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Sale Of Intoxicating Liquor On Licensed Premises To Persons Under Eighteen

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

1. — (1) Section 169 of the principal Act (offences on licensed premises in connection with the supply of intoxicating liquor to, or its consumption by, persons under eighteen) shall have effect with the following amendments.
(2) In subsection (1) (which penalises the sale of intoxicating liquor by a licensee or his servant to a person known to be under eighteen), the word "knowingly", in the first place where it occurs, shall be ommitted.
(3) After subsection (4) there shall be inserted the following subsections—
"(4A) Where a person is charged under subsection (1) of this section with the offence of selling intoxicating liquor to a person under eighteen and he is charged by reason of his own act, it shall be a defence for him to prove—
  • (a) that he exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence; or
  • (b) that he had no reason to suspect that the person was under eighteen.
  • (4B) Where the person charged with an offence under subsection (1) of this section is the licence holder and he is charged by reason of the act or default of some other person, it shall be a defence for him to prove that he exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of an offence under that subsection." —
    (4) For subsections (8) and (9), there shall be substituted the following subsection—
    "(8) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 of the standard scale; and on a person's second or subsequent conviction of such an offence the court may, if the offence was committed by him as the holder of a justices' licence, order that he shall forfeit the licence."—[Mr. Douglas Hogg.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
    (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

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

    With this it will be convenient to take the following: amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, to leave out lines 17 and 18 and insert—

    '(b) that he had good reason to believe that the person was over eighteen'.
    New Clause 7—Under Age Drinking
    'In section 169 (Serving or delivering intoxicating liquor to or for consumption by persons under 18) of the principal Act—
    (1) In subsections (1), (5) and (6) the word "knowingly" shall he omitted wherever it occurs.

    Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). I had hoped that amendment No. 1 would be included. I am not questioning the judgment of the Chair, but it matters to many people in they industry what hours the work. The amendment would have provided us with the opportunity to help those who have to serve the public. I am not questioning your judgment in the slightest, but many people who work in the industry and have to open for these hours will be bitterly disappointed.

    I can say to both hon. Members and to the whole House that Mr. Speaker gives very careful consideration to all factors—including the length of time for which any particular subject may have been considered in the Standing Committee —before making his selection. I am sorry that I cannot help the hon. Members. They may be able to use their ingenuity to raise these points on the amendments that have been selected, although I am sure that if they do, they will be careful to remember the rules of order of the House.

    (2) After subsection (10) there shall be added the following subsection—
    "(11) In proceedings for an offence under any provision of this section it is a defence to prove that a person charged with the offence believed the person to be of or over the age mentioned in that provision and had reasonable grounds for the belief.".'.
    Government amendments Nos. 18, 19, 21 and 22.

    One feature of our debates on Second Reading and in Committee was the concern felt in the House and elsewhere about the problem of under-age drinking. That concern was also reflected in the report of the committee, chaired by Lady Masham, which was established by the Home Office. The new clause is our considered response to that anxiety. It contains the proposals that we are bringing forward in the hope of resolving at least some of the difficulties.

    I think that it would help if I spoke only briefly on the new clause and tried to identify only its major elements, because I know that many hon. Members want to participate in the debate. The main change that we propose is to delete the requirement of "knowingly" from the first limb of the offence in section 169(1). The justification for making that change is that it is too difficult to prove, in the context of that offence, that the person had the required knowledge. One of two things has to be proved in the context of that offence — either express knowledge that the customer is under age or a deliberate inattention to that possibility; closure of one's eyes to a fact would probably constitute the required degree of knowledge.

    It is probably because of the difficulty of establishing the offence that the subsection has given rise to very few convictions. In 1986—the last year for which we have records — there were 165 convictions under that subsection in England and Wales. Bearing in mind that there are about 145,325 licensees, that is not very many. I recommend to the House that it delete the word "knowingly" from the first offence in subsection 1. That would transfer a burden to licensees that they did not previously carry.

    One has then to ask whether the offence should he an absolute offence or one to which there should be a defence. That matter exercised the members of the committee, some of whom took the view that it should be an absolute offence to which there should be no defence. I do not think that it would be right in principle or practice to make it an absolute offence. Therefore, we have introduced a defence, which is set out in the new clause.

    I make no apologies for the fact that the defence has been lifted — I think, without alteration — from the equivalent legislation in Scotland, the 1976 Act. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) is smiling. He is right that in this respect we have had something to learn from the Scots. I am delighted to pay tribute to the Scots. We took the defence provided in their legislation and incorporated into our own.

    In the end, one has to ask, "Have we got the balance right? Is the defence too liberal or too oppressive to licensees?" No doubt hon. Members will wish to address their attention to that question. I can give only my view, which is that we have the balance about right. It appears to have worked in Scotland, where there have been significantly more convictions, having regard to the number of licensees, than we have in this country.

