distrubance caused to people who, for example, may have to get up at 6 am to go work would go on until midnight. We must respect the right of people to sleep and we must respect people's right to have a bit of peace and quiet in the evening. For those reasons, I am concerned about any aspect of the Bill which would make the likelihood of a peaceful night's sleep remote.

    The other powerful argument by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) in relation to the afternoon break is about schoolchildren coming home. It is clear that there are more car accidents in the afternoon than in the morning. It is also clear from the figures that young children coming home from school are more at risk than when they are going to school in the morning. It may he that they are more alert in the morning and walk to school more slowly than they do in the afternoon. Perhaps motorists are more careful when going to work in the morning. Even now, some people driving in the afternoon have had rather more to drink than they should. There are disturbing and distressing instances of accidents that have occurred during the afternoon, but I shall not take up the time of the House by going through them.

    Certainly we want to minimise the danger to schoolchildren on their way home from school. Of course when they leave school in the afternoon they are boisterous. Schools have railings to prevent children from running across the road. However, it is easy for schoolchildren on their way home to forget themselves when they want to go and play football or whatever. A little bit of thoughtlessness on the part of the child and an inability on the part of the motorists to stop quickly enough can cause a tragic accident. We want to minimise the chances of such things happening.

    I view these amendments with sympathy and I fully understand the motives of the right hon. Member for Castle Point in moving them. However, it is right that the House should again have its attention drawn to the possible dangers. Of course, there are benefits on the other side, but they are part of a broader discussion of the Bill and are not part of a specific discussion of the amendments. I hope that amendment No. 1 will be accepted, because it seems sensible and right and will give people peace and quiet and lessen the danger a little.

    I shall be brief. I should like to speak about one or two of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) in relation to the letter that he received from Mr. Johnson. I emphasise that, under the provisions of the Bill, Mr. Johnson is not compelled to do anything that he does not wish to do. It is entirely up to Mr. Johnson whether he changes his present hours of opening.

    My right hon. Friend spoke about tourism in relation to Scotland and England and Wales. The overwhelming majority of tourists to Great Britain have to come through London. That is a fact of life, and therefore needs to be taken into account in the tourism argument.

    I live next door to a pub in London. I am in no doubt that there is a strong argument for amendment No. 1. There are also arguments against amendment No. 1, but it does not raise matters of principle in relation to the Bill. In the correspondence that I have received about the Bill, the most significant complaint—I have had many letters of support—has been about later opening hours.

    The remarks made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point and by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) about amendment No. 13 have been illuminating. Amendment No. 13, of course, does not technically achieve what my right hon. Friend is aiming for, and that is the afternoon break. Clearly, if amendment No. 13 were accepted, it would be possible for a licensee to open at 10.30 am, to close at 10.35 for two hours, and then continue trading thereafter.

    I am not persuaded by the arguments about amendment No. 1. It is not a matter of principle. I recommend that the House accept amendment No. 1.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned.

    I give notice that if the Question is agreed, I propose to name Friday 3 July as the day for the Report stage to be resumed.

    The Bill is an all-party measure, involving debates held over two days—30 January and 27 March. It received an unopposed Second Reading and has successfully gone through five Committee sittings. Standing Committee C never sat later than about 7.30 pm. It is not the case that the Bill reached the Floor of the House as a result of unreasonable behaviour on the part of its sponsors. Last Friday, on Report, the Bill had a full day on the Floor of the House.

    It has had magnificent support from hon. Members on both sides of the House who, on many occasions, gave up other engagements to be present to support it. Frankly, it has progressed through the House against apparently overwhelming odds; it was No. 8 in the ballot. Of course, it has been opposed for honourable reasons, principally by my right hon. Friend the hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). Some hon. Members are opposed to it to a greater or lesser degree and for different reasons. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who had hoped to be here for the debate but has other engagements, has expressed reservations on some matters. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) has expressed his reservations. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister has stated the Government's reservations, which are principally concerned with resources.

    Earlier this week, as sponsor of the Bill, I had to ask myself a crucial question. It was this: given the amendments that have been selected for debate and their grouping, given the days that have been allocated for private Members' Bills, and given my right hon. Friend's formidable debating powers, knowledge and known views, was there any prospect that the Licensing (Amendment) Bill could reach the statute book, even on the most optimistic assumptions? The most optimistic assumptions were that today a large number of supporters of the Bill would be present to win closure votes if necessary and that the general election would not take place until after the summer recess.

    Hope springs eternal, especially in the breasts of private Members who try to get legislation through the House. I had to conclude that, even on such assumptions, the Bill could not reach the statute book. I am not a betting man, but if somebody had been offered odds at 100 to one on the Bill reaching the statute book, he would not have put £1 on, but would have kept it for a rainy day, possibly in Scotland, on which he could have used it to shelter in a pub.

    I wrote to the supporters of the Bill, stating that they should feel under no obligation to be present if they had other pressing engagements today—the rough equivalent of the one-line Whip. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) is here. In Scottish terms, gemmes a bogey. There are good reasons for the belief that hon. Members have many other pressing engagements. I have important constituency engagements this evening. It is a matter of record that supporters of the Bill, both hon. Members and wholly innocent academics, have been subjected to a vicious smear campaign by an hon. Member who is not a member of the Standing Committee.

    In the light of that, I emphasise that I did not move this motion because I have to go to what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) last week referred to as my marginal constituency. It is a matter of record that, at the last election, I received over 46 per cent. of the popular vote and a majority of over 8,000. We in Eastwood will fight for every vote because every vote counts. Let the House be under no misapprehension that my commitments are wholly compatible with my presence here, if necessary, until 2.30 pm. Indeed, thanks to the Government's splendid policy of allowing more competition on domestic air routes, there is an excellent air service between Glasgow and London.

    At the next election I do not expect my majority to be as high as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point. I have looked at his results. The general swing of opinion does not seem to matter for him. His majority simply goes up and up. In one sense, the House is about majorities. It is also about the rights of minorities to be heard. In relation to the Bill, my right hon. Friend is in a minority. He may wish to express his views in full on the general matters. Of course, that is his right, and I shall be here to listen.

    Let us not forget the circumstances in which the Bill received an unopposed Second Reading — it was certainly by careful planning, but it was not inadvertently slipped through at 2,30 pm. At about nine minutes past two, after a debate in which he said that he would oppose a Second Reading, and after my winding-up speech, the hon. Member for Newham, South did not seek in any way to divide the House. It is possible that the hon. Member may have been persuaded by my eloquence in my summing up, but I have some doubts about that. Both of us knew the consequences of the hon. Gentleman not dividing the House and of my sitting down at nine minutes past two o'clock rather than at 28 minutes past the hour. One of the consequences was that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), who had been sitting quietly in his place for some time, was able to speak to his Bill. That is not a Bill which is supported by those of my hon. Friends who support this Bill or by myself, but we felt that there was no reason why the hon. Gentleman should not have his way. That is an important principle.

    10.30 am

    There is another important principle that is fundamental to the House, and that is parliamentary privilege. The hon. Member for Workington is not in his place, but I feel that I have to say that that right has been grossly abused and debased by him. What he said and implied about me last week is not an issue, although to be accused of not caring about the deaths of young children, which was clearly the implication of what the hon. Gentleman said, as recorded in column 528 of Hansard, is not a very pleasant experience. Perhaps my reaction to that reflects the fact that I am used in the main to criticism from Scottish Labour Members, who would never have made that sort of speech. Under parliamentary privilege the issue has been debated at length and I shall not go over it now.

    The hon. Member for Workington has smeared three of my hon. Friends on a wholly bogus point. It has been made clear by Mr. Speaker and by the Chairman of Standing Committee C that they behaved with absolute propriety. In columns 498 and 499 the hon. Gentleman smeared two distinguished Scottish academics. I have been a Scottish academic and I know that an individual's reputation for intellectual integrity is fundamental. Essentially the accusation was that academics had fiddled research data because they were being funded by the Scotch Whisky Association. The hon. Gentleman quoted the exact figure of £49,000, but he did not say that the project in question was funded from various sources, including Her Majesty's Government. The funding from the Government was about £100,000.

    I do not know the motives of the hon. Member for Workington and I do not know whether he was genuinely misinformed. I do know, however, that it is not reasonable to assume that the three organisations which were mentioned—Alcohol Concern, the Scottish Council on Alcoholism and the British Medical Association—would have deliberately misinformed the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member.

    The Bill was introduced for a number of reasons. It is a personal assertion of belief in the Act of Union of 1707, which I believe has benefits north and south of the border. That is possibly under greater threat than many hon. Members realise. It is an assertion of belief in the Act of Union for a Scottish Member to introduce on the basis of experience in Scotland measures that relate to England and Wales. Something broadly right in principle was done in Scotland when the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 was put on the statute book by the previous Labour Government.

    It has never been my contention that everything in Scotland is necessarily perfect. I believe, however, that the evidence shows that the results of the 1976 Act are either positive or neutral when set against various criteria. That is what the evidence suggests, and my personal observations both before and after the passing of the Act confirm that. I repeat my invitation to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point to visit Scotland and to meet the police in my constituency. I would go further. If my right hon. Friend is minded to do that, I would invite him to address my constituency Conservative association, but I do not suggest that the subject of that address should necessarily be licensing hours. The invitation is a genuine one.

    I believe that the licensing law in England and Wales is a mess. It is highly biased against pubs and clubs, which provide a controlled environment for the consumption of alcohol. I shall exemplify the position, as I did broadly in Committee. Let us assume that a constituent of an hon. Member arrives in London on a July afternoon and wishes to have a drink. What are his options? First, he could come here. He could seek out his Member of Parliament, who would doubtless take him for necessary refreshment. Secondly, he could buy alcohol in an off-licence and then sit in a park and drink it. He could now, as the hon. Member for Battersea said, enter a restaurant and consume alcohol there. He could take a train to Gatwick and back and consume alcohol there. What he could not do under the present licensing laws is enter a public house and consume alcohol there, even if the licensee wished the public house to be open. I do not believe that to be sensible.

    The Bill is not about off-licences. As I understand the state of the law in England and Wales, it is legal for an 18-year-old who is accompanied by two 16-year-olds to be handed £5, for example, by the 16-year-olds on the street and for him to enter an off-licence to buy alcohol for the 16-year-olds to consume on a park bench, for example. No one will have committed an offence, even if the person in the off-licence knew what was happening. I may be wrong in that interpretation of the la w, but I think that the law in England and Wales needs reform.

    The Bill has united many people. It has united hon. Members from both sides of the House and those who may be said to have some self-interest in its passage, such as the National Union of Licensed Victuallers, the Brewers Society, the National Association of Licensed House Managers and the Transport and General Workers Union, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) told the Committee.

    It has the support of the tourist organisations, although I do not think that the tourist argument is necessarily decisive. It also has the support of the three local authority associations in England and Wales — namely, the Association of District Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of County Councils. Such associations cannot reasonably be said to have a financial or commercial interest in the passage of the Bill.

    If my proposal is accepted, the Bill will not be dead; it will remain on the Order Paper. It establishes an important point, and it could well be debated again on 3 July. There may or may not be a June election. If there is not, the supporters of the Bill, on an all-party basis, would be able to approach the Government and say, "The climate for change has been clearly established. What do the Government propose to do now?" If there is a June election, I believe that, irrespective of the result of that election, reform is inevitable. Such reform need not necessarily take the precise form suggested in this Bill; there are arguments for different types of reform.

    I should like to thank the Bill's supporters, and also to thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State for his courteous neutrality. I also thank the hon. Member for Battersea for what he said. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point has opposed the Bill for wholly honourable reasons.

    I hope that the House will accept the motion as an appropriate procedure, so that, after a due interval for the contributions of others—especially, perhaps, from my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister — other measures in which private Members believe may also be debated today, possibly the last day of private Members' time in this Parliament.

    I apologise for not being present at the commencement of this morning's proceedings. I spent a very successful day in Carlisle yesterday, where we strengthened our hold on the city council. I motored home late last night, and I had to get up rather early this morning to come here. I regret not having been here on time. It was no one's fault; the time factor was to blame.

    I am glad that I was here to listen to the tail end of the speech by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). As I came into the Chamber, however, I wondered where all the supporters of the Bill had gone. I should have thought that they would be present to give the hon. Gentleman moral support in his endeavours.

    Because of the time when the hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber, he may not have appreciated the precise position in relation to my supporters. I explained that earlier, before he arrived.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for putting me right, and I apologise if I have said anything that I should not have said. Nevertheless, I should have thought that the supporters of a measure of this kind, whatever the circumstances, would have been present right up to the end to give it its funeral. But evidently the hon. Gentleman has done that himself with his motion.

    10.45 am

    I have taken part in a number of debates during my 22 years in the House. I have been privileged to take part in some, on a non-party basis, with the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), and I have vivid and happy recollections of discussing a similar Bill in Standing Committee in the early hours of one morning. We got it on to the Floor of the House on the same day.

    The hon. Gentleman may recall that that Bill sought to bring children under 14, unaccompanied, into licensed bars. No wonder we were able to defeat it.

    I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is absolutely right. The tragedy is that the present Paymaster General was the promoter of that Bill. However, Parliament in its wisdom defeated it.

    This may be the last time that I shall take part in a debate in this hallowed place that I have been privileged to serve, and have loved to serve. The work done by the right hon. Member for Castle Point in opposing the Bill, in Committee and at various other stages, should be commended. I should like to pay respectful tribute to his excellent work on this subject over the years. The right hon. Gentleman is not a strict teetotaller, as I am, and I do not hold that against him. However, he and a number of others can see the potential dangers in opening the floodgates. Heaven knows, we have enough of a problem on our hands now. To open the doors for all-day drinking would be a retrograde step, and I do not want it to happen.

    I am all in favour of the principle of flexible rostering, and I feel that the hon. Member for Eastwood should consider it. But I am dead against an extension of the present hours, as are a number of people in the trade, because of the potential dangers, particularly in relation to young people. I admire the hon. Gentleman for bringing the Bill to a conclusion, and I am only sorry—you will correct me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I am out of order— that the Selection Committee that selected the members of the Committee to examine the Bill——

    Order. We are debating the motion that further consideration be adjourned, The hon. Gentleman should stick to that.

    I shall try to stick to the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely trying to say that I am sorry that, as a result of my intervention in sending a letter and raising a point on the Floor of the House, some hon. Members whom I named, and who are not dishonest people, have now taken a personal dislike to me. That has been evident in the measure of their friendship, and I deprecate it.

    Having said that, let me congratulate the right hon. Member for Castle Point. I know that he will be back, not only in his present capacity but as the Father of the House. I wish him well, and all the others with whom I have been privileged to serve in this place for nearly 23 years. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be as successful in his opposition in the future as he has been in the past.

    I am greatly moved by the kind remarks of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis). I do not think that the public fully appreciate how, on some great social issues, the members of the different political parties work together for what they consider to be the public good. I recollect many happy campaigns in conjunction with the hon. Gentleman and members of other parties. I am sorry that he is leaving Parliament; he will be greatly missed by us all.

    The motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) was wholly unexpected, but it was a welcome development and I accept it in the spirit in which it was moved. The whole House should be grateful to my hon. Friend for suggesting that time should be provided for further reflection on the Bill. Nevertheless, I am not surprised. My hon. Friend's experience as a Scottish Health Minister will have made him sensitive to at least some of the criticisms of the Bill that I have found it necessary to make. I am grateful to him for his kind words. Throughout all our exchanges, he has conducted his case with great courtesy and good humour.

    I am not opposed to the Bill, any more than the hon. Member for Carlisle is opposed to it, because it seeks to allow greater flexibility of opening hours, but I am opposed to the move to lengthen the total number of hours on the supposed ground that it would make for more civilised drinking. That is complete nonsense. It would certainly increase the availability of alcohol. That might he good for the profits of the drinks trade, but it would fly in the face of warnings from the World Health Organisation, the medical profession, the royal colleges and the alcohol care agencies. They have warned that an increase in alcohol consumption is inevitably accompanied by an increase in health harm.

    I shall develop only one aspect which it is important to put on record, as and when we return to the issue. Had we proceeded with the Bill this morning, I should have moved an amendment to draw attention to the prevalence of under-age drinking in public houses and to the serious implications for law and order and for the health of our young people. If debate on the Bill is to be adjourned, it must be adjourned on the understanding that these implications are grasped and that something is done about them. I draw some comfort from what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State said this morning: that the Government will have to insist that the implications are grasped and that something is done about them.

    In raising this problem, I am attempting to follow the long and honourable tradition of Parliament, at least in the present century, of protecting children and young people generally against alcohol. The Bill does nothing to solve the problem of under-age drinking. If enacted unamended, the Bill would make the position worse.

    There are several reasons why it is wise to adjourn consideration of the Bill—and, I hope, to drop it—but none is more important than the fact that, contrary to the best intentions of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood, it lengthens drinking time and increases the load on licensees at a time when under-age drinking is causing grave concern to the police, teachers, parents and the public at large.

    I have with me a large collection of cuttings from newspapers that are published in every part of England and Wales that refer to illegal under-age drinking in public houses. The headlines are chilling. I take a few of them at random. The headline in the Basildon Evening Echo reads:
    "Pub kids 12—drinking booze."
    The headline in the Reading Evening News says:
    "Teeny drinkers in health crisis."
    The headline in the Liverpool Echo reads:
    "High on the drink drug — up to 80 per cent. of Merseyside teenagers, some as young as 14, are drinking in pubs illegally."
    And the Manchester Advertiser headline says:
    "Children go to school drunk."
    I could quote hundreds of examples, but those will suffice.

    I have in my hand the monthly press digest for October that is published by the Institute of Alcohol Studies. It reveals a terrifying and nationwide problem. I shall refer to only one article, which, significantly enough, appeared in the Police Review of 19 October 1986. In this article Mr. Colin Sheppard looked at the link between juvenile crime and the alcohol consumed by under-age drinkers in public houses. Speaking of a 16-year-old sitting straight in his chair, his fingers gripping it to keep his balance, he reports that the boy said:
    "Where I come from, lads start drinking when they are about 15 or 16, some more than others but usually on at least four days a week including weekends. The usual pattern is to pub crawl around the city pubs, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings, and then look for the wimps to pick off. It's hit and run, really, with us hunting in packs and sometimes being hunted. It's always good fun if Forest are at home and the away supporters are in town, then we get some real sport — a really good boot job on them makes the night. By about throwing out time I have had about eight or nine pints of ale like me mates and then we look for a club. If they won't let us in there's usually aggro—either on the bouncer or damage. Why do I do it? It's the thing to do. Booze and fight—what else is there that matters?"
    Mr. Sheppard goes on to say——

    Order. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are debating whether we should adjourn consideration of the Bill. He must relate his remarks to that and not make the speech that he intended to make on an amendment that we have not yet reached.