    The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) is looking at me with a questioning eye. Let me give him the figures. In Scotland, there were 106 convictions in 1986, against 13,900 licensed premises.

    If the Minister will allow me, I shall ask him a pertinent question. As there are now more liberal laws in Scotland — presumably the law in this respect was previously the same—what, if any, is the difference in the number of convictions before the law was liberalised and under the current position when the law is now substantially more liberal than in England and Wales?

    If I had been the hon. Gentleman, I should have asked precisely the same question, being anxious to torment the Minister at the Dispatch Box. I must confess that I do not know the answer. I have the figures only as far back as 1979 —[Interruption.] Well, I willingly acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has a good debating point. What I do know is that, having regard to the number of licensees, more convictions have been obtained in Scotland—as a proportion of the number of licensees —than has been possible in England and Wales during comparable periods. That is basically because transfernng the burden of proof has made prosecution easier. Without apology to the House, I believe that we should make the offence easier to prove. Either we are serious in trying to tackle the problem of under-age drinking, in which case we go along the kind of route that I have outlined to the House, or we are not.

    Is not the number of convictions, 165 out of 296 prosecutions, as high a figure as there is generally in criminal convictions where there have been pleas of not guilty? What is my hon. Friend complaining about?

    I was pointing out to my hon. and learned Friend that there are about 145,325 licensees. Anybody who has studied the evidence, read the Masham report or even had regard to the evidence of his own eyes, knows perfectly well that a lot of under-age drinking is going on, both in public houses and through the purchase of alcohol from supermarkets. Having regard to that evidence, the fact that there were only 165 convictions in 1986 suggests, to me at least, that the offence is too difficult to prove.

    I advise my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), whose experience is as great as my own—some might say that it is greater in the context of criminal cases — that in this case the concept of "knowingly" is extraordinarily difficult to establish. I find it difficult to see how one could establish that against a licensee in a busy pub at night. Therefore, I am not in the least bit surprised to find that that aspect of the law is little enforced.

    Why is the emphasis in the proposals on punishing the licensee? Why does my hon. Friend not seek to punish the youngsters who knowingly try to mislead the licensee? Why does he not seek to punish perhaps the parents of those youngsters who go in, knowingly, to deceive a licensee? Why is my hon. Friend being so hard on the licensee in this respect?

    I suspect that many hon. Members will say that I am not being harsh enough and that the defence is too liberal. I advise my hon. Friend that it is already an offence to sell alcohol to those who are under age. The question is whether we are serious about that offence. My hon. Friend's intervention suggests that he does not think that we should be in a position to enforce the law against a licensee. I take a different view and I think that it is a question of balance. I am commending to the House an offence that will be committed when there is an occasion to sell to an under-age person. That will be matched by a defence, which I hope has been drawn in sufficiently wide terms so as not to punish people for honest mistakes—

    I make the point about punishment for the young person who knowingly tries to deceive the licensee and possibly some kind of punishment against that young person's parents, who should be responsible. My hon. Friend is putting the emphasis on the licensees, who have a difficult job. Why is he not taking some action against others who deliberately break the law by seeking to drink when they are under age?

    I advise my hon. Friend that it is already an offence for an under-age person to buy a drink. That is already on the statute book. If my hon. Friend would care to refresh his memory on that point, it is in section 169(2). Is my hon. Friend really saying that in the absence of knowledge, we should prosecute the parents of a child who goes into a pub? I would not subscribe willingly to such a proposition.

    We have got the balance about right. Of course, it is a question of judgment and I am sure that I shall be told by other people that I have been too liberal to licensees. However, I present this proposal to the House on the basis that it is a balanced approach, which is likely to make the law more enforceable but in a way which is not unduly oppressive to licensees.

    5.15 pm

    On the obligation of young people—the point raised by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) — the Minister will recall that the Masham committee drew attention to the problems of the police in obtaining the age of young people which might assist them in obtaining a conviction. The Masham committee made the specific recommendation that it should be an offence for a young person to refuse to disclose his age to a police officer, who reasonably suspects him of being under age, so that the law can properly be enforced. As that would usefully have buttressed the Government's proposals, why did they reject that recommendation of the Masham committee?

    That recommendation is contained in paragraph 155 of Lady Masham's report. I came to the conclusion that it was wrong and I shall tell the hon. Member for Swansea, East why I thought that it was wrong. It is a basic principle of English law that one is not obliged to incriminate oneself. The hon. Gentleman is as well aware of that principle as I am. It is an offence for an under-age person to buy alcohol in the circumstances that we are discussing. That being so, had we acceded to Lady Masham's recommendation, we would have been putting on an under-age person an obligation, backed by criminal law, to make a statement which could itself prove that that person had committed an offence. I do not subscribe to that proposition, because it infringes all the principles about self-incrimination. That is why the Government and I declined to follow that piece of advice. The hon. Gentleman may not agree, but that is the reason.