    I am referring not to an amendment but to the reason why I am not prepared to accept the adjournment of the Bill. You are quite right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to point out that an amendment that has not yet been reached would have gone into the matter in great detail. I do not propose to go into as much detail now as otherwise I should have done, but this is the last opportunity to tell the House and the country what is going on.

    A moment ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood gave a long list of reasons why he thinks that the Bill, which had an unopposed Second Reading in this House, has a great deal of support in the country. Does it? If it does, it must be due to a fit of absence of mind. Therefore, it is right and proper and in the interests of children that I should produce evidence that was published in a recent issue of Police Review. Mr. Sheppard said:
    "I asked 50 male offenders at the Nottingham Senior Attendance Centre. 'When did you start drinking alcohol regularly?' … No fewer than 23 said they had been drinking regularly in public houses since the age of 15. As one put it, 'I don't think anyone could stop youngsters having a drink under 18 if they wanted to. Anyway, why should they'? No-one seems to bother. You never see the copper in pubs checking up on ages and the landlords don't bother because they are making a living.' … More than half the sample — 28 — said that the prime responsibility for under-age drinking was unconcerned parents and 26 felt that the licensee could do more to check on the ages of drinkers … Whereas only 11 saw a role for schools in educating the young about the problems of drink…
    Twenty of the sample said they thought that drinking intoxicants to excess made them want to commit offences and a further 10 thought that alcohol made them more likely to commit offences. In 21 cases, drink was said to be likely to make them more agressive and 19 felt that the effect of drink was to increase their dislike of authority, in particular the police.
    One youth said: 'Booze makes me silly and I hit people. It takes about 10 pints to get me like that and I get through that on Fridays and Saturdays. Where I live there's nowt else to do and that's it really … ' Four of the sample thought they had a health problem related to drinking. One 18-year-old told the group, 'I started when I was about 12 or 13, it was in local pubs, playing snooker and having a pint. I've been at it ever since. Last year I started buying Martini and cheap wine and I get through six bottles a week. I drink about 30 pints of beer a week in pubs and I don't really care. The doctor says my guts are in a mess. —that's life.' "
    11 am

    That is the situation about which I am complaining, and about which the Bill is completely evasive. Perhaps hon. Members will begin to see why head teachers are so concerned about what is happening — the deliberate breaking of the existing law, and here I am not talking about the Bill but the seeming impotence of the police in many areas and the turning of a blind eye to a worsening problem.

    When it became known that I was opposing the Bill, I received a great volume of support from people who had begun to feel that nobody cared about the matter. After the Bill reached Committee, I received a letter from Mrs. D. R. Rivilland, MSc., headmistress and the chairman of the health education working party of the National Association of Head Teachers. Perhaps you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, knew of that worthy organisation in your previous capacity. Mrs. Rivilland wrote:
    "I wish to protest most strongly about the Licensing Amendment Bill being put forward by Mr. Alan Stewart M.P. and I hope that you will include the following points in your opposition. The enormous increase in under-age drinking gives real concern to head teachers of secondary schools, particulary as the existing laws are already so difficult to enforce. Quite young children are now consuming units of alcohol on a regular basis and many parents are unaware that alcohol consumption and misuse by young people is a far more serious problem than abuse or experimentation with hard drugs".—
    I repeat, "with hard drugs".

    It is not only protests of that kind against the Bill, but the inadequacy of existing law, which the Bill would worsen, that should concern us.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood has decided to adjourn the debate on his Bill, and it would be easy for me to accept that and go away quietly. I am not prepared to do that. Successive Governments have felt unable to grapple with the problem and have left it to private Members to introduce Bills, which, in one way or another, have proved defective, and I feel that that the present grave situation in regard to under-age drinking must be looked at in greater depth. That is why I insist that, if we are to accept the motion, we should be given some assurances on that.

    The Justices' Clerks Society, whose members have unrivalled experience in this matter, tells us that the present law is inadequate—I shall deal later with what it says about my hon. Friend's Bill. In its recent report, "Licensing Law in the Eighties" the Justices' Clerks Society states:
    "The question must then be posed. Where do the young persons obtain their liquor? Some steal it, but the majority go to the local public houses and off licences. There is clear evidence that young persons also obtain their intoxicating liquor from registered clubs and disco clubs, the latter allowing young people to buy and consume alcohol until late in the evening or early in the morning. There is no doubt that crimes of public disorder, violence and criminal damage occur after the young people leave the licensed premises. Magistrates talking to each other, and to their clerks, complain of two things:—(1) at the law which makes it so easy for young persons to obtain intoxicating liquor and for licence holders to sell it to them; and (2) at the police for not prosecuting more licence holders for selling intoxicating liquor to obvious minors and more young persons for consuming and buying."
    That is evidence which the Home Office should be considering carefully — the evidence from the justices' clerks, who advise the licensing magistrates and upon whom they depend for help and guidance.

    The justices' clerks go on to say:
    "The police respond by complaining of the difficulties they encounter in prosecuting a licence holder in view of the necessity to prove he acted 'knowingly'. They also say that the courts too readily accept the word of the licence holder when he says that he could not tell that the young person was a minor."
    The justices' clerks beg Parliament to do something about the matter.

    They go on to ask why there is so much under-age drinking:
    "In view of the fact that police, magistrates and clerks— and incidentally parents know that under-age drinking goes on day in and day out all over the country, what is the explanation?"
    Of course, they know where the fault lies. They say:
    "Experience has shown that it is difficult to obtain convictions in view of current legislation and the police simply hesitate to prosecute licence holders and young drinkers. In one police area in the south of England, only two licence holders were prosecuted for selling to minors, which, in the context of the problem nationwide, demands action, and effective action."
    The justices' clerks suggest a course of action—I shall not go into it now, because it would require an amendment to the Bill, which we are not discussing now — that would certainly require a change in existing law that is not contemplated in this Bill.

    I said earlier that for nine years I was the chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism. We built up a network of counselling agencies, and some hon. Members played a valuable role in our work. Indeed, one of the sponsors of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), actually trained as a counsellor, and I pay warm tribute to him for that. I am now president of the Greater London alcohol advisory service, which coordinates such services throughout the capital. I can tell the House from the direct experience that I have gained over the past 20 years that matters have been getting steadily worse. Over that period—and this is why I am so loth to accept the motion to adjourn without qualification—young people have not been exempt from either the growth in consumption or its adverse consequences—especially with alcohol, as compared to other psycho-active and potentially addictive drugs. There is no generation gap or culture divide. It could be argued that young people's drinking patterns have already been aided and abetted by their seniors, and the variation orders in the Bill would certainly aid and abet them further.

    I am not prepared therefore to accept the motion without some promises and undertakings because, over the past 20 years, the number of people drinking alcoholic beverages has increased, because drinking starts at a younger age and is more frequent, and because greater amounts of alcohol are consumed. The facts are known. A report on adolescent drinking was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Security. I am delighted to see that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security—the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) — is with us. Long before she entered this House or became a Minister, she showed a keen interest in these matters. She has a deep knowledge of them. If there is one person occupying a role in government for which she is uniquely fitted by her experience, it is my hon. Friend. She will know that the report prepared by the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys during 1983–84 was presented to the Minister for Health in October 1985 and was finally released by the Minister in December 1986. The fieldwork was done in 1984 and the complete report was sent to Ministers in October 1985. I had to ask in the House why it had not been published before. It did not see the light of day until the week before last Christmas. That delayed report confirms the view that, for adolescents, the major drug of misuse is alcohol and that they suffer many more problems from it than from all other drugs combined.

    I do not have the slightest doubt that, if the OPCS were asked to conduct similar fieldwork when the variation orders proposed in the Bill have been in operation, the findings which I am about the reveal would be greatly magnified. The survey showed that, by the age of 13, 82 per cent. of boys and 77 per cent. of girls had had their first drink. Twenty-four per cent. of boys said that they were nine or younger when they had their first drink. Among 13-year-olds, more than 26 per cent. of all boys and 17 per cent. of all girls drank alcohol on four or more days a week and 30 per cent. of boys and 38 per cent. of girls drank at least once a week.

    Among 15-year-olds, 34 per cent. and 25 per cent. respectively drank on most days in the week. Of those who drank, about half the 13-year-olds drank fewer than four units of alcohol a week, which is equivalent to two pints of beer, while among the 15-year-olds half the boys and one third of the girls drank more than 10 units a week. Nearly one in five 15-year-old boys drank more than 25 units of alcohol a week. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated that the upper health limit for adult men should be no more than 21 units a week; so the younger generation is already drinking harder than the doctors think is satisfactory for mature adults.

    Of 15-year-old drinkers, 55 per cent. of boys and 48 per cent. of girls experienced one bout of drunkenness during the year, half of them more than once. Fifteen per cent. of 13-year-old boys reported getting into arguments or fights after drinking. That proportion rises to 17 per cent. for 14-year-olds and 27 per cent. for 15-year-olds. Half of 15-year-old boys. a third of 14-year-old boys and a quarter of 13-year-old boys report falling over as a result of drinking too much. Since the adolescents were asked to report on the events in the year before the survey, the 13-year-olds were recalling events that happened when they were 12.

    The OPCS report states:
    "The greater the degree of social enjoyment that adolescents recalled as being associated with an evenings drinking, the more likely it was to have been followed by a disagreeable combination of sickness, incapacity and regret."
    The report continues:
    "Heavier drinking among the relatively small minority of adolescents who do drink heavily is not episodic or opportunist drinking, it is an established regular habit … Heavy drinking, including no doubt what is known in adults as problem drinking, among a minority of adolescents (even among secondary schoolchildren) is a regular commitment that forms part of their lives. It is not an occasional adventure … A minority of adolescents have a regular habit of heavy drinking. Some of them are still at school."
    I have already produced evidence to show the anxieties of one headmistress on this subject.

    The report continues:
    "The more money they have the more likely they are to drink, to drink a lot, to get drunk and to get into difficulties. Only a minority go right through this process but the better off are more likely than those who have only little money to go down the path."
    Those warnings should sound an alarm bell.

    Under-age drinkers account for one in 14 of all drunkenness convictions — my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State knows that to be a fact. For the first time this century, 16-year-old boys are more at risk from drunkenness than middle-aged men. The rate of convictions per 100,000 of population among 16-year-olds exceeds that of the 30 to 60 age group. Between 1982 and 1985 the number of offences and cautions among 14-year-olds increased from 94 to 224, or 138 per cent.; among 15-year-olds, from 301 to 492, or 63 per cent.; and among 16-year-olds, from 1,047 to 1,538, or 47 per cent.

    How in heaven's name can the Government and the nation ignore figures of that kind? God knows what we are building up for the future. This is not the first time a Licensing (Amendment) Bill has been brought before the House without any consideration having been given to the impact of its provisions on the younger generation. I had to remind the hon. Member for Carlisle that one of the campaigns in which we were engaged dealt with a Bill which—although, of course, it introduced the principle of "flexibility"—sought to permit children under 14 to enter bars unaccompanied. It too was given a Second Reading and went through Committee. But, on Report, the House of Commons suddenly tumbled to what was proposed and threw it out. We cannot go down this line again ignoring the facts.

    11.15 am

    While overall drunkenness offences peaked in 1980, the number of under-age drivers found guilty of drunkenness or cautioned was higher in 1985 than in 1980. Over 1,000 young people die each year in an alcohol-related accident, and so it goes on. I could say much more on that subject, but I shall not.

    There is one other reason why I am reluctant to agree to the adjournment of the Bill without any promise that the break in hours will be restored. The Bill as constituted, even if it were the best Bill in the world, simply cannot be implemented without causing serious disruption for the courts. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department — the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)—told us that there were serious resource problems. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has had to remind us repeatedly that there are serious resource problems. We would be acting irresponsibly, would we not, if we were to accept this motion without a clear statement that the resources necessary to implement the Bill are available? Home Office Ministers have referred to this, although not in great detail.

    Let us consider how serious the matter is. In the current issue of The Law Magazine, which reached me only two days ago, Mr. Peter Lydiate a justices' clerk, bluntly warned:
    "the traditional system of administering justice in the people's courts is now under threat".
    When we are told that the administration of the magistrates courts already faces a "deepening crisis", we cannot allow the Home Office to put further pressure on the courts by seeking to implement this Bill until the courts feel that they can cope with the extra burden. Mr. Lydiate states that 310 justices clerks are responsible for a further 1,300 court clerks. Justices clerks have to be barristers or solicitors of at least seven years standing. Twenty five per cent. of the court clerks are also legally qualified. If the Bill ever sees the light of day, the work that it will entail must be seen in the light of the burden placed on the courts when the Crown prosecution service comes into operation—I believe it may be already in operation.

    It must be seen in the light of the burden placed on the courts since the Crown Prosecution Service came into operation. The new service was to relieve seriously stretched police departments from having to prosecute in magistrates courts. That action has already had an adverse effect on the staffing of magistrates courts, according to Mr. Lydiate. He said:

    "One vast source of potential Crown Prosecutors was clearly the hundreds of barristers and solicitors employed and trained by justices' clerks to act as court clerks … These court clerks were targeted for recruitment as Crown Prosecutors."
    Up to April last year, 21 per cent. of legally qualified court clerks left the service, many to go into prosecuting solicitors' departments. There is little doubt that this serious and dramatic trend has continued, perhaps even at a greater pace.

    I must describe the reality of the situation facing our courts in order that the House might see why my argument is so important. We need to be given assurances that the Home Office will allocate more resources to the justices' clerks, in order to appoint appropriate qualified staff to meet the demands that they already face, as well as the additional work that the Bill will place upon the courts.

    The Justices' Clerks Society is concerned about the length of court hearing times. This has to be spelt out because we have not been told about this burden. The society is concerned about the length of court hearing time and the additional work that will arise if the Bill is passed in its existing form. The society has estimated that each application for a variation order will last on average about 10 minutes. There are some 96,000 licensed premises in England and Wales. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State—the hon. Member for Grantham—told us on Second Reading that 75 per cent. of those, or some 72,000, will apply for variation orders. On the most optimistic reckoning, 4,000 extra court sessions will be required to deal with all the applications. If such applications are opposed, we can double or treble that number.

    To show how this will affect licensing districts, I will give four examples — two large districts, one medium and one small. As the Bill applies schedule 2 to the Licensing Act 1964, it follows that objectors can turn up at a hearing unannounced, thereby prolonging it by up to half an hour or even more. In Manchester, a large district, it has been estimated that if all the licensed premises were made the subject of applications for variation orders, at an average of 10 minutes, an application would require about 180 additional court hours to be accommodated within an already overburdened workload. A normal court sitting lasts three hours, which would mean an additional 60 sittings for licensing justices. If there were objections, as I believe there would be, the 60 sittings could become 120 or even 180.

    In Birmingham, another large court, with 1,200 licensed premises to cater for, 200 hours will be required. This would require 66 sittings or even 200 sittings. In Medway, a medium sized court with 475 licensed premises, 78 hours, or 27 to 78 sittings would be required. In Batley, a relatively small court, catering for, say, 100 licensed premises, 16 hours, or five to 15 sittings would be required.

    There are other problems. The Act currently allows for a maximum of eight licensing sessions plus brewster sessions in which to deal with the business for a licensing district. The minimum number of licensing justices prescribed by regulations is five, which in almost all areas will have to be increased to the maximum of 15 in order to cope with the burden that variation orders under the Bill would place on the courts. This will obviously create additional expenditure.

    As the maximum number of justices under the existing law who can sit and take variation orders is 15, that will mean that in Manchester, which has an existing maximum of 18 half-day sittings, with an additional 60 half-day sittings per annum, justices will be sitting on 78 licensing sessions, thereby reducing their availability to deal with criminal, domestic and juvenile work. I have spelt out that impossible situation in detail to show how ridiculous and ill thought out the Bill is. The question of the resources that will be required has not even been considered. This unsatisfactory situation would worsen if hearings were lengthy because of objections to applications.

    In Manchester, as I have already said, the workload would increase to 120 sessions. One could envisage a situation where licensing justices would be spending all their time in the licensing courts to the exclusion of all other work. My right hon. and learned Friend knows that the courts are already experiencing delays because qualified clerks are leaving the service. He knows that the Home Office has allowed one element of the service to compete with another, due to already inadequate finance. The courts must be adequately financed if justice is to be properly administered. The lack of adequate remuneration and the attraction of higher salaries from the Crown Prosecution Service has lured qualified clerks away from the service in their droves.

    Peter Lydiate, in the article I mentioned, stated that he believes that this is deliberate poaching. He said:
    "The plan was simple. Pitch the basic salaries of the new Crown Prosecutors above those fixed for clerks. This was done; it worked."
    The effect of this on the magistrates courts was that large numbers of court clerks were seduced away from the magisterial service, leaving an instant vacuum which justices' clerks have been energetically trying to fill during the past year, with great difficulties. The effects already stare us in the face. As Mr. Lydiate said, many courts have been closed and the hearings of cases put off for weeks or months for want of sufficient court clerks.

    Already, justices' clerks are faced with the training of new recruits. Mr. Lydiate said:
    "Corrective action shows little prospect of success. It takes years to train appropriate barristers and solicitors to a level of competence."
    There is no more difficult and abstruse area than licensing law. Lay magistrates need and expect expert guidance. The Justices' Clerks Society is deeply concerned that the Home Office has turned down suggestions that court clerks should be proficiently qualified barristers or solicitors. We are not matching like with like in our courts. We are opening up a minefield of case law with variation orders. Lay justices need the best advice that can be given. Licensees, with the help of their association, will be given barristers or solicitors to argue their cases.

    What Mr. Peter Lydiate said of the magistrates courts applies to the licensing courts. He went on to say:
    "Magistrates courts therefore face a dark period where, in most courtrooms today, the bench of unpaid lay justices will be sitting to hear from a barrister or solicitor acting as Crown Prosecutor, a barrister or solicitor acting for the accused and their court clerk.
    He will be required to give expert guidance on all that is said and done concerning law, evidence, practice and procedure, and to ensure that the justices apply correct judicial criteria to any decision."
    We are not told that the Bill will be withdrawn. It is to be adjourned. It will come back at some future time. Of course, the Home Office will look at it very carefully, but there is no guarantee that the Bill will not come before us again in its present form.

    The Bill is an administrative nightmare. Frankly, I cannot see that it will ever be implemented. Therefore, there will be a need to increase the maximum number of sessions and the maximum size of licensing committees to deal with the work if it ever becomes law. This would involve a change in the Licensing Act 1964, which the Bill does not deal with. The Bill cannot be implemented without amendment to that Act. That fact has only emerged from my close study of the matter.

    I know that the House is not going to pass the Bill now, but how could it ever pass the Bill in its present form? We are entitled to know whether the Home Secretary will be obliged to come before Parliament with new legislation before the Bill can ever be introduced—unless my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister can tell us that the Home Secretary has the powers already. Parliament needs to know, and it has not been told. We deal in generalities with a Bill which, as I have shown, has grave social consequences. I have not mounted the entire case against the Bill as yet. I have taken particular points that cause concern. There is much more that could be said about it. It is not an innocuous little measure but a very dangerous one.

    11.30 am

    Indeed, even if more financial resources were found to implement the Bill, I wonder whether we are justified in pressing it upon the courts. Again, Peter Lydiate issued a warning. He said:
    "Even if the coming years were to bring an increase in salaries to make them competitive with those of Crown Prosecutors, which is by no means certain, it may be too late."
    In short, there will be considerable difficulty in absorbing this extra work without causing additional delays to the hearing of criminal, juvenile and domestic cases. Additional court and court clerk time will be involved, to the detriment of other more pressing work, and that is taking place at a time when recruitment and retention of suitably qualified court clerks is proving increasingly difficult.

    I could go on to describe the financial consequences of all that. Whether the Government will ever find the money for it is another matter. Unless additional resources are made available, there is a great fear in the licensing world that liquor licensing work will grind to a halt because of a total inability to cope.

    I believe, therefore, that the Home Office has a specific responsibility to protect the licensing justices in our constituencies. I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that the debate on the Bill should not be adjourned but that the Bill should be quietly dropped. Perhaps some day the present Government, or another, will find the courage to legislate and will grasp the fundamental truth that alcohol, with all its pleasant associations for most of us, is not like other commodities. Its sale must be regulated if the harm it can cause is not to continue to grow as at present.

    I believe that the public will support sensible alcohol control policies. Once the public are told the facts and given a lead — the drink-driving campaign, seat belt legislation and tobacco tax are good examples — I believe that there will be an acceptance of sensible counter policies.

    Above all, when the Government are faced with the choice—I address myself particularly to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister—between the politics of wealth creation—a course which increases the profits of the drink trade — and the politics of health. they would do well to remember the wise counsel of one of our greatest Conservative Prime Ministers, Benjamin Disraeli, who said that
    "the first priority of Government is the health of the people."
    It still is.

    It is appropriate for me to start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). One thing is certain; as a result of his deciding to present this Bill to the House we have had a series of interesting debates when right hon. and hon. Members have been able to ventilate their views, not on the precise terms of the Bill but on the danger of excessive consumption of alcohol, the danger to young people, and all those important social issues.

    I am sure that my hon. Friend would wish me to thank my officials in the Home Office on his behalf. Few members of the public realise how much work is done within Government Departments to help private Members with their Bills. My officials certainly gave a great deal of help to my hon. Friend, pointing out to him that it was essential, if his Bill was to make any progress, that he should address his mind, for instance, to the resource implications. Of course, it is no secret that my officials drafted amendments for him to try to mitigate some of the resource problems that would obviously arise from the Bill as originally drafted. Therefore, I thank my officials for their help in that regard.

    It was pleasing to see the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) here this morning. I, among many, am sorry to see him go and that this is his last Parliament. My memories of Carlisle are somewhat mixed, having spent my first days in the Army there, not all of which were entirely delightful. However, I have delighted in my acquaintance with the hon. Member, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine).

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point said that he was not opposed to more flexible hours. He said he was opposed only to an extension of the total number of hours. That plain statement of his views is welcome. The public think that there should be reform of our licensing laws. I think that the public think that there should be a measured relaxation of the present restrictions. I think that they will be convinced by the evidence from Scotland that greater availability — by that I mean relaxation of restrictions of hours and licensees being able to decide for themselves whether they should open in the afternoon— does not necessarily mean higher consumption. The sort of dire consequences that were forecast after the liberalisation took place in Scotland in 1976 simply have not occurred.

    My right hon. Friend pointed to the mischief that can be caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. None of us need to be convinced of that. My right hon. Friend pointed to the dangers to young people of consuming too much alcohol. None of us doubts that alcohol misuse is a serious problem in Britain and none of us doubts that there is too much drinking by too many young people. However, that is not the question to which we have to address our minds on this Bill. The question is whether that problem, which all of us acknowledge, would be made worse by a modest relaxation in licensing hours. The truth is that there is no evidence that it would.

    I dealt with the evidence, or lack of evidence, in the most interesting debate on licensing reform and alcohol abuse initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) on 27 February. I pointed out that the
    "basic conclusion of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys report was that the relaxations in Scotland have led to more leisurely and responsible drinking. The study shows that between 1976 and 1984 there has been an increase in the consumption of alcohol by women, but no significant increase in consumption by men. Alcohol Concern has suggested that the fact of there being no change in men's drinking may be accounted for in part by unemployment, which is one of the points canvassed by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow."
    I pointed out that that was entirely unrealistic because
    "If unemployment was a factor, one might have expected it to affect women as well, and I think that it is fair to assume that drinking by women has gone up in Scotland because of the more relaxed social attitudes to drinking by women." —[Official Report, 27 February 1987; Vol. 111, c. 525.]
    My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point went on to point out the relationship between alcohol and crime. We all know that. Anyone who has practised in the courts well knows that there is all too close a relationship between alcohol consumption and crime. The question, however, is whether that has anything to do with a modest relaxation in licensing hours allowing licensees more choice as to the hours for which they open.

    On 27 February I said that the statistics for offences involving alcohol consumption must be considered with a great deal of caution and that some changes in trends might be accounted for merely by changes in police policy. One cannot simply point to a smaller increase in a particular offence in Scotland compared with England and say that that proves the point. I went on to point out that opponents of change could find no comfort in Scotland because there had been a dramatic fall in drunkenness offences, and drink driving offences had increased nothing like so fast as in England and Wales. With respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, therefore, it is difficult to sustain the argument that drink driving offences will increase in England following the same modest relaxation in licensing hours as has occurred in Scotland.

    We must not lose sight of the ball. We are not discussing the dangers of drink. We are considering whether a modest relaxation in the law such as that which has taken place in Scotland would lead to the dire social consequences suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point. In my view, it is almost impossible even to begin to mount an argument to that effect, bearing mind that none of those dire consequences has occurred in Scotland.

    Is it really so impossible? My right hon. and learned Friend recognises the connection between alcohol and crime and I have given him incontrovertible evidence that under-age drinking, from the age of 13 upwards, is increasing in public houses, as is the harm that it causes through the link it has with public disorder and criminal offences. That is all taking place illegally now. If my right hon. and learned Friend cannot cope with an illegal situation of such gravity now, how can he suggest that relaxing matters still more and allowing longer drinking hours will not exacerbate the problem? It certainly will not make it any better. Why does my right hon. and learned Friend run away from that?

    11.45 am

    If it is all happening illegally already, what on earth does it have to do with the Bill? As I have said, it is impossible to find statistics showing that there has been a worsening of the situation in Scotland as a result of the relaxation. I do not accept all that my right hon. Friend has said because I believe that the vast majority of licensees are extremely responsible people who do their level best to conduct their houses properly and to prevent under-age drinking, but the fact that there is such a problem in England today does not begin to be an argument about extending to England some of the changes that took place in Scotland in 1976.

    Lastly, my right hon. Friend said that the Bill raised serious resource problems. He is entirely right. That is why we advised my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood as to how some of the deleterious effects of the Bill could be mitigated and that is why he tabled amendment No. 40. That amendment would have mitigated some of the deleterious effects, but it would not have solved the problems, and I have pointed out throughout our deliberations that his is not the scheme of reform that the Government would have recommended to the House. In the light of that, the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point in seeking assurances that the Home Office would allocate additional resources to deal with the Bill if it became law seem somewhat unrealistic. That is a problem that we should have to consider if a miracle occurred, but as miracles do not occur very often my right hon. Friend will allow me to suggest that we can consider that matter if and when a miracle occurs.

    First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) who suggested that his brief contribution to this debate might be his last in the House. Members in all parts of the House will be sorry to know that this is his last Parliament as he has earned the respect of the whole House for his contribution to its work and I am sure that he will be sadly missed.

    In considering the motion before us, it is helpful to consider what has happened during the passage of the Bill thus far. Two approaches could have been adopted. The first is an overall approach considering all the problems related to alcohol and its abuse—licensing hours, health measures, preventive measures, drink-driving, and so on. Such an approach would require a Government measure because it is too complicated for a private Member's Bill. Had there been such an overall approach—I am sure that the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and the promoter of the Bill would both subscribe to this — we might have approached the measure with more agreement than has been achieved so far. That would also have been my own preferred approach, but that was not the position in which we found outselves when the Bill was introduced.

    I think that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) has been a Member of Parliament longer than I have, so I do not wish to seem to speak from greater experience, but I suspect that if he had been a little more modest and confined himself to a rather simpler measure it might have got further. A simpler measure would have involved flexibility within the present overall limit of opening hours. Such a measure would have achieved the main aim of flexibility and the hon. Member for Eastwood would have had the support of the House on that point. Instead of discussing a motion to adjourn further debate, we might have been congratulating him on steering the Bill on to the statute book. If there is ever a lesson to learn from private Members' Bills, it is that they should be kept as simple and as uncontroversial as possible. I would have supported a move towards flexibility, but I would have preferred that to be in the context of a nine and a half hour day and no longer. That would have enabled us to make a little progress and to judge the consequences of flexibility without running the risk of all the dangers that the right hon. Member for Castle Point described so eloquently this morning and on other occasions.

    I regret that the Bill was not drafted in that way. If it had been so drafted, it would have represented sensible progress without the risks and dangers that the measure has aroused in the minds of some hon. Members. There is no doubt that alcohol is lethal. If alcohol was a new product which was not yet legal and we were debating whether to make it legal, not one hon. Member would vote to make it legal if we had any idea of the consequences of alcohol in our society. We are not in that position. It is clear that alcohol is the most widely used drug and intoxicant in the world. Therefore, it is unrealistic to ask whether we can ban it. We must find a compromise for those people who derive pleasure from alcohol—I admit that I am a modest drinker and derive a little pleasure from it—and so prevent some of the worst consequences of alcohol. That is the challenge and that will continue to he the challenge for this House when legislation on this matter is introduced in future.

    We are all concerned about drinking and driving, the effects of alcohol on young drinkers and the effect of alcohol on the health of many people in this country. So many people are in hospital because they have had too much to drink. We must achieve a balance between the pleasure that alcohol gives to many people and the enormous harm that it can cause. We must arrive at that balance in our legislation. I wish that the hon. Member who sponsored the Bill had been more modest and had drafted the Bill in the way that I have suggested.

    I want to pay a tribute to the right hon. Member for Castle Point. He has displayed tenacity and determination and has probably single-handedly— although there was other support for him—in Committee and in the House prevented the passage of the Bill. He has shown energy, attention to detail, commitment and anger about the consequences of alcohol and that has impressed all hon. Members. I pay that tribute across the party political divide and I am sure that he understands the reason for that tribute.

    However, I am a little puzzled as to why the promoter of the Bill is seeking to adjourn the debate. The hon. Member for Eastwood paid me the courtesy of telling me in advance of today's sitting of his intention. I do not want to challenge his motives. However, I am rather puzzled about this. I have expressed some reservations about the contents of the Bill while supporting the principle of flexibility. I believe that the hon. Member for Eastwood said that reform was inevitable. At least, that was mentioned by someone in the House and I think that it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Eastwood.

    I said that as a statement of belief. Of course, I believe that reform is inevitable. I want to make that point clear.

    It was a statement of his belief that reform is inevitable. I am therefore puzzled as to why he is calling a halt to the debate now. Whether or not we agree that the hon. Gentleman would have failed in his attempt to get the Bill through its remaining stages this afternoon, if he believes that reform is inevitable, he could have used today's debates as an opportunity to put down a marker for the future. After all, we all know that one of the purposes of private Member's Bills is to put down markers for the future, and the vast majority of private Member's Bills are tabled for that purpose, not in the hope of their reaching the statute book. He would have put down a better marker for the future if he had continued with the Bill today, thereby showing his determination, commitment and attitude to further amendments which he might have been disposed to accept. In future, if a Government or private Member tries to legislate in this area, that further information from the rest of today's debate might well have been helpful.

    My hon. Friend is arguing about why the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) should continue with his Bill. Although some of those who supported the Bill knew that the hon. Gentleman would move the motion, would not my hon. Friend have thought that it was their duty to be with him here right to the end?

    I would have thought so. I thank my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to that.

    Where there is a difference of opinion in the House on private Members' legislation, those who are most tenacious tend to win the day. There is a contrast between the tenacity of the right hon. Member for Castle Point and the attitude of some of the supporters of the hon. Member for Eastwood. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Eastwood told us earlier today that he had written to his hon. Friends saying that they should not bother to turn up because he would seek to adjourn the debate. Nevertheless, I should have thought that the House and, indeed, the public, would look at hon. Members' commitment when they judge what is going on in the House, not just the words that are spoken. There is nobody more tenacious than the right hon. Member for Castle Point.

    I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle has come back to the Chamber. He missed the tribute that I paid to him. All Members of the House are sorry that this is his last Parliament. Indeed, that may have been his last intervention—I hope not. We have more time next week, and perhaps even longer. My hon. Friend has earned the respect of all hon. Members for the contribution that he has made, his commitment and his dedication to his beliefs. He will be very much missed, but we all wish him a long and happy retirement——

    As the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) would point out, the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) also missed what I had to say about him, which was also kindly.

    My hon. Friend has now had the embarrassment of listening to our tributes, and he can read them twice over in Hansard on Monday. I have not been in the House all that long, but I know that it is always sad when one's colleagues decide that they will stand no longer. They are missed. I want my hon. Friend to know that.

    I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend took all the trouble to come here today. After all, many other people did not. I know that he is concerned about the Bill. After he campaigned in Carlisle yesterday in the local elections, the fact that he took the trouble to come here simply to be present is a further sign of his dedication and commitment. I hope that his successor notes that and takes a leaf out of his book.

    I am puzzled because I should have thought that it would be helpful to the future deliberations of the House if we had the benefit of debating the Bill for the rest of the day. I am disappointed that we have not had that opportunity.

    I repeat the point that I made when moving the motion: this procedure enables other private Members to have an opportunity to put a case to the House, with which I may or may not agree. That principle is important, too.

    That is an interesting point, which I shall come to later. I had assumed that that would be one of the hon. Gentleman's motives, but I shall consider the others first because it is important. His first argument was that he thought that he could not get the Bill through all its stages today. Implicit in what he said — he may have said it explicitly—was the view not only that he could not get the Bill through today, but that if there were no election, there would be no chance of getting his Bill through by October, which normally would be the end of the parliamentary Session. So the hon. Gentleman let his supporters go and he gave up his opportunity.

    I am surprised at that because the other day I was on the Standing Committee dealing with the Obscene Publications Bill. The promoter of the Bill was determined — he failed—to try to get his Bill to the Floor of the House for the final day when the Report stage of private Members' Bills takes precedence so that they have a chance of becoming law.

    I do not want to extend this argument, but this is the last day, other than 3 July, on which private Members' Bills can be considered on Report and on Third Reading. Given that, if a private Members' Bill does not get through the House today, it clearly cannot go through another place and be back for consideration on 3 July which is the last day available for private Members' Bills.

    I understand that, but I should have thought that that would have been an argument for continuing until 2.30 pm today, rather than giving up at 10.30 pm, if there is commitment to the legislation. This is an important point of principle because private Members' time is limited and is a valuable commodity. Members fight hard to get a share of the time that is available on the Floor of the House for putting forward their own ideas and Bills. Therefore, to give in quite so easily makes me wonder, but I have already covered that. I understand that this is the last day for the Report stage, but that suggests to me that the hon. Gentleman might have shown more determination than he did.

    12 noon

    The hon. Gentleman hinted that he does not believe that there will be an October in this parliamentary Session or that there will not even be a Friday next in this Session. We are all aware that this may well be the last private Members' Friday before the general election — [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman throws his hands up as if to say that he does not know, but perhaps he does know. However, I wonder whether it is right for a Member of this House—of course I accept that the decision must be his — to decide that he will not pursue a private Member's Bill merely because an election might be called on Monday or Tuesday. We have had an election hanging over us for some little while now and there will be other occasions when an election dangles over the House and the country. We should not stop work and forget our responsibilities simply because we think that an election may be called. The hon. Gentleman may have been influenced by the results of yesterday's local elections. However, I believe that he made his decision yesterday evening before any of us had access to those local election results.

    The hon. Gentleman says, yes. Nevertheless, one should not take as a forgone conclusion what the Prime Minister will decide. I cannot help thinking that it might have been a better tactic if the hon. Gentleman had continued until 2.30 pm.

    My last argument, to which the hon. Gentleman gave weight because he intervened on it a moment ago, is that he wants to give an opportunity this afternoon for other Bills to be considered. He said that it would be a generous gesture on his part to allow other legislation to be debated and that that is why he is seeking to adjourn his own. According to today's Order Paper, about 21 other private Members' Bills are waiting to be discussed when we have disposed of the Licensing (Amendment) Bill. I wonder which of those Bills he is seeking to favour because clearly he is giving up his time for the sake of another measure. Therefore, I am looking with some interest at the other Bills to see which the hon. Gentleman wishes to speed on its way.

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not draw any implications from the fact that well down the Order Paper is a ten-minute Bill, which is in my name. I hope that he will not suggest that.

    Of course, I should not do any such thing. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was simply casting my eye down the list of the Bills that are waiting to be debated today. Every one of those Bills stands less chance of becoming law than the hon. Gentleman's Bill. Virtually all await Second Reading debates or are adjourned debates on Second Reading, so they all have further to go to reach the statute book.

    The Tobacco Smoking (Public Places) Bill is an important measure and would add significantly to the health of the nation. If I thought that it had a chance of becoming law I would sit down. Clearly, I would wish to speed it on its way. However, we may not reach it because the Local Government Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill [Lords] comes next. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman thinks that it will be disposed of quickly so that we can reach the Tobacco Smoking (Public Places) Bill.

    The Tobacco Smoking (Public Places) Bill will help to decrease the amount of smoking. The effect of smoking on non-smokers is damaging to their health and can be lessened by having a legislative basis for reducing smoking in public places. As a non-smoker I should like to see that Bill on the statute book. Indeed, I suspect that most hon. Members would happily jump over the second item of business—I know that our procedures do not allow for that — to the third because we would be helping the health of the nation.

    The fourth item of business is the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill and, clearly, the hon. Gentleman wants that measure, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes), to reach the statute book.

    I appreciate the difficulties that we have today, but I would be pleased if we could reach that Bill. It affects many constituencies and Members of Parliament as the problem of coal mining subsidence stretches from the north into Scotland, part of which the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) represents. It is an important Bill and a tragedy that we shall not reach it. The National Coal Board has dealt unfairly with many people, particularly some of my constituents.

    I thank my hon. Friend for explaining that and I share his view that it is an important Bill. If I thought that by adjourning this debate there was a chance of discussing the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill and quickly passing it into law, I would not waste a moment by drawing the attention of the House to its importance. I would want to get on and discuss it.