    Does my hon. Friend not agree that, if it is difficult for police officers to ascertain the ages of youngsters in public houses, it is 10 times more difficult for licensees to do so?

    Undoubtedly, it is not always easy for a licensee to do so. That is why, when we created the defence which features in the new clause, we created a defence of a kind which we think that a licensee will be able to establish so that he cannot be said to be either negligent or culpable in the sense that we mean it.

    We have the great advantage of the Scottish experience in this regard, as in many others. I am not aware that the licensees of Scotland are up in arms against the defence that is provided for in Scottish legislation. That is why I find incorporating the Scottish example so useful. We are building on a tried and tested precedent which I do not think has given rise to the kind of problem that my hon. Friend has outlined.

    As the Minister seems to have armed himself with a lot of statistics, can he tell me how many supermarkets have been prosecuted?

    The short answer is no, Sir. However, if I can find out before the debate has concluded, and if there is a convenient peg on which to hang that piece of information, I shall provide it; otherwise, I shall try to write to the hon. Gentleman at his and my convenience. I do not know the answer to his question at the moment.

    My hon. Friend is being very helpful, and it is appreciated by everyone. He has reminded the House that it is an offence for a young person who is under age to seek to buy alcohol in a public house. He gave us the figures for licensees' convictions, but has he any knowledge of the number of young people who have been convicted in recent years of having committed that offence? If he does not have those figures to hand, will it be possible for us to have them later?

    I am afraid that my answer is exactly the same as that which I gave to the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle): I do not have that particular statistic to hand, but I will try to obtain it before the end of the debate. If I fail, I will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith)—and I apologise to him.

    I note that my hon. Friend does not have those figures to hand, but he will know that the OPCS survey — upon which the Government sat for a year before its disclosure—gave clear figures about the harm being done to young people drinking in public houses—they were not getting their liquor from supermarkets. He must have access to those OPCS figures and therefore must know the size of the problem. Perhaps that information will assist him to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith).

    As is so often the case, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). My right hon. Friend is right to say that there is a problem of under-age drinking, both in public houses and as a result of purchases at supermarkets. If the House is conscious of its obligations it has jolly well got to do something about that problem. The conclusion that I have drawn — I believe that it is shared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point — is that section 169(1), in its present form, is defective.

    I note that my right hon. Friend is nodding in agreement.

    The proposals that I have put before the House are designed to make that law more enforceable without, at the same time, being unreasonable to licensees. I commend the new clause to the House on that basis.

    We believe that it is entirely appropriate that under-age drinking should be the first subject of debate on Report, because it is an important topic. It exercised our minds a great deal in Committee and the Committee regarded it as an important priority.

    We first raised the problem on Second Reading and then followed that with several amendments in Committee. At a superficial glance it would appear that the Minister has listened to what we have said and taken on board some of our concerns about this grave problem, which is presently affecting so many young people.

    The Minister ended his speech by saying that under-age drinking is a major problem in this country. I do not intend to rehearse all the statistics that we quoted on Second Reading and in Committee, but we should be under no illusion about just how major a problem it is. I wish to emphasise the scale and nature of the problem of under-age drinking. The Minister said that we could see the evidence with our own eyes, and that is true. All the evidence, including Government-sponsored research from the Health Education Council, from Action on Alcohol Abuse and from the Masham report, mentioned by the Minister, which reported while the Committee was still sitting, indisputably proves that under-age drinking is a major problem.

    Let me remind the House of one or two important statistics so that we get this problem into perspective. A survey conducted by the Health Education Council showed that 65 per cent. of all 14 and 15-year-olds have drunk alcohol on more than one occasion. The Masham report showed that 50 per cent. of 15-year-old boys had had a drink in the previous seven days. It also showed that 61 per cent. of 17-year-old boys and 54 per cent. of 17-year-old girls had had a drink in the previous week. The majority of 16 and 17-year-olds do their drinking in public houses. That information shows that under-age drinking in public houses is a major problem and one that we are right to concentrate our attention upon.

    A further survey conducted by Exeter university showed that not only are young people drinking, but that they are also drinking far too much for their own or anyone's good. They are consuming, on average, 10 units of alcohol a week, which means that many must be consuming more. When we consider that level of consumption in comparison with the figure suggested by the Department of Health and Social Security as the average, safe intake for adults, it gives us an alarming picture of the likely future trends of alcohol problems.