    Such are the pressures of a private Members' day that, clearly, we shall not reach that measure. My hon. Friend will have to reintroduce it after the general election, when there will be far more support from the Government for it because we shall be sitting on the Government Benches. It will either be a private Member's Bill with Government support or, even, a Government measure. It is a sign of the usefulness and dedication of my hon. Friend that he seeks to do this. The hon. Member for Eastwood has not said whether he supports the Bill, but I suggest that he is sympathetic to it or at least does not want to delay it.

    I do not want to take the time of the House by going through every Bill on the Order Paper, tempting though it is. Clearly, they all have a part to play. However, it is worth saying a little about one or two of them. One of the Bills——

    Order. We are debating whether the discussion on the Licensing (Amendment) Bill should be adjourned. While the hon. Gentleman may refer to the other Bills as being a motive for the adjournment of this debate, he must not discuss them in detail.

    I certainly would not want to do that. The hon. Member for Eastwood said that one of his motives in seeking to persuade the House to adjourn this debate was that other Bills were waiting to be discussed. He did not say which Bill he favoured and I am seeking to tempt him to hint which one it is, without debating the other Bills, so that we may know his other motives. That would help us to judge whether we should adjourn now or decline to adjourn and continue discussing the amendments to the hon. Gentleman's Bill. So far I have not been successful in tempting him to give us a hint, but if we did do that we would be clear about the matter.

    I am puzzled about why the hon. Gentleman is pursuing this theme. I did not seek to favour any Bill on the Order Paper but was simply making the point that adjournment of this Bill would give other hon. Members an opportunity to speak. That is what happened when I sat down at nine minutes past two o'clock on Second Reading. That gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) an opportunity to have a say, although I disagreed with the measure put forward by the hon. Member for Leyton.

    Nobody could quarrel with that as a statement of willingness to give way to other hon. Members who wish to put forward other measures. The Housebuyers' Protection Bill stands in my name and some time ago I introduced it by leave of the House. I would be less than human if I did not make a passing reference to this important piece of legislation. Much to my surprise, Government Whips blocked it on a previous Friday. I would have thought that the Government Whips would want to encourage protection for housebuyers and would want to find time to debate this simple and modest measure. Even at this stage, I hope that they will decide to let the measure go through as a sign of their commitment to people who are seeking to buy houses and need consumer protection in the process of so doing.

    I shall not test this further by going through the Bills that we might reach today. I have commended my own Bill and achieved one of my purposes.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee,) to be further considered on Friday 3 July.

    Local Government Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill Lords

    Considered in Committee.

    Clause 1

    Amendment Of Local Government Act 1986

    Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

    12.13 pm

    Would it be in order, Mr. Armstrong, to speak on the Bill as a whole?

    Certainly the hon. Lady may do that. The Bill has only two clauses.

    This Bill came into being for a very good reason. It has not come into being because there have been vague suspicions that all is not well about the teaching of sex in our schools. It is before the Committee because there is evidence in shocking abundance that children in our schools, some as young as five years, are frequently being encouraged into homosexuality and lesbianism. That is happening in our schools, is being paid for out of rates, and is against the wishes of the children's parents.

    For those reasons, and because of the abundance of evidence, the Bill was introduced in another place where, of course, it has gone through all its stages. It gained unqualified acceptance from all sides and all political parties in the other place.

    As I have said, there are many pieces of evidence as reasons for this Bill. I shall quote only a few examples, First, there is a publication called "The Playbook for Kids about Sex". It is written for young children and is presented in the type of colour and line drawings that would appeal to a child. In fact, it is the most frightening piece of propaganda against children. There is also a book called "The Milkman's on his Way". I shall not shock the House by quoting from it, but, in explicit terms, it describes intercourse between a 16-year-old boy and his adult male homosexual lover. The book glorifies homosexuality and encourages youngsters to believe that it is better than any other sexual way of life.

    Recently, the lesbian and gay development unit of Haringey council made a video called "How to become a lesbian in 35 minutes". Under the aegis of the council, it was shown to mentally handicapped girls, of whom one was aged 18, one was aged 16, and the others were much younger. Another book is being promulgated by a local council. It is called "Jenny lives with Eric and Martin". That book has been the subject of a great deal of public protest. It pictures a little girl of about six in bed with her father and his lover, both of whom are naked. It is a picture storybook, aimed at six to eight-year-olds, and is made available by education officials in and for junior schools. There was a great outcry. Anyone who would oppose the Bill should read that book and consider how they feel about it. It tells youngsters:
    "Jenny is a little girl. Martin is Jenny's dad and Eric is Martin's lover. They all live happily together."
    Eric draws Jenny a series of cartoons of two men saying:
    "I love you, Fred. 'I love you too, Bill.' Why don't we move in together? 'That is a good idea.'''
    It is terrifying to me that local councils have been promoting that kind of stuff. I could give the House many examples, but I shall not go on. There is a pile of filth, and it is shocking when one considers that it is all paid for by the rates. What is the aim?

    Today, one or two of us are thinking about manifestos. I shall not go into the reason why, but certainly we are doing so. I look no further than the gay liberation front manifesto to find the reasons for such stuff appearing before our children and being promulgated and proselytised to them. The gay liberation front manifesto states:
    "We must fight for something more than reform. We must aim at the abolition of the family. This will benefit all women and gays."
    We could argue for some time about how true it is that the abolition of the family would help women, but it is debatable whether it would be anything other than a disaster for the country.

    It is important that the House should understand that the Bill in no way attacks the rights of adult people to live their own lives in their own way. It is a free country. Many homosexuals live their lives totally within the law and would no more think of molesting little boys than a normal heterosexual would think of molesting little girls. Nothing in the Bill is aimed at such people. There is all the difference in the world between allowing adults to live in the way in which they consider is right for them and trying to pervert little children.

    I remember the occasion many years ago when we were first presented with a Bill on homosexuality and the rights of homosexuals. The debate was joined as to whether homosexuals were born or made. An elderly gentleman who had been a colonel in the Indian army told me that it was his belief that homosexuals were made if enough influence was exerted upon them. He said that in the hill country and in parts of Poona, when he was in the Indian army, drummer boys used to be sent out from England —they were often orphans—and sent up to the forward areas to the regiments. He said—I have never forgotten this—that not one of those children had a chance. They all ended up as homosexuals because of the life they were forced to lead. I find it outrageous that little children should have been perverted in that way.

    Those in another place and millions outside Parliament object to little children being perverted, diverted or converted from normal family life to a lifestyle which is desperately dangerous for society and extremely dangerous for them. Any venereologist will say that syphilis, gonorrhoea and genital herpes are characteristically infections of homosexuals. If that were not enough, we now have the terror of AIDS. Very few hon. Members fail to appreciate the seriousness of the danger that AIDS presents to the whole of our society, yet some of that which is being taught to children in our schools would undoubtedly lead to a great spread of AIDS. Even the knowledge of the danger of AIDS has not stopped the promoting of homosexuality among little children.

    The hon. Lady has suggested that the whole of our society is in danger from AIDS — homosexuals and heterosexuals. There is evidence in some countries of an increasingly wide spread of AIDS among the heterosexual population, and I do not understand why she is dwelling on homosexuality. It seems that in the end AIDS will affect all people in about the same way.

    The hon. Gentleman's intervention suggests that he has not done his homework on AIDS. The disease spreads into ordinary heterosexual members of society through contact with those who have had AIDS, and I think that 95 per cent. of those who start AIDS come from the homosexual section. It is from that section that the danger of AIDS has come, and within that section the danger is infinitely more severe than in any other. That is where it started, and I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman, who has a serious regard for morality and good behaviour in life, can fail to appreciate that little children as young as five years of age in our schools ought not to be taught that homosexuality is a normal way of life. It is undoubtedly true that the desperate disease of AIDS starts with and comes mainly from homosexuals.

    It is my understanding that the danger of AIDS is now faced equally by both the heterosexual and homosexual sections of the population, and that there are certain countries where heterosexuals have been as affected by AIDS as homosexuals. I am talking about medical opinion on the likely way in which AIDS will spread in future, unless the spread of this dreadful disease is checked. It is misleading to suggest that the link between AIDS and homosexuality is such that there is not the likelihood of an equivalent link between AIDS and heterosexuality.

    I must urge the hon. Gentleman to look into the subject with rather more care than he has obviously done so far. If he asks any of the eminent doctors in London—let alone outside London—who are experts on the subject, he will find that AIDS starts among homosexuals, and that they pose the greatest danger. The disease spreads to others when a homosexual with AIDS has relations with a woman, or gives tainted blood that has not been screened. We know of that danger from other countries.

    The hon. Gentleman must not try to hold up our proceedings. He may be seeking information on the matter, but I must tell him, with the greatest courtesy, that at present he is not very well informed on it. Any doctor who has specialised in the subject would say, "For God's sake, do not promote homosexuality as a way of life. It is desperately dangerous."

    Let me return to my main theme. The proselytising in schools of a homosexual society is all paid for by the ratepayers, 99 per cent. of whom strongly object to their money being used in that way. Parents' associations have been set up: the Parents Action Group has been particularly active. Nearly a year ago, a deputation from the group went to protest to the deputy leader of a local council that the policy discriminated against religious beliefs. The deputation included people with a wide range of religions—for instance, Catholics and Muslims—and some with no religion. They were told that the Koran needed updating, and that the Bible should be rewritten. What a thing to tell parents who are anxious about what is happening to their children. Further, a member of the gay and lesbian sub-committee of the council told the group that "parents do not know what is in the best interests of their children … we do." Some of the doctors do, too.

    Let me add in passing that teachers who have protested strongly at what they have been asked to do have been discriminated against and intimidated in the most frightening manner. That worries me as well.

    Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent by some councils in promoting homosexuality in our schools. All of that money could be far better spent. I am not talking about boroughs in which no council houses need repairing, and nothing needs to be done about the roads; I am not talking about councils that have examined everything in their remit and have concluded that there is nothing else on which to spend their money. Every penny of the money spent on promoting homosexuality could and should be far better spent elsewhere, and it bothers me to learn that parents and ratepayers who have gone to protest have on some occasions been physically attacked.

    This is a very short Bill, with one main clause and four subsections. Subsection (1) prevents a local authority from giving "financial or other assistance" to any person for the purpose of publishing or promoting homosexuality as an acceptable family relationship, or for the purpose of teaching such acceptability in any maintained school. Hon. Members should note the words "other assistance". The other assistance would cover the provision of local authority premises for a guest speaker or the financing, of conferences to get over the homosexuality message to six-year-olds. Anything of that kind would be banned by the Bill.

    12.30 pm

    Subsection (2) provides that a breach of subsection (1) shall be dealt with in the civil courts, and subsection (3) identifies those who may institute proceedings under subsection (2). They are given locus standi. Subsection (4) sensibly excuses a local authority if it has taken reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the law but its instructions have been ignored.

    Clause 2 relates to the short title. It provides that the Bill will not apply to Northern Ireland.

    The Bill has completed all its stages in another place and support for it came from right across the political spectrum. The Earl of Halsbury, who introduced the Bill, was supported by the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Longford, Lord Campbell of Alloway, Lord Denning and Lord Bellwin. They feel that the Bill should be enacted as it stands as it would put a stop to the iniquitous corruption of children. I thank all those who have helped in various ways to frame the Bill. Not thousands but millions of people of all parties and of none have said that they support the Bill. I hope that the House will bless it and will pass it.

    I am glad to take this opportunity to congratulate my kinsman the Earl of Halsbury on his clear discernment of the public mind on an important moral issue. We owe him gratitude and praise for carrying this Bill through all its stages in the other place.

    We live in an age of doubt. Many moral certainties of Victorian times and the orthodox Christian traditions of earlier generations are being questioned, openly challenged and quite often publicly flouted. Everyone should approach moral questions with humility. The Greeks gave us the injunction—"Know thyself."—at the same time as they originated our democratic culture. How many people can claim truthfully to have attained full self-knowledge? The road to self-knowledge often takes us through stony places. Many of our moral beliefs originated with the teaching of the Greek thinkers. Our own Christian testament was written in Greek, yet homosexuality was not always condemned in classical Greece.

    The whole subject remains a source of difficulty and uncertainty in the consciences of a number of people— including, as I know, an element among my constituents in Kensington. But it is an obvious fact that a man's physique shows rudimentary female characteristics, and I think that few men would claim to be entirely devoid of qualities that we associate primarily with the feminine virtues. Few women, I think, would wish to be entirely without any element of manliness. Indeed, some of the grandest figures in history and the most influential personalties of today have a broad sexual orientation.

    I should like, however, to make two points very strongly in support of the intentions of the Bill. First, the physical processes of generation can be fertile or they can be morbid and fruitless. It is repugnant to the majority of people to see the endowments of our bodies, which enable us to recreate our own likeness and to perpetuate human life, turned into useless or unnatural channels. They are not happy, although they are prepared to accept, that such practices take place in privacy. They certainly are not prepared to endorse the policies of certain elements on local councils, such as ILEA or some outer London boroughs, that homosexuality should be presented openly, and even authoritatively recommended, with the support of public funds.

    Secondly, on a more general constitutional consideration, it has become increasingly widely held since the 16th and 17th century wars of religion that the political organs of the state should not seek to govern or to interfere with the freedom of private conscience. In parenthesis, as we move into a post-Socialist political framework, we are coming, I think increasingly to accept that it is not permissible for political figures to intrude themselves into industry or the workings of the economy either. But it is not generally acceptable now that the state should devote substantial efforts and resources to the dissemination even of the tenets of faith, or the enforcement of codes of personal conduct in private, which enjoy majority support. It is certainly quite inadmissible that a small, unrepresentative group should capture control of a local authority and then divert its resources to the promotion of highly controversial minority points of private belief and conduct within families.

    In London many parents — I believe the great majority — are deeply opposed to the promotion of homosexuality in education and will warmly support the Bill. I am proud that it was on my motion last week that the Bill obtained its Second Reading, and I trust that it will now successfully go through its remaining stages in this honourable House.

    I have listened carefully to my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) and for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams). I have also read the debates in another place where the Bill received support from all quarters and there were no Divisions at any stage.

    As is usual with Bills brought in or taken up by a private Member, I intervene to make clear the Government's view of the Bill. As many hon. Members know, the Government's views of the Bill have, from time to time, been misrepresented. Many of those who have written to hon. Members, whose letters have been drawn to my attention and the attention of other Ministers in the Department of the Environment by those hon. Members, have thought that the Government are opposed to this Bill. That is certainly not the case. Bills brought in by private Members or, as in this case, private Peers, fall into a number of categories. Some embody a policy which is totally alien to that of the Government, and those we must oppose and advise hon. Members to vote against. Others reflect Government policy, and may even have been suggested by the Government. Those, of course, we support. Others may reflect the Government's views, but be on a subject about which the Government think that it is for Parliament to make up its own mind. Others may be in harmony with the Government's views but perhaps not deal with the matter as the Government would think most appropriate.

    It is into this last category that this Bill fell when it was introduced. There can be no doubt that every Minister who has been involved with the Bill strongly supports its aim, encapsulated in its long title
    "A Bill intituled. An Act to restrain local authorities from promoting homosexuality".
    The whole country owes the noble earl Lord Halsbury arid his colleagues a debt of gratitude for bringing forward the legislation and ensuring that the topic stays in the front of public debate.

    At the outset of the debate in the other place, my noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale made it clear that the Government have every sympathy with the aims underlying the proposals in this Bill. I re-emphasise in this House that sympathy. The Government share the view that a society is defined by its shared beliefs and habits. There are some kinds of behaviour that Christian charity may lead us to tolerate, but that is no reason why public funds should be spent on promoting that behaviour and no reason why we should tolerate those who spend public funds in that way. Undermining the common standards of society, flaunting behaviour that the overwhelming majority of those brought up in this country and in its traditions find revolting, unsettling the minds of the coming generation is one way — a subtle way — of changing the society in which we live.

    All of us have noticed in recent years an attack on the institution of the family, which is the basic building block of society. A society that turns its back on the family and undermines it in any way will pay heavy penalties in the future. One understands that certain people are born with different interests — I put it as gently as I can. I am certainly not one of those who would wish there to be any persecution of those individuals. I do not think that any hon. Member wishes that. The Bill opposes the positive images of lesbianism and homosexuality, as though they were alternative ways of life that should be shown to all children in schools. Those images imply that one can say to children that they can live in a family with a mother and father, but there is an alternative way of life which is just as reputable, in which one lives with a person of one's own sex, and the two are equal. That could undermine the basis of our society. The vast majority of parents, irrespective of how they voted yesterday or of how they will vote in a general election, feel intensely about this matter.

    One could say that the positive promotion of the images of lesbianism and male homosexuality as though they are equivalent to family life could bring death in one generation. I am not referring to AIDS. I am talking about death in a generation, because there is no future in it— it is the end of creation. Any society that is concerned for its future in every way and for its continuation must have a clear view about what it is doing.

    I am sure that we are all alarmed about many things that have been going on. My hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston referred to this. Baroness Cox, who lived until recently in my constituency, said on Second Reading:
    "I was speaking to teachers in Manchester on Saturday and was assured that similar policies are being pursued in parts of the North of England. This should not surprise us."
    She referred to the book "Tackling Heterosexism". I have seen that book, but could not lay my hands on it for this debate. I shall provide the book for any hon. Members who would like to see it, because I was horrified by what I saw.

    Baroness Cox said that the book has
    "been brought out by nine London boroughs, recommends that the Inner London Education Authority and other local education authorities should:
    'put resources into developing materials and changing curricula in order effectively to challenge heterosexism in lessons at all stages in the education system from primary school up to colleges of further education and that a variety of materials be developed, for example videos for use in lessons which would raise the issues of heterosexism and present Lesbians in a positive light … [and that] heterosexism awareness training courses should be introduced as a compulsory part of in-service training and during teacher training programmes'."
    Baroness Cox said:
    -In places such as Brent"—
    a place in the British Isles that I know very well—
    "those who do not pass such courses are to be debarred from sitting on appointments panels, and the implications of that for future appointments are self-evident; namely, that successful candidates in the future will have to be ideologically correct and have the appropriate sexual attitudes." — [Official Report, House of Lords, 18 December 1986; Vol. 483, c. 320–21.]
    Recently, I was approached in my constituency by parents of all political parties about a document in Brent libraries—"Out in Brent"—which I have with me. It uses a definition that differs from the one that we would have used five or 10 years ago. There are lists of homosexual and lesbian literature; the book was easily available on the lower library shelves and children were picking it up. The name of one library was given to me and many people wrote to me about the matter. I took up the matter. Parents were concerned, irrespective of where they stood on the political platform.

    I quote again from a letter printed last year in the Daily Telegraph by somebody who had before her ILEA's book "Secondary Issues?" which is also available to hon. Members. It is distributed to schools and purports to deal with equality of opportunity in secondary education. The letter says:
    "In the section on school libraries it enthuses 'We have included lesbian and gay contact phone numbers on wall charts giving general advice, produced book lists, and we have positively included work on lesbian and gay people in library worksheets."'
    I draw the following to the attention of hon. Members.

    The letter in the Daily Telegraph says:
    "The book notes with approval the removal of a section on romance from a school library".
    There is no romance in these sad days, according to how some people would like us to live. ILEA replaced the section on romance
    "with a section on 'relationships'—'encompassing lesbian and gay relationships, heterosexual relationships and family relationships.' Organisations listed for schools to contact include a 'Gay Teachers Group'."
    12.45 pm

    I have other letters, including one to the Prime Minister from another borough in London. I will not delay the House further by referring to other material, except to refer to an advertisement in Haringey's publication "Job Search" that promised preferential treatment for gays and lesbians seeking jobs as play group assistants looking after 5 to 11-year-olds. I remember reading last year that in that borough parents, again from parties of all political views, closed a school for a day because they objected to what was proposed in this type of teaching.

    It is wrong for public funds to be used to promote homosexuality as an alternative to the family way of life. It does not follow from that that it is automatically right to invoke the law to prevent local authorities from using public funds in this way. The defenders of those aberrant local authorities will be quick to point out that they are elected, that they are responsible to their electorate, and that the electorate can turn out the members who support practices of which they disapprove. That is true, but it does not mean that Parliament should stand by and do nothing.

    Hon. Members will know of my interest in 19th-century local government. Before the reform era in the 1830s, local authorities quite often used their powers to line the pockets of their members. In the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, Parliament did not stand by and leave it to the voters. Our predecessors took effective steps to outlaw such practices. It is for Parliament to define the area of action for local authorities. There can be no doubt of the constitutional propriety of Parliament intervening if we think that local authorities are going too far. There can be no doubt about the support of the Government for the principles behind the Bill.

    My noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale also made it clear that the Government have reservations about some aspects of the Bill and it is my duty to comment on those. First, the Bill goes over ground that Parliament has recently traversed. The Education (No. 2) Act 1986 made significant changes in the law relating to sex education in schools. It transferred responsibility for decisions on sex education to the new governing bodies to be set up for every maintained school. It required those concerned to ensure that any teaching on sex is set within a clear moral context and is supportive of family life. There are those who feel that it is premature to enact further measures until we see how the 1986 Act works. On the other hand, the supporters of the Bill have argued forcefully that there is sufficient scope within the Act for the continuance of measures of which we and they disapprove.

    Secondly, the Local Government Act 1986 made provision for a code of recommended practice for local authorities when making decisions on publicity. Again, it can be argued that time should be given for this code to be produced, approved by Parliament, and take effect. My noble Friend Lord Skelmersdale told the other place that we intended to include a provision in the code that local authority publicity should not offend against generally accepted moral standards. I can confirm that today we are issuing that code of practice for formal consultation with the local authority associations, as required by the Act.

    Finally, it can be argued—people have done that through the ages in the House—that it is premature and that we ought to deal with all the areas in which discretionary activity by local authorities is causing concern. That, of course, is what F. M. Cornford in his classic work "Microcosmographia Academica" identified as the principle of the wedge. I have a copy of that book with me, not by accident. As hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will know,
    "The Principle of the Wedge is that you should not act justly now for fear of raising expectations that you may act still more justly in the future—expectations which you are afraid that you may not have the courage to satisfy".
    The House will have to decide for itself whether or not this approach is correct. I conclude by saying once more that the Government have great sympathy for the aims of those who have promoted this Bill. In fairness to the House, we have identified and I have brought to its attention some aspects which may be shortcomings. It is for the House to decide whether those shortcomings are so great that the clause should not stand part of the Bill. It is a private Member's Bill and the House must make up its mind.

    However, the Government do not take the view that those shortcomings are sufficient to deny the Bill a passage. As those who have read my writings will expect, for my part I think that the clause should stand part of the Bill, and I support it.

    I am a little taken aback by the way in which the House has, with a measure that is bound to attract a lot of publicity, bypassed some of the normal procedures. I am not clear what happened on a particular Friday afternoon, but it seems that we gave the Bill a Second Reading on the nod—I assume that is what happened— and then we bypassed the normal Committee stage upstairs and we are dealing with the Committee stage on the Floor of the House.

    I believe that the Bill was moved to a Committee of the whole House. I just say that in fairness.

    I am aware of that. However, we have avoided the normal process of discussion in Committee upstairs and taken it on the Floor of the House. It is my experience that when the House does not give a measure proper scrutiny, it is likely that bad legislation will be the outcome. That has been my experience whenever the House has tried to do things on the nod.

    I remind the hon. Gentleman that the measure was fully discussed in another place. That is not unusual in itself. There was a wide-ranging debate, including a Committee stage and Report stage, and a small amendment was moved. There has been nothing untoward in the way in which the Bill has been produced or put to the House. Every rule of the House has been adhered to.

    I am not suggesting that every rule has not been adhered to. I am suggesting that, if we can reach the Committee stage of a Bill without the necessary preliminary debate, discussion and scrutiny, although every rule of the House may have been adhered to technically, the real, proper process by which we subject legislation to debate and discussion is not taking place.

    The fact is that most people were not aware that the measure was coming up for debate. If they had known, not withstanding the local elections yesterday, the House would not have been so empty. It was assumed that we would spend more time on the previous Bill and that we would not reach this point. The House and the country are effectively being taken unawares by the way in which this measure is being dealt with.

    I have to object to the hon. Gentleman's line of argument. The Bill was on the Order Paper last Friday for all hon. Members, the Gallery and everybody else to see. I moved that it should have a Second Reading at a time when there were other hon. Members in the House. They could have objected had they chosen, under the long-standing procedures of the House. But not one Member chose to object, with the result that the Bill obtained a Second Reading, as the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) said, on the nod.

    I did not propose that it should be committed to a Committee of the whole House, but with a one-clause Bill is it not really rather fatuous to insist that it has to be sent to a Committee upstairs, which would be appropriate for a longer and more detailed measure? I think that the whole Bill occupies less than about 40 lines. Surely, on a matter of broad general interest, hon. Members might well be glad to have the opportunity to intervene in the Committee stage which is offered when the Bill is taken on the Floor of the House but which is restricted when the Bill is committed to a group of 16 or 20 Members.

    Every Member of the House could have been present here today to intervene on the Bill if he had so chosen, but I think the vast majority of Members support the Bill and those who have reservations about it are wise enough to keep them to themselves.

    I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's line of argument. We all know what happens on Friday afternoons. This measure has been slipped though and I am sure that most Members do not realise that we are in the middle of the Committee stage of a Bill that we did not expect to reach today.

    It is no use the hon. Lady saying that it was on the Order Paper. The fact remains that most hon. Members were not aware of it. There are masses of measures on the Order Paper every Friday. There are more than 20 on today's Order Paper. If the first 10 had been withdrawn and we had started making progress on the 11th everyone would have been astonished, as the hon. Lady well knows.

    I do not suggest that any Member has not behaved absolutely properly. I am protesting that we are the victims of a procedure which is undemocratic in practice and denies Members the chance to debate a very important matter. I am perfectly aware that there is concern in our constituencies about this issue. Some of us would have liked to consult further on it, had that been possible. It was not possible because of the way in which we have arrived at debating this measure. I believe that the situation is wrong and undemocratic.

    The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) said that the Bill had been subjected to scrutiny in another place, but that is no substitute for a proper debate in this House. Most of our constituents do not follow what goes on in the other House and have no access to Members of that House, so most of our constituents are prevented from making their views known if the only debate is in the other place. If ever there was an argument for abolishing the other House, it is the argument that because a matter has been discussed there we need not bother about it. That is an appallingly undemocratic attitude and I resent the argument by an elected Member of this House that Members of the other House, who are unelected and accountable to no one, have discussed the matter so we need not bother. We are caught in a situation in which we cannot give the measure proper scrutiny.

    The Minister has said that the Government have three reservations about the Bill but that if the House wills it the measure will go through. That is not right either. We are dealing with an extremely important matter which goes to the heart of moral issues in this country and the way in which our children are educated. Whatever one's view— the hon. Member for Edgbaston surely believes in proper debate and discussion—it is wrong that we should be bulldozed on such a sensitive and difficult issue on the basis that it has been slipped through the House of Commons when only half a dozen Members were present, so it can just go through.

    I resent that approach. It is wrong in principle, even if an election is called on Monday, to bulldoze a measure through in this way. It is possible that a majority might have supported it, but there is no way of putting the matter to the test. It has been an abuse of the procedures of the House to bypass normal democratic debate and discussion and I bitterly resent the fact that the House has been put in this position. There is no opportunity for a proper debate because the Benches are empty.

    The hon. Gentleman is continuing to advance an argument which is really contrary to the whole tradition and procedures of the House. The fact that the Committee stage of the Bill was on the Order Paper for today was printed and was known to any hon. Member who chose to take an interest. Any hon. Member who wishes to take part in this Committee stage is able to do so now. I have noticed that there are not many hon. Members who wish to intervene in support of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. That is perhaps something that the hon. Gentleman should also take into account. If he feels that there are large numbers of hon. Members who would oppose the Bill had they appreciated that it was going to have its Committee stage today, would he be so kind as to enlighten us by giving us their names?

    1 pm

    This is preposterous. The hon. Gentleman understands what I am saying. I have said that there should be proper debate. I have not ventured a single comment on the merits or demerits of the Bill. I have said that it is wrong in principle that we should not have the opportunity for a proper debate. We are being denied that opportunity. The Government have said that they wash their hands of the Bill and that someone else should decide. They think that there is no need for the Bill, but they are not prepared to do anything about it. That is quite wrong.

    I want to explain one point for the record. I did not say that I did not think that there was no need for the Bill. I said that, as the Bill stood, the Government may have certain reservations about certain points. However, we support the Bill and I certainly support it as an individual. We did not say that we did not think that there was no need for the Bill. There is a need for a measure to control homosexual and lesbian propaganda in schools. I will not be misinterpreted on that point.

    Fine. I hear what the Minister has said. Nevertheless, I listened very carefully to the Minister's comments. He went through the Bill and then said that he had to express three reservations on behalf of the Government. I accept fully his own personal position. However, he went through the reservations, which suggested to me that the Bill at this point was unnecessary because two other Bills will come pretty close to meeting the same aims. Therefore, it was not necessarily right in principle to have a third piece of legislation until we have had a chance to assess the effects of the other two. That is a pretty fair rendering of what the Minister said. Normally when we are bulldozed in this way, the Government would say that the Bill should make no further progress and we should consider the impact of the other two pieces of legislation first and then decide. That is the proper way in which a responsible House of Commons would legislate, not in the way that we are seeking to legislate today.

    I remind the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) that earlier today he appeared to suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) the reverse to that procedure. He said that: he would be perfectly happy to skip the other Bills to reach the Bill that he is promoting or one of his hon. Friend's Bills. The hon. Member for Battersea must be consistent. There are rules to which we must all adhere. The hon. Member must not go in one direction in response to one Bill and another direction on a point of procedure.

    I have been perfectly consistent. Let me explain to the hon. Lady why I am being consistent. When I argued that there was a Bill standing in my name further down the list on the Order Paper, it must be understood that I was seeking a Second Reading debate for that Bill so that the House would be able to debate the basic principle of my Bill—

    —after which the Bill would have gone to a Standing Committee for further discussion and scrutiny, as is proper.

    Within the rules of the House, the hon. Member for Battersea is perfectly free to ask that his Bill be taken on the Floor of the House. Every hon. Member must consider the position and the date. Bearing in mind that full debates may have taken place in another place, every hon. Member is perfectly free to decide to have a debate on the Floor of the House, and the hon. Member for Battersea would have been free to make such a decision.

    I am not disputing the right of any hon. Member to make that decision, nor am I disputing the right of any hon. Member to use the small print of our Standing Orders to expedite business that they wish to further. Nevertheless, I also have the right to say on behalf of many other hon. Members that we resent the fact that we are being bulldozed in this way without an opportunity for debate.

    It is no good the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) asking from a sedentary position who they are. It is disgraceful that an important Bill that affects the way in which our children are to be educated is to be debated without more than a handful of hon. Members present. Even the hon. Member for Edgbaston would surely not wish her Bill to progress without proper debate or discussion.

    I resent one more thing. We have not had a chance to go to our constituencies and discuss some of the details with constituents who have raised those matters with us so that we can refer to them in the House. I did not know that the Bill would come up in this form; otherwise I should not be making these points. I am not alone in that. Had I known that, I should have been able to come to the debate with more examples, possibly even in support of what the hon. Member for Edgbaston said, or in contradiction of what she said. But, above all, I would have had the chance to speak to teachers and education authorities.

    Technically, the Bill is about local government. The Minister had long experience in education before he came to the House, but there is no representative of the Department of Education and Science on the Government Front Bench. Instead, we have a Minister from the Department of the Environment. I understand why—it is a local government Bill—but the Bill is in fact about education. We are not approaching it as if it were about education, but we should. Then there would be Ministers from the Department of Education and Science and colleagues of mine on the Opposition Front Bench who speak on education, who could address properly and sensibly how best to deal with those difficult and sensitive areas in our schools. I am angry that we cannot do that.

    There is not even the chance for a pause so that the House can reflect on those matters. We have to go rushing through with the measure. That is wrong in principle. I should like to ask you, Sir Paul, whether there is any way in which we can be protected from that procedure, which, although technically correct, in practice represents an abuse of hon. Members' rights.

    Let me try to help the hon. Gentleman and respond to his question. The proceedings are entirely in order, so I am afraid that there is nothing that I can do to assist him.

    I feared as much. I remember when a Bill was being rushed through at an earlier stage in the proceedings than the stage that we have now reached, and Mr. Deputy Speaker said from the Chair that Mr. Speaker did not like Bills being rushed through without an opportunity for proper debate. Although the example is not parallel, that is still the position.

    Having made my protest—I feel strongly about that —I should like to refer to the debates in the other place. More than one hon. Member has said, "Well, the other place has debated it. That is all right. It was a full debate." However much publicity and attention were given to the Bill and its passage in the other place, there was not nearly as much as there would be if we were to debate it properly in the House of Commons. We all know that. Feelings run high on the issue, or the hon. Member for Edgbaston would not have called forth the examples that she gave in her speech. I am sure that some people would oppose the Bill and others would like to understand its details better and the implications.

    Because feelings run high on the issue, it would have been right for public opinion to be made aware that we were debating the Bill today. Whatever excuses we have or do not have for looking at the small print or at the Order Paper for what might come up for debate today, the fact is that the public were not aware of that. I defy any hon. Member to say that a large number of his constituents realised that we would discuss the issue today and that he had letters urging him to take a particular view on the Bill in the debate this Friday. I am certain that not one hon. Member had such a letter or any representations from a constituent.

    Therefore, we are proceeding without regard to our constituents and without the normal processes that allow us, in discussion and by listening to our constituents, which is a key part of our job, to come here with better knowledge and better information.

    I should have liked more detailed discussion with education authorities. The Minister read something from the Inner London education authority. The hon. Member for Edgbaston read something from an education authority and the hon. Member for Kensington also read something that referred to one or two education authorities. However, we have not had a chance to listen to what the education authorities have to say.

    If the education authorities had been aware that this Bill was to come before us, it is absolutely certain that they would have written to us to give us their views for and against the Bill. They would also have given us details and examples and we should have had a better informed debate then we are having at the moment. That has been denied to us and it is why I am resentful about the way in which we have approached this matter.

    In her speech introducing the clause, which, after all, is virtually the totality of the Bill, the hon. Member for Edgbaston said a great deal about AIDS about which I must take issue with her. I concede that I am certainly not an expert on the subject, but I have listened to and read a certain amount about it, as we all have. I resent the hon. Lady's suggestion that there is such a clear link between AIDS and homosexuality and that heterosexuality hardly comes into the issue. It would have been helpful if a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Security had been here to clarify the matter.

    I have not come equipped with all the evidence, documents or research that I have received. Quite frankly, I am not sure that the hon. Lady's comments were accurate. She suggested that we must not in any way—I am not sure whether she used the word "promote" but for the sake of example I shall quote from her Bill — "promote homosexuality" in schools, because of the likelihood that that would increase the chance of people getting AIDS. Is that a fair version of what the hon. Lady said?

    Not really. I mentioned the various diseases which, sadly, are linked with homosexuality. I said that any venereologist would agree with that. I gave a long list of those diseases. I did not intend to speak about AIDS at length. It was the hon. Gentleman's intervention that led me to say a little more about that than I had intended. Our disagreement about this would clearly be settled if the hon. Gentleman would ask doctors about it. Serious diseases are linked with homosexuality but that was only one of a number of reasons why children should be protected from being taught that homosexuality is a way of life.

    The hon. lady is linking two rather different things. It is one thing to say that homosexuality is a way of life from which children should be protected—I shall come to that a little later—but it is another thing to assert, as I think she did, that somehow homosexuality means AIDS and that AIDS means homosexuality.

    The hon. Lady is nodding, so that is what she is saying. However, I must say to her that, having seen her own Secretary of State for Social Services on television and having watched some of the educational and publicity programmes about AIDS, I am by no means convinced that the hon. Lady understands these matters as well as she claims.

    It is no good the hon. Lady saying, "Go and ask a doctor," because doctors appeared on the television programmes. Some time ago the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Social Security spoke in one of the Committee rooms at a meeting in this Palace of Westminster to answer hon. Member's questions about AIDS. I have listened to doctors. I am not quite as ignorant as the hon. Lady suggests. She made the dangerous suggestion that AIDS affects only homosexuals and that heterosexuals are all right.

    The hon. Lady came very close to saying that. I gave her three opportunities to put the record straight, but all that she has done is repeat her suggestion. I am happy to give the hon. Lady another chance. To put the matter in perspective, the hon. Lady came armed with information to pilot the Bill through the House and claimed that I was ignorant while she was knowledgeable. If she has all this knowledge, perhaps she would at least explain the matter. I believe that it is both wrong and dangerous to suggest that heterosexuals are not enormously at risk from AIDS.

    1.15 pm

    The publicity, information and statements from the Secretary of State and Ministers at the Department are based on the suggestion that there is an increasing risk of AIDS spreading through the heterosexual population. Not one hon. Member can deny that. We must be aware of that risk, as well as the risk to other groups, such as homosexuals and addicts who use infected needles. Those are the three main groups. One of the great dangers which prompted the Government to spend £20 million on publicity was the enormous risk of AIDS spreading through the heterosexual population. There is evidence from almost every country to that effect, so I do not see why the hon. Lady seeks to deny it.

    Is the hon. Gentleman disputing the figures released by the DHSS, which show that so far well over 90 per cent. of deaths from AIDS have been among the homosexual community?

    I am not disputing the DHSS figures. I am not sure whether the figure is 90 per cent., but I take the hon. Gentleman's word for it. My point is that the risk to the heterosexual population of AIDS spreading is great. The hon. Lady suggested otherwise, and I was objecting to that.

    This is not just a debating point on a Friday afternoon to be forgotten. The matter is serious because it affects our ability to educate all people about the risks, so that they know what the dangers are and can take appropriate action to minimise, reduce or prevent their catching AIDS. The Government have paid great attention to that, Ministers have appeared on television and the DHSS has produced many documents. There has been an enormous effort to educate the whole population about it and it is wrong to give a misleading impression, as the hon. Lady did.

    I do not oppose the Bill, but I wish to express the anxieties which many people share. The hon. Lady spoke about promoting homosexuality. I am particularly anxious that we provide proper education about the danger of AIDS and I agree with the Government's efforts to publicise it. We may need more of them, and perhaps the Government started too slowly, but at least they are doing something. We must consider how we shall continue the education campaign against this dreadful disease and we must he careful that we do not inadvertently pass legislation which makes educating our children and young people more difficult. No hon. Member would dispute that. Indeed, in Committee on the Obscence Publications Bill, we were anxious that nothing in the Bill should prevent proper education about the risks that AIDS presents to all sectors of the population.

    The hon. Lady also spoke about syphilis and one or two other diseases. Again, she suggested that they had close links with homosexual people. Unless I misheard, she did not add that syphilis can also affect heterosexual people. Indeed, I thought that the risks were about equal to both groups. She sought to confine her remarks about the risks of syphilis spreading to the homosexual population only.

    That is misleading and wrong. After all, we are talking about legislation that has to do with how we educate our children. It has to do with education in our schools and about how health risks can properly be put to schoolchildren so that the risks and dangers to them can be minimised. The hon. Lady did not seem to pay much attention to that. Clause 1 states:
    "A local authority shall not.—
    (a) promote homosexuality or publish material for the promotion of homosexuality;".
    I should like to ask a question about that. If I had had the opportunity, I would have put down amendments designed to probe more deeply into this matter. Are we quite certain that the phrase "promotion of homosexuality" will not prevent publicity about the risk of the spread of AIDS from homosexual behaviour? That is important in terms of educating our children.

    Whether the hon. Lady likes it or not, it is not in dispute that about 10 per cent. of the male population are homosexual. I do not know how accurate that figure is, but it is one that is generally quoted. If that is the case, it is likely that in any class of schoolboys 10 per cent. of them will become homosexuals whether they want to or riot. That is the way in which physically and biologically they are developing. I am not aware of any medical opinion which disputes the basis of that.

    The Minister spent a good part of his life teaching. I wonder whether we should not pay attention to the fact that in a class of boys about 10 per cent. are likely to develop as homosexuals. Is it not important that schools should publicise the risk of AIDS to those boys? If they are not taught about that, I do not see how we are doing right by the boys in our schools. I should like to see this issue properly debated. Some people may say that the promotion of homosexuality does not mean that, and that one can describe the risk of getting AIDS through homosexual behaviour while not promoting homosexuality. I do not now the answer to that question. If I had the answer and could be assured that that was not a problem, I could move on. However, while I have my doubts, I have to draw the attention of the House to that.

    I am persuaded by medical opinion and by what the Government have said that in the AIDS epidemic we face one of the greatest health crises that has affected us, and indeed the world, for centuries. We must do nothing that minimises our ability to prevent this dreadful disease from spreading. Is this Bill likely to have that effect, or is it likely to hamper the right of teachers to give sex education that will explain these matters, consistent with the 1986 Act about which the Minister spoke? Perhaps he will explain that in a little more detail. That is one of my worries about the Bill.

    My other worry about the Bill relates to what the Minister said about the sort of educational material that can be made available to schools and the rights of parents, governing bodies and teachers to decide together how these matters can be put over in schools. I should like to have a little more information about that. I appreciate that the Minister cannot speak on behalf of the Department of Education and Science, but I am quite sure that he is equipped to throw a little more light on the subject. My two main worries are, first, whether we are preventing the teaching of all students in schools about the dangers of AIDS and, secondly, about the general approach to sex education and how it will be affected by the Bill.

    We cannot deny that homosexuality exists and that there must be some reference to it; otherwise we will send our young people out into the world not very knowledgeable. I repeat that, in the context of advertising and publicising the dangers of AIDS, we have gone some way towards doing that. I should like to believe that the Bill does not stop us going further in that direction.

    Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

    The Committee divided: Ayes 20, Noes Nil.

    Division No. 159]

    [1.24 pm

    AYES

    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Rossi, Sir Hugh
    Boyson, Dr RhodesShelton, William (Streatham)
    Buck, Sir AntonyStanbrook, Ivor
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Dykes, HughThomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Wall, Sir Patrick
    Lightbown, DavidWiggin, Jerry
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
    Moynihan, Hon C.Tellers for the Ayes:
    Neubert, MichaelSir Brandon Rhys Williams
    Ridsdale, Sir Julianand Mr. Roger Sims.

    NOES

    Nil
    Tellers for the Noes:
    Mr. Frank Haynes andMr. Alf Dubs.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    It appearing on the report of the Division that fewer than forty Members had taken part in the Division, THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN declared that the Question was not decided, and left the Chair.

    declared that the business under consideration stood over until the next Sitting of the House.

    Tobacco Smoking (Public Places) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    1.35 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

    As hon. Members will see, this Bill has all-party support. That support includes the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) who unfortunately cannot be with us today, as he has not been well recently. The House will know that the hon. Gentleman is not standing in the next general election. He has been a formidable proponent on the health front, particularly over smoking and tobacco products. The House will miss his contributions in the future, and I am sorry that he cannot support me in today's debate, as I know that he would if he were present.

    The Bill has, as it were, two prongs. Its aim—I quote from the long title—is
    "To limit smoking in public places; to make provision with regard to smoking and employment".
    I have sometimes been described as a vehement anti-smoker. Perhaps I should explain that I am not a great fanatic or zealot on the issue. Nor am I a converted smoker; I have never smoked, although I claim no great credit for that. I well understand the pleasure that other people obtain from smoking. I can even say that some of my best friends are smokers. Indeed, I must confess that my wife enjoys the occasional cigarette, and that my loyal and very hard-working secretary valiantly types out letters about my Bill encompassed by wreaths of smoke. I should add that, as she is fortunate enough to have a room to herself, she would not be affected by its provisions.

    I can also understand people who find that they are, as the saying goes, "dying for a fag". There are times when I feel that I could just do with a tot of whisky. I can also understand those who find themselves addicted to tobacco products. I confess that I, too, have an addiction—to a certain well-known brand of glacier mints. If I were told by the medical authorities that glacier mints were harmful to me, I dare not contemplate what might be the withdrawal effect on me of ceasing to be able to have them. I am therefore not without sympathy for the smoker.

    However, the medical evidence on the harm done by cigarette products is overwhelming. Smoking is the largest avoidable cause of disease in the United Kingdom. The medical authorities estimate that 100,000 people a year die prematurely from smoking. That means that about 10 people die every hour, simply because they smoke. They do not have to die.

    Prohibition is not practicable, and I do not suggest that it is, but it is the duty of Parliament and the Government to persuade smokers to reduce their smoking, or to stop smoking, and to dissuade young people from starting to smoke. To this end, a number of steps have been initiated.

    Some of us were disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not increase the price of tobacco products in his last Budget. Advertisements and cigarette packets carry health warnings, and the larger the warnings and the stronger the language the more effective they will be. Some believe that there is a strong argument not simply for restricting the advertising of tobacco products but for banning it altogether.

    As for the promotion of tobacco products, all sorts of stories are put across by the tobacco companies about what they are trying to do. I am a marketing man and I know the value of promotion in trying to sell a product to new markets. Means are used to attract public attention to tobacco products, such as the sponsoring of concerts and sports events. I am strongly of the opinion that it is wrong that sports events should be sponsored by the tobacco companies, because of the implied connection between sport and health. That is clearly inappropriate. It is particularly sad that from time to time the BBC and the independent television companies have televised events that are sponsored by tobacco companies. I welcome the modification of the extent to which that happens, as evidenced by the recent televising of the snooker championship. There are more subtle and insidious ways in which cigarette companies use their names by promoting concerts and holiday agencies, and they should be the subject of further action. My Bill would be another way to reduce the incidence of smoking.

    I have referred to the proven harm of smoking, but there is increasing evidence that harm is done to the nonsmoker by so-called passive smoking. The House will be familiar with the recent report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health that refers to the increase in the risk of lung cancer from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. It suggests that the risk of lung cancer for people who are living with smokers, is increased to the extent of 30 per cent.

    Apart from the medical arguments, one has to have regard to the social arguments. Smoking creates a very unpleasant atmosphere and a smell that clings to other people's clothes. If I were to go into the Members' Tea Room, or into the waiting room of a railway station, or into an office or work place and produced an aerosol that let out a foul smelling odour, I should be considered at the least, to be anti-social, if not offensive, yet it is considered to perfectly normal in those settings for somebody to light up a cigarette or, even worse, a cigar and to puff smoke all over those in the immediate vicinity. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown) is looking uncomfortable— as well he may the next time he sits beside me in the Tea Room. It can be argued that one does not have to be there and that one can leave, but I do not see why one should have to leave because of the circumstances I have described. It is far more difficult for those in a work place. They cannot leave.

    Let me make it perfectly clear that the purpose of my Bill is not to restrict the liberty of smokers but to safeguard the rights of non-smokers who are, after all, in the majority; it is estimated that nowadays probably no more than a third of adults smoke. The idea of setting aside separate places in which people can smoke is not a new one. We are familiar with smoke rooms in pubs, for example. For many years, there have been railway carriages marked with "No smoking" signs, and to the credit of those who run public places, such as restaurants, some now have areas marked "non-smoking". But that implies that there is something slightly eccentric about being a non-smoker—that one is the odd one out, and that special provision has to be made. I should like to change that attitude so that it is accepted that non-smoking is the norm and areas have to be designated for smokers.

    My Bill is drawn in general terms, and I intend that the detailed provisions should be set out in regulations that the Secretary of State is empowered to make. I envisage that, for example, in very small places, or in places to which the public resort for relatively short periods, no smoking would be allowed. That would include lifts, escalators, taxis, shops, public toilets, and so on. Similarly, it would include business and Government offices to which the public had access and, I think, theatres, cinemas, classrooms, lecture halls, hospitals and clinics. It would seem reasonable that in restaurants at least one third of the total area should be designated for non-smokers. In view of the proportion of non-smokers to smokers, which I mentioned, I should have thought that it would be generous to allow two thirds of the space for smokers— unless, of course, a room was particularly small, in which case it would be designated a non-smoking area.

    In places of employment, areas such as the cafeteria should have at least a third of the space designated as nonsmoking areas. It must be assumed that shared work areas are non-smoking areas unless they have been otherwise designated with the agreement of all those who work in them.

    People will ask whether a Bill such as this will be acceptable, whether it will work and whether there is a demand for it. I think that it is certainly acceptable— that is evidenced by the way in which the complete non-smoking policy of London Underground has been accepted. We know, too, that a number of restaurants and cinemas now have non-smoking areas and that in most theatres no smoking is allowed.

    On the question whether the Bill will work, similar legislation is working in the United States, where 40 states have a complete ban on smoking in public places and 11 others have legislation restricting smoking in work places. The Americans have had few problems of enforcement, and it is not uncommon to find that the cost of signs and posters stating whether an area is a no-smoking area is often offset by the cleaning costs. I am afraid that smoking is a filthy and dirty habit. I remember talking to a British Rail employee who had to deal with complaints about labels being scratched off the windows of non-smoking carriages. He said, "You can always tell which are the non-smoking carriages. Just look at the colour of the ceilings." That is perfectly true.

    Is there a demand for this legislation? I can only say that, since my Bill was published, I have received letters from people all over the country supporting it warmly. I shall not take up too much time of the House, but should like to quote from a couple of those letters. A couple wrote:
    "There is nothing more objectionable when going for a meal, to arrive, start ones meal only to find the people on the table adjacent just finishing theirs and lighting cigarettes all round!"
    Another gentleman wrote:
    "I am a sound engineer for the BBC and have to sit alongside smokers for hours at a time. The BBC management gives no support for an all-out smoking ban in studios areas. Legislation is the only real answer. If our ventilation plants leaked smelly dirty smoke into work areas, no one would work there, but smokers see nothing wrong in polluting the air around them."
    Another lady explained how smoke seriously affects her throat and chest, so she must be extremely careful whenever she goes to a public place to ascertain whether people are smoking. I received some interesting correspondence from a public transport operator who is faced with determining the extent to which he can introduce and enforce non-smoking in a competitive environment. He commented:
    "This is a matter which should be dealt with by legislation."
    There is pressure for legislation. I am conscious of the fact that I shall be opposed from at least two directions. One is the so-called libertarian lobby—those who feel that people should be free to do as they like. We all know that life is not like that. To live in a reasonable civilised environment we all have to consider each other and adjust our behaviour accordingly. As I have implied, I believe that my Bill strikes a reasonable balance between the liberty of the smoker to smoke and the liberty of the nonsmoker to breathe smoke-free air.

    The other opposition will come from the tobacco producers—the industry which sees itself, even today, having to become smaller because of the reduction in smoking, and it is very anxious about that. I hope that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) does not mind my pinching one of his best lines, which is that the industry kills off 100,000 people a year, so that it has to find more customers to keep up consumption.

    I shall seek royalties from the hon. Gentleman.

    Of course there are more subtle ways in which the industry will use its influence, especially by advertising in the press. A few months ago, an article in the Daily Telegraph was critical of those trying to restrict sports sponsorship by tobacco companies. The article was a fair comment on a matter of some controversy and I wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph responding to it and putting counter-arguments. I thought that, perhaps, as a Member of Parliament, and in particular as the chairman of the all-party parliamentary Action on Smoking and Health group, my views might merit publication. Not only was my letter not published but not a single letter responding to that article was published, despite the fact that I know that several doctors wrote in similar terms. I subsequently wrote to the editor of the Daily Telegraph a letter that was not even acknowledged. Despite the fact that I wrote it to him privately inviting him to comment on the fact that there had been no printed response to the original article, I heard nothing further.

    I do not like to feel that the independence of the press is influenced by commercial considerations, but I simply invite the House to note the volume of advertising by tobacco companies in The Telegraph Sunday Magazine and the one-sided presentation of the argument which I have described.

    I accept that there will be objections to my Bill, but I hope that I have persuaded the House about its desirability. In particular, I hope that I have persuaded my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State — the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)—who has so effectively promoted the need and the means for healthy living and that she will consider my Bill sympathetically.

    1.55 pm

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) on introducing the Bill and on the way in which he presented it. He has made a very good case for it. As a libertarian, I agree principally with the Bill. We should always encourage people to have freedom and to enjoy themselves, provided that they do not impinge upon the freedom and enjoyment of other people. What has influenced me considerably has been the effect of the no smoking ban on the Underground. The effect has been remarkable, not only because the atmosphere is so much better but because there is less litter, dirt, cigarette ends and packets, and bits of silver paper laying around in the tube and on the trains. That has made a remarkable difference to the Underground and has done a great deal to influence public opinion that smoking is all right, but only in the right places.

    I have some reservations about parts of the Bill, such as the places where the public would have access, which could be places such as solicitors' offices or business premises. That will have to be gone into thoroughly and clarified in Committee.

    I am glad that there is provision in the Bill for full consultation with employees so that management and employees can agree on places where smoking should be permitted and where it should be banned.

    I imagine that the Bill will not apply in the Palace of Westminster. However, I would hope that it will have a spin-off effect because, while we have an admirable Smoking Room, as a reformed smoker—somebody who used to smoke large quantities of cigarettes but who went through the painful process of giving it up, for which I feel much better — I have no objection to other people smoking. However, I find smoke a difficulty in some of our Committee rooms, which are rooms where the public has access on occasions. Hon. Members could learn quite a bit about how to improve our own air and environment by introducing the concept that it is not welcome for hon. Members to smoke, particularly in some of the smaller Committee rooms and in other parts of the Palace of Westminster.

    I believe that there will be difficulties in implementing the legislation, if it goes through, in restaurants. I can well sympathise with people who want to sit in a part of a restaurant where smoking will be disallowed. But it is extremely difficult for restaurateurs, particularly in some of the smaller restaurants, to earmark those spaces. It depends so much on their custom and on what sort of bookings they get whether they can place people in those areas.

    It would be preferable to work towards a voluntary code of practice. That is something that could emanate from the debate. Many restaurateurs already say to people, "Would you like to be in a non-smoking area?". If possible, I always go for the non-smoking area. It is not essential that we have legislation to do so much of what is in the Bill. I hope that today's debate will lead to a greater awareness — I believe it will—of the desire of many people to see smoking banned from some areas and concentrated in other areas.

    I suspect that the Bill will not make progress. If a general election intervenes and prevents its progress, I hope that we can return to the subject in the next Parliament.

    1.59 pm

    I do not want to detain the House for very long, but I should declare an interest, as indeed should every hon. Member, as I am presently standing, and a few Members are sitting, in a public place where smoking has been banned for nearly 300 years. The Standing Orders have provided since 1665,

    "That no Member do presume to take tobacco in the gallery of the House or at a committee table,"
    on the assumption that nobody would be so offensive and inconsiderate as to smoke in the Chamber. That was not decided in an attempt to get hon. Members to look after their health but because people found the fumes, smell and smoke from other people's pipes—that is presumably what they were smoking at that time—too noxious to be acceptable in civilised company—if the House of Commons could ever be described as "civilised company".

    I have another interest to declare. As chairman of the London group of Labour Members I was a party to the decision-making process within the Labour party in London which led to the prohibition of smoking on London Transport. I recall that we had a few discussions about whether that was likely to prove unpopular and whether it could properly be portrayed as a gross invasion of people's liberty and so on. We concluded that some people might portray it as an invasion of other people's liberty but that, generally speaking, it would work, be successful and that not many people would take offence. I am glad to say that that is how it turned out because no one in politics likes to be unpopular. I am convinced that the ban on smoking on London Transport, both at the stations and on the Underground trains, has proved to be popular.

    One of the things we need to remember is that that ban has proved popular with the large proportion of smokers. All the surveys show that a large proportion of smokers would like to give up and welcome any outside deterrent because it brings them nearer to giving up.

    All that was done—the House banning smoking and the prohibition of smoking on the Underground — before there was really any substantial evidence to show the adverse effects of somebody smoking close to another individual. That has now been described as secondary smoking, which seems more popular on the Conservative Benches than secondary picketing. However, there is little doubt about the effect now and there are very few people of any scientific merit, except for a few wholly financed by the tobacco industry, who would dispute the claim that the inhalation of other people's smoke is damaging in the long-term. It is not as damaging as smoking but it does make a considerable contribution to lung and heart disease as well as being a general irritant causing people to cough and so on.

    I am not entirely sure whether the Bill of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims)—he has the support of a number of my hon. Friends — will do the trick. However, we need legislation to help the extension of non-smoking in public places. If it is left purely to a voluntary effort we shall not see the progress that we expect. largely because people such as restaurateurs will be as dubious about the effects on their popularity as we in the London Labour party were about the effects on our popularity of banning smoking on the Underground. As their immediate livelihoods would be at stake they might not be willing to take too many risks in that respect. However, we need some legislative back-up for the developments that are taking place.

    Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is now part of the Labour party's official policy that, if by some mischance it was to become the Government, it would legislate to prohibit smoking in some public places?

    The logic of my argument was so obvious to the hon. Gentleman that he has moved on to my next sentence but one. I believe that we should look at the overall problems and at ill health caused by smoking and bring forward comprehensive measures to restrain it in a variety of ways. In formulating that legislation, we should have to give careful consideration to the merits of proposals to restrain smoking in public places. I am not saying that we commit ourselves to that at this moment, so it is no use the hon. Gentleman suggesting that I am. My own view is that some legislative back-up is needed, but we have not concluded that that is necessarily part of our general approach to reducing smoking.

    What we have said, which I believe would have a greater impact on the reduction of smoking that almost everyone wants, is that there should be a total prohibition on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. With 100,000 people dying of smoking-related diseases or afflictions every year, we owe it to them and to everyone else to take whatever steps are necessary to restrain smoking. That would be my first priority and it is certainly that of the Labour party. Nevertheless, we need to consider the question of smoking in public places.

    One of my doubts about the measure before us, although I have considerable respect for the promoter's efforts, relates to the definition of a public place.

    Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is the Labour party's intention to introduce legislation to ban the sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies?

    We have made that perfectly clear for several years. To those who object that some people in sport would be less well paid if their pockets were not being lined by the tobacco barons, I can only say that, having met some of the Middlesex cricketers earlier this week, many sports people in this country have their incomes substantially increased beyond what they could command by getting people to pay to watch them. So far as I know, W. G. Grace did not need any sponsorship to boost his income. Amateur though he was supposed to be, he obtained a substantial income from cricket, as the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moynihan) will know.

    It is totally unreasonable and irrational for any sporting activity in this country to be subsidised, and the pay of people in it substantially enhanced by the tobacco industry, when the clear purpose and objective of such sponsorship is to promote the sale of tobacco and, in particular, of a limited number of brands of cigarette. It is absurd for sporting activities, which are supposed to make people healthy in mind and body, to be used as a vehicle to persuade young people to take up smoking, as a result of which their health will almost automatically be damaged.

    The Labour party has made it absolutely clear that that is our approach. We regard it as wholly unreasonable for any sporting activity to be used to promote smoking and we stick by that view. Plenty of people with much less offensive products and services are willing to sponsor sport. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, East knows, some have even come forward recently in relation to cricket sponsorship. There is nothing new in what I have just said. We have made it clear that that is our policy.

    I am not sure that we accept all the various definitions of "public place", and so on, in the Bill, but I have considerable sympathy with it. As people who work in places in which we or our predecessors have had the power to ban smoking and have done so, we owe it to large numbers of employees to encourage employers, if necessary by legislative action, to provide them with workplaces that are free from other people smoking. We have devoted a lot but not enough effort to making workplaces safe, wholesome and healthy. I believe that it is absurd for an employer to take the necessary steps to make a workplace safe, wholesome and healthy and then for the employees to make things unsafe for their working colleagues.

    I personally have most sympathy for the aspect of the Bill which encourages and, if necessary, would give power to employers to make workplaces free from smoke that workers did not want. That is a wholesome and reasonable proposition that we should explore. However, to return to the point that I was making before the interventions, we need a comprehensive approach to help people to stop smoking and to deter them from smoking. Similarly, we would do better to have a comprehensive approach to the consumption of booze.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way because I know that he wants to speak only for a short time. However, in view of the arguments that he has put forward with regard to tobacco, would he argue equally as strongly that a Labour Government would seek to place legislation on the statute book to prohibit the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcoholic drinks industry?

    No. The hon. Gentleman is clearly simply getting things written into the record. He knows full well that we distinguish between—

    That is the purpose of this Bill. That is the purpose of the whole exercise.

    I apologise for making a sedentary intervention. However, of course we are here to put things on the record, just as the sponsor of the Bill is absolutely certain that it will make no progress. Even if we all voted, there would not be enough support for the Bill to make progress. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) knows perfectly well that that is the purpose of the exercise.

    As long as the hon. Member for Lewisham, East does not race around to the press and say that the Labour party has suddenly enunciated a new policy on these matters, I do not mind. I have been trying to make a short speech so that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security can make her ministerial contribution. We have made it clear that we shall prohibit the promotion and advertising of tobacco products. However, we have not said that about alcohol because there is a clear distinction between the consumption of tobacco products and the consumption of alcohol. The plain fact is that virtually any smoking is harmful, whereas very few people other than those who are dead set against drinking in any form would claim that the limited and sensible consumption of alcohol from time to time in various forms is particularly harmful. Conservative Members must have friends who are habitual drunks, and we all have friends and acquaintances who suffer from alcoholism. Indeed, I do not suppose that there is any hon. Member who does not have such an acquaintance. Therefore, as a society we must recognise that we must pay attention to the way in which we counter alcoholism. It needs a different approach from the one that I and the Labour party take towards smoking. Nevertheless, there must be a comprehensive approach which would involve changes in the licensing laws, but only as part of a comprehensive package.

    I have considerable sympathy with the objectives of the Bill. However, I have considerable doubts about some of the detailed propositions and drafting aspects. The matter must be dealt with as part of a comprehensive Government-promoted approach to the reduction of smoking.

    2.14 pm

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security
    (Mrs. Edwina Currie)

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) on his efforts this Session with the Bill. If my postbag is anything to go by, he has a great deal of public support. I welcome the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) and I noted the words of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), who has found a novel way of keeping me quiet—by talking a lot himself. Never mind.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst has a long record in this area, as parliamentary adviser to ASH. He has served his constituents—and indeed the nation — very well in the efforts that he has made and the way in which he has presented his case.

    As my hon. Friend knows, ASH is funded partly by the Department of Health and Social Security. Last year we paid it £177,000. Its grant has gone up by about 52 per cent. in real terms since 1978–79, which shows our commitment to the work that it is trying to do. I have been associated with it. I worked with ASH for no-smoking day on 11 March and in November for the launch of the booklet "Women and Smoking. A Handbook for Action".

    I agree with the suggestion about the way in which norms might be presented in future. I do not like the negative approach. I do not like to talk about no-smoking areas. I prefer to talk about smoke-free zones. Perhaps that is because I am a natural optimist, but it should be the norm that people take a close and effective interest in their health in this country, as people do in many other countries. It should be the norm that our public behaviour is pleasant and non-hazardous to others. My hon. Friend will share with me a memory of the time when, on buses or public transport, there would be a notice saying, "No spitting. Penalty £5." We do not see those notices any more because it is now not regarded as normal to indulge in such behaviour. Perhaps the time will come when certain other types of behaviour join that.

    It does no harm to rehearse the dangers of smoking. Smoking causes lung cancer. There will be about 40,000 deaths from lung cancer in this country this year — about 30,000 men and about 10,000 women. In Scotland, lung cancer is now the leading killer of women prematurely and has overtaken breast cancer. Deaths from lung cancer overall have fallen by about 9 per cent. since 1979, but are up 20 per cent. among women. As the Minister responsible for women's health, I regard those figures with the greatest alarm. Among teenagers, girls now smoke more than boys. What a terrible future heritage that is.

    The chances of lung cancer are 11 times greater for smokers than for non-smokers. About 1 million lung cancer cases are reported worldwide every year, and most of them are dead within two years. The survival rate of lung cancer victims five years from diagnosis is only 7 per cent., which is therefore a worse survival rate than for AIDS and many other things about which we are most concerned.

    Smoking is also associated with most other common cancers, and it is a particular problem for those who enjoy drink. The death rates from cancer to the upper digestive tract for those who smoke and drink are between four and seven times as great as for those who drink but do not smoke. Therefore, I would say to people: "If you enjoy a drink, don't smoke." Smoking is strongly implicated in other respiratory diseases, especially the English disease, bronchitis, and emphysema and, most important of all, it is a factor in our biggest killer, coronary heart disease, which will kill about 150,000 people this year. There is one heart attack in this country every three and a half minutes. One third of all men under 65 will have a heart attack and half of them will die, about 40 per cent. within the first hour or so. Such a toll cannot be tolerated in this country for much longer.

    Why should the Government take an interest? Surely personal freedom should matter. I say to hon. Members on both sides of the House that I am probably about as Right-wing as anybody in the House, and I am very proud of it. But there are two reasons why the overriding principle of personal freedom may sometimes be breached. The first reason is if there are substantial costs to the public purse. One of my other deeply-held Tory principles is that I would wish to see public expenditure kept under control. To the National Health Service alone, heart disease has a cost of some £400 million a year. Cancers do not cost quite so much because people tend to die fairly quickly, so they are not a burden for very long, but I would mind less what people got up to if it did not cost the Government and taxpayers an enormous amount of money. We also have to recognise the costs to industry in working days lost and in lost productivity, particularly when the people concerned are cut down in their prime.

    The other main reason is that individual actions may harm others. I am an asthmatic—that is my interest. So smoking is an irritant to me and to the many thousands of asthmatics in this country.

    There is now plenty of evidence that passive smoking causes illness in others. We know of the effect, in a smoker's household, of respiratory diseases in children and other family members. We know also that the contaminants in smoking can cross the placenta of a pregnant woman and damage her baby. That is even the case if she is a non-smoker, but lives with a smoking husband. We now know also that there is a chance that lung cancer can be caused in non-smokers by people who smoke.

    The interim statement of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health was published on 13 March 1987. Having considered the relevant studies., the committee concluded
    "while none of the studies of passive smoking and lung cancer can on its own be accepted as unequivocal, the findings overall are consistent with there being a small increase in risk of lung cancer from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, possibly between 10 per cent. and 30 per cent."
    That is possibly 200 or 300 extra deaths from lung cancer a year. The final report will be available later this year and the Government will then consider whether action is required, and, if so, what.

    It is probably worth pointing out that that committee was set up by a Tory Government in 1973. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst knows, Tory Governments have been prepared to use legislation to take the sort of action that he seeks. The first legislation against smokers was in the 1960s. However, it was a Tory Government in 1972 who banned smoking among those handling food. It was also a Tory Government who, passed clauses in the Transport Act 1983 to provide opportunities to restrict smoking on public transport. As has been mentioned, that has been taken up by the London Underground, and by air companies such as Loganair and by Belfast Citybus Ltd. British Rail has told me that in the new timetables that are to be published next week only 25 per cent. of the places will be available to smokers. That is a spectacular improvement. Therefore, Governments have taken action on this matter.

    However, even without legislation, the British are now giving up smoking faster than people in any other country. About 2·5 million smokers took part in no smoking day this year. An attitude survey that was conducted in connection with "Look After Your Heart" showed that three quarters of our people do not smoke and that three quarters of those who do wish to change. Therefore, we are making a lot of progress.

    However, I must advise my hon. Friend that at this stage I do not feel that this Bill should join that collection of legislation. I do not like telling people what to do; I would much rather persuade. In principle, I would rather use almost any means but compulsion, and I especially dislike using the law. When, as a Back Bencher, I supported legislation such as that on fluoridation, the sale of scented erasers or that on seat belts, it was only because I had become convinced over a long period—in the case of fluoridation after more than 10 years' experience in the city of Birmingham — that progress on public health would be hampered by the lack of a legal framework. In those cases, I was prepared to support changes in the law. However, at this time, and in the form of this Bill, I am not yet so convinced. I do recognise, with the greatest appreciation, the motives and the evidence presented by my hon. Friend. I suspect that we agree about ends but at this time, we probably disagree about the means.

    I thank the Minister for giving way, especially as I have not heard all of the debate. As someone who is passionately antismoking, I should like to draw her attention to the problems of the staff within her own Ministry at the DHSS who wish to be able to work in a smoke-free atmosphere. It seems that the guidance given to local offices by the DHSS head office is unclear about that. I have a case of a young woman who medically and emotionally cannot stand smoke in her environment. As a result, she is unable to work in a particular office. Can the Minister give some help to her and to other people in the same position by guaranteeing at least one smoke-free area in each DHSS local office?

    I too have had several letters similar to that. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the DHSS we are discussing not only the question of smoking but other aspects of public health and the ways in which we might encourage our staff to take advantage of the facilities that are available, such as the screening programme. If he would like to send me the letter about which he is concerned, I shall endeavour to do what I can.

    The timing of this matter is important. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst will recognise the sense of what I am saying about that. It is not just that this Session may be shorter than it might otherwise be; I am reluctant to take steps before the final report of the independent committee. I am aware that public opinion is shifting fast on this issue and that we still have too many smokers, but many people are being enabled and helped to give up, not least my husband, and I am pleased about that. Therefore, this year we may well see a sharp reduction in the number of people who may be upset, troubled or find the Bill difficult to accept.

    I am also concerned that action now may be counter-productive. I do not wish to antagonise smokers or to put them on the defensive; I would much prefer to proceed on the basis of co-operation, if possible. There are plenty of examples where that is happening. ASH told me that it has had numerous requests for its document, "Smoking and Work: Ideas for Action", and that in many cases employers have reported surges in job applications from top employees of rival firms as a result of providing a smoke-free working environment. That shows that there is a great deal of movement.

    I have a further fear. I am keen that business should take an interest in all aspects of health education, not just smoking, but food in the canteen, drink policies and the encouragement of a fit lifestyle. I am slightly worried that if we legislated only on smoking—I hasten to add that I have no proposals to legislate on any of the others—we may be seen to be putting the other items in the background. However, if a company, its employers and employees co-operate successfully on smoking they may wish to go further and to give attention to other practical issues, all of which will help to contribute to a healthier nation. I would be happy to see progress in all those directions.

    The Bill has objectives which, from the point of public health, we support. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the reasons for our slight reluctance to accept it now. I congratulate him on all his efforts, which I know will continue and I wish him well with them in future.

    2.26 pm

    By leave of the House, I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for her remarks about me and for her comments on the Bill. In the light of what she has said and possible impending events, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion and the Bill.

    Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

    Bill withdrawn.

    Coal Mining Subsidence Bill

    Order, for Second reading read.

    2.27 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

    It appears that I have three minutes to put my case. It is not only my constituents who are suffering from the problem of coal mining subsidence, but those of right hon. and hon. Members who have coal mining in their constituencies. British Coal has made a wicked decision on the cases of some of our constituents. The legislation makes it clear that one must claim compensation for repairs to property within six years of the cessation of coal mining beneath that property. In Nottinghamshire, for example, the National Coal Board, as it was, allowed a 12-year period, but not long ago British Coal decided to shorten it to six years. The result is that many people have been left outside that six-year period and the NCB has rejected their claims.

    A few days ago the chairman of British Coal had a meeting here to talk about the future of the mining industry. At the same time I had the opportunity to question him about what he would do about the problems of people whose applications for compensation for repairs to their property damaged by coal mine workings had been rejected, but I did not receive a satisfactory reply.

    The Bill has been introduced with a view to introducing some fairness in the system. The Government encourage people to be home owners and many of my constituents have bought their own homes, even from the local authority. However, when homes are damaged many claims are rejected by British Coal, which does not want to know about them. British Coal has a responsibility to meet these claims and I had hoped that perhaps we could get this Bill on to the statute book.

    It being half past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

    Debate to he resumed upon Friday 15 May.

    Private Members' Bills

    Matrimonial Incomes And Remuneration (Notifications) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Late Payment Of Debts Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred to Friday 3 July.

    Licensing (Retail Sales) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Medical Act 1983 (Amendment) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Fixed Parliaments Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Parental Leave Bill

    Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [27 March].

    Debate further adjourned till Friday 3 July.

    Drug Companies (Accounts) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 3 July.

    Wildlife And Countryside Act (Protection Of Birds) (Amendment) Bill

    Order for Second Reading Read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 3 July.

    Pensions Trusts Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Freehold Entitlement Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Optical Appliances (Blind And Partially Sighted Persons) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    On behalf of my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill, Friday 15 May.

    Housebuyers' Protection Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Monday 11 May.

    Pensioners' Right To Fuel And Communications Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Monday 11 June.

    Infant Life (Preservation) And Paternal Rights Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Monday 15 May.

    Human Rights Bill

    Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [6 February].

    Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put and agreed to.

    Bill committed to a Standing Committee.

    Secretary Of State For Education And Science (Qualifications For Office) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    National Health Service (Newham)

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

    2.34 pm

    An acute crisis of medical and nursing staff afflicts the National Health Service in the London borough of Newham. It is getting worse. That is why I sought this emergency debate in Parliament to lay bare the facts and to seek a response from the Government. Newham, as I have often explained to the House, has more than its share of difficulties. In health matters, the borough is caught in a pincer. As recent authoritative reports have shown, much sickness is caused by deprivation and the debilitating effects of an unhealthy environment. Good health greatly depends on adequate incomes, diets and good warm housing.

    Since 1979, Government policy has doubled the number of people in Newham living in poverty on supplementary benefit, and actually trebled the number of unemployed. Cuts in housing expenditure have led to a waiting list of 12,000 people, and the worst housing in London. That damages health, especially for the most disadvantaged. Yet, when my constituents seek health care they suffer again, for they are confronted by a service in crisis, which is breaking down under the strain of trying to cope, and is under-staffed and under-resourced. A frightening burden is being placed on devoted but overworked staff, while local people endure longer waiting lists and delays in treatment. Sometimes for patients, the hours of waiting can negate the benefits of treatment and cause unnecessary pain and distress. Acute staff shortages make it difficult to maintain standards of care.

    I have raised these matters before and have given Ministers the details in correspondence, but there has been no satisfactory or adequate response. It is because the situation in Newham is worsening that I deal with the matter again today.

    Services for and health care of Newham patients are suffering because of shortages of staff right across the board. I spent a large part of last Tuesday discussing the matter with the Newham community health council, Lady Sherman and her colleagues at the Newham health authority, and Mr. Richard George, the manager of Newham general hospital. At present, there is a shortfall of staff of 420 in the Newham health authority. They range from medical staff locums, nursing staff, medical records staff, medical secretaries, occupational therapists, audio technicians, pharmacy staff, chiropodists, and many others. The shortfall of nurses is particularly grave. Shortages are acute among operating theatre nurses, operating department assistants, intensive therapy nurses, paediatric nurses and midwives.

    The health authority is being forced to use untrained people and to have extensive recourse to agency staff, which, of course, is more expensive. But that does not help to make up the shortfall. One clear reason for the shortages is the abysmally low rates of pay in the NHS, the competition that it faces from local authorities and other employers who offer higher salaries, and also the additional London weighting that is offered by neighbouring areas. The Government recently agreed to pay this year's pay review body's recommendations on nurses' and midwives' pay. I welcome that, but the unanimous view of all those to whom I spoke was that it was too little, too late. It still leaves salaries unacceptably low—well below those of comparable white-collar jobs —and will not solve the problem.

    There was also agreement that the level of London weighting was hopelessly inadequate and in no way compensated for the high cost of housing and living in London. Contrasts were made with central banks and building societies that offered London allowances of up to £2,000 on top of already higher salaries. I was assured that, unless some flexibility and improvement is given in the face of the aggressive action of the institutions that I mentioned, the position will get worse.

    Newham health authority's problems in attracting nursing staff are compounded by the inducements being offered and the vigorous recruitment drives being mounted by countries such as Australia, the United States and Saudi Arabia. Another worry is the difficulty in recruiting and retaining administrative and clerical staff, particularly for medical records departments. It is vital to have records available for all out-patient clinics and for in-patients on the wards, and it is important for patients' continuing care that their GPs are aware of what treatment is being given to them or is proposed. Yet a medical secretary on personal secretary grade gets £4,912 to £5,855. For HCO grade the salary is from £5,418 to £6,556. How many hon. Members could get a secretary for such miserly sums? When agency staff have to be employed, they are paid double. The City of London, with its big bang salaries, is only 20 minutes away on the tube, so why should secretaries work for the NHS? Yet doctors need their records.

    Incidentally, I do not understand why, as Mr. Jim Franklin, a carpenter at Newham general hospital told me, fully skilled building craftsmen are being offered £29 a week less than maintenance craftsmen. Perhaps I could have an explanation.

    The shortage of midwives is extremely grave. The birth rate in Newham is booming. It increased 20 per cent. last year, yet the local school of midwifery is closed because of an inability to recruit midwives. Newham is 20 per cent. short of midwives, and Newham general hospital is 15 short. That places a huge burden of stress on those who remain. It is the mothers and babies who suffer. Out of some 250,000 qualified midwives nationwide, only 30,000 are willing to practise in the NHS. This begs the question of their rewards. Even after their increase, a staff midwife receives only £7,730 per annum minimum, to £8,600 maximum. Can anyone say that that is enough?

    Another acute shortage is of occupational therapists. At St. Andrew's hospital there are none at all at the moment. At Goodmayes hospital, which caters for many Newham people with mental illnesses, there is only one. She, with untrained helpers, has to provide a service for between 100 and 180 clients daily. The other vacancies have not been filled for a long time.

    One of the most worrying shortages is of nurses. The monthly reports of the director of resources show a steadily worsening position, with extra costs due to the shortage of agency nurses yet still a shortage of 21 per cent. The high use of agency staff of up to 10 per cent. has serious implications for continuity of care and accountability. On Tuesday in Newham general hospital I was shocked to learn that, although there should be 10 operating theatre nurses, there are only two.

    This has had a disastrous effect. The four-theatre operating suite, allowing for routine maintenance, should provide 34 sessions a week. However, this was reduced to 30 on 6 April because of nurse shortages, and on Monday of last week this had to be reduced further to only 20, a cut of 40 per cent. The surgeons cannot work for lack of nurses and the waiting list for patients grows longer. There will be 20 sessions a week for a fortnight, and no one knows what will happen after that. The hospital also has a one-third shortage of operating department assistants. There is a shortage of intensive care nurses at the hospital. These nurses give care on a one-to-one basis to patients in beds with much expensive hi-tech equipment. There are four such beds in Newham general hospital, but at least one is usually shut down.

    There should be eight paediatric nurses at the hospital working with children, but there are only two. There is only a quarter of what there should be. At St. Andrew's hospital there are 90 nursing vacancies. There were once three accident and emergency departments in Newham and there is now only one, which is at Newham general. It was designed to take 32,000 to 33,000 cases per annum but it is now having to cope with 70,000. The congestion can be imagined. The waiting time for patients is usually around four hours, but is often longer. This causes great frustration and sometimes violence. The stress and strain on nurses can be imagined. Is it surprising that morale suffers? And let us recall the meagre rewards that we offer nurses. Even with the increases, a student nurse will now receive from £4,540 to £5,170. An enrolled nurse will be paid from £6,250 to £7,750. A staff nurse will receive from £7,300 to £8,600.

    The service at Newham's accident and emergency department is not just on the brink of collapse; on several occasions it has collapsed arid has had to be closed because of a shortage of nurses. On 5 January it closed at 5.40 pm until 10 am on 7 January. In other words, it was closed for 40 hours. On 20 March, it closed at 5 pm until 10 am on 23 March. In other words, it was closed for 65 hours. Ambulances were diverted to as far away as Romford, yet my constituents should be able to rely on the casualty service.

    The position was explained in an article in the Newham Recorder on 15 April, which referred to hospital neglect of a dying woman. The article reads:
    "Damning allegations about lack of nursing care for a dying 71-year old woman were admitted last week by Newham General Hospital. Hospital chiefs upheld her son's claim that she was left unattended for four hours after falling and badly cutting her face. The Hospital Manager … said: 'We apologise unreservedly. We accept that the state she was found in was unacceptable.' He said the ward she was in was understaffed, and had many nurses who were only temporary, when the incident happened over Christmas last year. 'We have been trying to improve the care on that ward ever since', he said."
    The article continues:
    "When her son David visited on Christmas Eve he found her slumped in a chair, unattended, with blood on her face. He stayed with her for four hours but could get no treatment for her. Mr. Cookson, who lives in America, told Newham General he was 'disgusted' with their treatment of his mother."
    I can well understand that Mr. Cookson was appalled at the treatment received by his mother—so would all of us be. But Cabinet Ministers do not suffer such treatment. They do not use the service The Prime Minister claimed that the NHS was safe in her hands, but she does not consider herself safe in its hands. When she requires treatment she goes private. We are getting double standards, a good standard for the wealthy who can buy privilege and a second-class one for the rest. It is a two-tier system with profit-led care for the haves and an inferior cash-starved service for the have-nots.

    The Government's encouragement of private practice is of no use to the people of Newham. My constituents see only a faltering commitment to the NHS, with a lack of resources damaging the standard and quality of health care, undermining the basic principles on which the NHS was built.

    The NHS was built by a previous Labour Government on the noble socialist principle that in sickness wealth should be no advantage and poverty no disadvantage, that the best treatment should be available to all free at the point of use and paid for from general taxation. In this way the healthy support the sick. Now we have a Government who cut taxation while starving the NHS, thereby vandalising a service of which this country was once so proud.

    I make no criticism of the medical staff. They are devoted to their tasks but overworked and underpaid. They are bearing the brunt, unfairly, for the under-resourcing of the NHS. The system is kept afloat only by working dedicated staff into the ground. The Government often boast about the increased throughput of more patients despite fewer beds, but higher throughput means patients are more dependent, and therefore more demanding when in hospital. But a price has to be paid, and it is being paid by the nurses. They endure stress, depression, fatigue and often poor job satisfaction through lack of time to do work properly, in deteriorating conditions. Is it surprising that morale plunges?

    We must obtain practical and effective solutions to the real and pressing problems in Newham today. The Government must show that they care. I hope that I do not hear from the Minister the tired, stale old excuses or the jargon-riddled evasions that I have received in official letters before, when I have raised these matters on behalf of the people whom I represent. Action needs to be taken now, and I hope we shall see some new thinking and positive steps taken quickly to alleviate the pain and distress that exists.

    First, let me deal with pay. I welcome the agreement to implement nationally the proposals of the pay review body. However, in the Newham context, we must go further. Our borough, for some inexplicable and bizarre official reason, is not considered inner London, although it is impossible to imagine a borough more "inner city" than Newham, whatever criteria one takes. Not only that, but Government statistics reveal that we are the most deprived local authority area, bar one, in the whole of England and Wales. So why this absurd and unjust discrimination? Newham should immediately be classified "inner London". That would straight away give higher salaries to many of the staff, and bring them up to those paid to our neighbours. Unless and until that is done, the attraction will always be to the adjacent boroughs, thus denuding Newham because of its low salaries—despite its high living and housing costs, the threat of crime and the other drawbacks of deprived areas.

    I wrote to the Department about the matter twice last year, and received replies from the Under-Secretary on 20 May and 19 August. In his last letter, he talked of the boundaries of the London weighting. Of course a line has to be drawn somewhere, but surely it must be plain that it is ludicrously drawn at the moment, with St. Andrew's hospital on one side and Newham general on the other, and leaving the borough of Newham on the wrong side. Remedying that nonsense is something that can be beneficially done now. In addition, the Government should consider other ways of providing premium pay for areas with shortages of staff. I should have thought that that fitted in with their own ideas of "market mechanisms". In his letter to me, the Under-Secretary said:
    "In the longer term, we have identified as a top priority for the NHS Management Board, and Len Peach as Director of Personnel, achievement of an adequate supply of well-trained and motivated staff and securing action on significant shortages of manpower. Work is in hand to find ways to reflect local economic factors in pay arrangements whilst preserving the essential, national framework of the service.
    " So "work is in hand". That was many months ago. What has happened to that work? Why the delay? Why not get on with it? Will the Minister announce something advantageous to us today, as she has the opportunity?

    Then we must look at housing. Why should staff journey to work in Newham from other, possibly leafier, suburbs? It is impossible, with prices soaring far out of their reach, for staff to buy houses in the borough. On the contrary, many nurses have been driven out, and are leaving for other parts of the country with cheaper houses and lower living costs. We shall never solve our staff shortages until we tackle the accommodation problem.

    What do the Government propose? I ask the Minister to reply specifically on that point. The Government have slashed the money to local government for housing by well over half, and have cut Newham's housing investment programme allocation by over £150 million since 1979. That has resulted in an exacerbated housing crisis in Newham, with over 12,000 people on the waiting list and hundreds of homeless families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

    The borough council can do little. The Government have a responsibility: what are they going to do? I want to hear the answer today.

    Finally, I make a proposal of my own. The Government never tire of telling us that the London Docklands Development Corporation is regenerating east London. What has it done to regenerate the National Health Service? A considerable population is growing in Beckton, all of whom will need health care; they will make demands on the National Health Service. There are, of course, plenty of flats for sale in docklands, if one has the spare £350,000 to pay. But the nurses do not. Will the Government take action to see that the development in Docklands not only makes demands on the NHS but also contributes to it? This is one of the few places locally with land available. Will the Government speak to the LDDC now, with a view to building nurses' accommodation in Docklands at low cost? That would attack the problem. It would be a practical idea, and this afternoon we want to hear from the Government some practical ideas. We want to hear not what they cannot do but what they can do.

    I look for an assurance that the Minister and her officials will give their full attention to the staffing of the NHS in the borough and that they will take all the action that is necessary to remedy the scandal of the gross and dangerous shortages that exist, and to ensure that the people of Newham have a good, adequately funded, resourced and staffed health care system, on which they know that they can rely.

    I look forward to the Minister's reply. She must know that, unless urgent action is taken now, the NHS in my area will slide further into a spiral of decline from which it will be difficult to recover.

    2.51 pm

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security
    (Mrs. Edwina Currie)

    As is the usual courtesy, I congratulate the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) on his success in the ballot and on choosing this subject for today's debate. He has made a number of my points for me, such as pay and Len Peach's suggestions about pay flexibility, but I am afraid that shortage of time means that I shall be unable to answer all his questions. Perhaps he would write to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who I am sure would be interested to hear from him about housing in London.

    If Opposition Members want an answer to some of the questions for which I have responsibility, I hope that they will provide me with an opportunity to give them.

    The Newham health authority is one of the best in London. Under the leadership of Sally, Lady Sherman, and all her staff, it is doing an excellent job in caring for the people of east London. It is a caring, thorough and responsible authority. Recently I visited Plaistow hospital for the rededication of the chapel, which was led by Princess Alice. I was most impressed. I understand that substantial improvements in health care have taken place since the Newham district general hospital was opened in 1983.

    I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss briefly today the staffing of such an authority. The hon. Gentleman is quite right when he says that there are problems. I have obtained a list of the directly employed staff of Newham health authority at 30 April 1987. If he wishes to have it, I shall arrange for the hon. Gentleman to have a copy of this information. It shows that in certain specialties, not just nursing, there are serious problems. Nursing is the most spectacular simply because large numbers of nurses are employed. The number of budgeted establishment places for trained nurses is 946, but only 752 are in post. The authority is all right for untrained nurses in post. It has 180 out of the budgeted number of 183. The budgeted learners establishment is 250, but only 188 are in post. I suspect that that has much to do with the drop in the enrolled nurse training intake that has taken place recently all over the country.

    The authority should have 28 pharmacy staff but it has only 21. It should have 18 operating department assistants but it has only 13. It should have 32 radiographers, but there are only 27. It should have four audiologists, but it has only one. It should have 41 physiotherapists, but it has only 34. The authority has 19 speech therapists, and that is its budgeted number. The authority is very short of occupational therapists. There should be 17 occupational therapists in post but there are only seven.

    The authority should have 285 administrative and clerical workers, but there are only 256 in post. I confirm that the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to how difficult it is to attract medical secretaries. That problem exists not just in Newham or in London but in a number of other parts of the country where alternative employment is readily available.

    The hospital is all right for library staff; it has one post and one person in post. Severity-seven of the 90 catering posts are occupied, but there are only 127 domestic and cleaning staff out of an establishment of 151. Portering, linen and transport are all satisfactory. The engineering services are slightly down, but not substantially so, although, of the 18 posts in building services, only 12 are filled. The hospital is up to establishment in garden maintenance and health education services. The problem therefore seems to be specific to certain activities. l note with great interest that some of the unskilled posts seem to be filled and that the problem seems to be in recruiting to fill the skilled posts. If I have time, I shall come back to that.

    The authority tells me it has experienced some difficulties in recruiting permanent nursing staff up to the complement, although most of the vacancies are filled with agency nurses, which does not cost more, because the authority is obliged to pay the nurse only at the midpoint of the scale relevant to her qualification. A number of measures have been taken to boost the recruitment of nursing staff. The authority is seeking to remedy the shortage of theatre nurses by pursuing an in-house training programme and, in the long term, by developing links with the English national board's theatre course at the London hospital. The authority has involved itself in a little reverse brain drain by recruiting in Ireland, where it interviewed 500 possible recruits. Eighty-four training places were on offer and 30 applications from trained nurses are now being processed along with a further 280 letters of inquiry. We welcome that development.

    The health authority is planning to spend an extra £66,500 in 1987–88 to promote recruitment. In addition to that normal advertising, health authority officers run a weekly job shop at Plaistow jobcentre and plan to extend the scheme to other jobcentres. Resources have been set aside for London Transport and local bus advertising, and efforts have been made to recruit staff in areas of high unemployment such as Liverpool and Yorkshire. There has been a good response to the authority's clerical and secretarial register, which will act as an employment bank.

    Therefore, it is not a question of money, and the problem is certainly not to do with the funding that goes to the health authority. In 1982–83, the gross revenue expenditure of the health authority was £30,613,000. This year, the initial cash allocation is over £44 million, which represents a substantial increase and an increase in real terms. The authority's funding this year shows a 4 per cent. change from the previous year.

    The problem is not affecting patients. The number of in-patient cases has risen from 21,000 in 1982 to over 22,000 while the number of clay cases has increased from 1,600 to 35,000. Added together, those figures show that the number of patients who are treated per year has risen by about a seventh. Out-patient attendances are affected by changes in the arrangements for ear, nose and throat and general surgery and other changes that have been made since the new hospital was opened. However, the waiting list in Newham is very much better. The improvement is among the best in the country. The number of people waiting for urgent treatment dropped from 2,000 on 31 March 1983 to 1,188 on 30 September 1986, the last date for which figures are available, and very few have to wait for longer than the required one month.

    Similarly, the number of non-urgent cases has dropped from 1,819 to 1,115. The improvement applies to general surgery, and trauma and orthopaedics, for which the number of non-urgent cases on the waiting list dropped during that period from 532 to 393, and only 64 cases now have to wait more than a year. I accept that that figure is too high, but there has been a spectacular improvement.

    With the gaps in staffing that we have seen, but with a substantial increase in funding, a leap in patient treatment and a clearing of waiting lists — an improvement of some 40 per cent.—there are a number of points that are clear and worth putting on the record. [Interruption.] The National Health Service staff are clearly all working like Trojans. Since those people are the constituents of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) I hope that he will join me in recognising the extraordinary spectacular efforts that are clearly being put into Newham by all National Health Service staff. Any company—indeed, any establishment—would be proud of the way in which staff are working in that health authority. It is remarkable. I was particularly pleased when I was there to see how good morale was and the cheerful and pleasant atmosphere all those staff had created for patients.

    One of two things is happening. Newham may be managing perfectly well without its full "paper" establishment of staff. The authoriy tells me that it is using overtime and agency staff and, as a result, is within 2 or 3 per cent. of establishment. That may be a sensible way to respond to fluctuating need, but management would be wise if it looked at its funded establishment to see whether it has the pattern and teams — the mix — that it still wants, or whether changes are needed. I am sure that the hon. Member for Newham, North-East agrees that it serves no purpose to put numbers on a piece of paper. But this also raises the question how staff in scarce specialties can be well and effectively used. As a result of today's debate, I shall send the figures to the regional health authority and Lady Sherman and ask if they can give some thought to the sort of questions that I am raising. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support me.

    Either Newham is managing perfectly well by managing its staff in a way that does not show on paper, in which case it should be more explicit about it, or it is not managing perfectly well and staff should be recruited.

    My guess is that it is not a matter of boundaries. We find these difficulties in a number of parts of London. Therefore, poaching from other neighbour-hoods would not solve the problem.

    I was interested recently to meet nurse trainers from the West Lambeth health authority who are making a considerable effort to recruit and train young men and women from the Brixton area—people who do not have the paper qualifications to come into the traditional forms of training but who, they feel, have a great deal to offer the Health Service. They find that they are meeting an enormous enthusiastic response. I have spoken to the chairman of that district health authority about the efforts of those nurse trainers and asked him to support them.

    It is significant that Newham is able to recruit people for the unskilled posts but has the most difficulty in recruiting for the highly skilled posts; yet there are supposed to be 300,000 unemployed people in London. Perhaps, as a result of today's discussion, which I welcome, we can draw the attention of all concerned to the question whether our patterns of recruitment and training, particularly in London where these problems seem most acute — and not just in nursing because, as we have demonstrated, the problem seems to be reflected in a number of other jobs—are appropriate to the labour force which is available and which wishes to work for us.

    It may well be that nothing much will come out of this, that we shall continue in the same way and that health authorities such as Newham will continue to use overtime and agencies as they have done so far. If they continue to look after more patients and to bring down their waiting lists, I have to say that we should work on results as much as on input.

    Perhaps, as a result of today's discussion, a spark has been struck which may help the constituents of not only the hon. Member for Newham, North-East but other London Members and people throughout the Health Service. I am more than willing 'to have an open mind on these matters and I shall endeavour to take the action which I have described.

    3.3 pm

    The Minister has not answered the central points put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) about the recruitment of nurses for an accident and emergency service, about the whole question of boundaries and about adequate incentives for skilled secretaries——

    The Question having been proposed after half-past Two o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

    Adjourned at four minutes past Three o'clock.