    I do not believe that it is alarmist to say that today's under-age drinkers may become tomorrow's alcoholics. If we allow under-age drinking to continue at its present rate, we are storing up many future problems for those individuals and for the country.

    Alcohol abuse, especially by young people, is a major problem. We are all aware that alcohol abuse costs this country £2 billion a year. It would be interesting to consider what the Health Service could do with that money today, but perhaps we should not go down that road. It is clear that alcohol is a major problem for young people, because alcohol abuse kills or seriously injures ten times as many youngsters as are killed or injured by drug abuse. However, quite rightly, we spend a lot of time and money discouraging young people from taking drugs, but we do not pay the same attention to discouraging young people from drinking alcohol.

    We all enjoy alcohol from time to time, and we probably regard ourselves as social drinkers. Therefore, we often shy away from giving advice and paying attention to the problems that come with alcohol abuse. As the Minister has suggested, we should start the debate in agreement by acknowledging that there is a major alcohol problem and acknowledging its extent.

    The next stage is to decide what we should do about the problem. In Committee, I said that there were no quick answers, no simple solutions and no easy, straightforward changes to legislation that could cure the problem at a stroke, once and for all. However, I believe that we agreed in Committee—indeed, the Minister acknowledged it—that some action was needed. The Minister has said that there should be changes to section 169 of the principal Act. I accept that that is necessary.

    In Committee, I pointed out that landlords and bar staff have difficulty in recognising who is 17 and who is 18. However, the fact that it is sometimes difficult to judge a person's age exactly should not be used as an excuse to do nothing about the problem. We cannot say that, because it is difficult in some instances to tell a person's age, we should ignore the problem.

    The Minister has presented the House with the new clause and said that he believes that it will help the situation. I do not believe that it will make any significant difference and for that reason my hon. Friends and I have tabled amendment (a) to new clause 2. I would also recommend the House to consider carefully new clause 7, tabled by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). Why has the Minister apparently changed his mind since we discussed the matter in Committee? We discussed the matter as recently as 12 January, only 22 days ago, yet it seems that t he Minister has reconsidered the matter since then.

    On 12 January, when the Minister discussed this matter in Committee, he said that it was difficult to prosecute to prove the concept of "knowingly". He repeated that assertion today, and we agree with the Minister. However, in Committee, he went on to say that he favoured a
    "statutory defence along the lines of the Firearms Act 1968."
    The Minister considered that that would be the proper way forward and would be a tighter way of righting the law so that we could get the balance right between making sure that the problem was tackled and that landlords were protected in the necessary way.

    The Minister went on to say:
    "The defence would be that the person doing the supplying had a belief that the person was over age, and that he had reasonable grounds for that belief." —[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 12 January 1988; c. 337.]
    The Minister clearly said that the landlord should have reasonable grounds for the belief that the person was 18. That was his suggestion as recently as January, and that was the suggestion on which he sought consultation on 22 December in his letter to interested parties. The Minister owes it to the House to explain what has happened in the past 22 days to make him change his mind from the preferred solution, which we would have found acceptable and which he outlined in his letter and proposed on 12 January.

    5.30 pm

    All the responses that I have seen to the Minister's letter of 22 December are either in favour of his proposals or have said that the Minister is not going far enough. On 12 January, no hon. Member objected to the Minister's proposals. The Institute of Alcohol Studies suggested this proposal to the Wakeham committee. Action on Alcohol Abuse said that the proposals in the Minister's letter did not go far enough. The Justices' Clerks Society wants the sale of alcohol to under-18s to be an absolute offence—not something with which I agree — and wants to go further than the Minister's proposals. Why has the Minister backed down so completely from his assurance of 12 January?

    The Minister is simply proposing the reintroduction of "knowingly" in another way. To say, as the new clause says, that the landlord should have
    "no reason to suspect that the person was under eighteen"
    is almost meaningless, because it does not oblige the landlord to make any attempt to find out a customer's age. Landlords can make genuine mistakes, and we all recognise the difficulties. Some landlords — perhaps a minority, but still a significant number—will think that it does not matter if they serve people under the age of 18 because the law is woolly and they will get away with it time and again.

    Our amendment (a) tries to deal with that. We agree that selling to someone under 18 should not be an absolute offence. We should allow for a mistake that is genuine, but not provide a blanket dispensation for landlords to sell to people under 18 without obliging them to make checks. The Minister's statistics on convictions in Scotland prove little. We all know that convictions in England and Wales have been reduced dramatically over the past 10 years simply because the law was not operable. In England and Wales in 1985 there were 744 convictions, whereas in 1975 there were nearly 4,000. One reason for the reduction in the number of cases brought to the courts is that the law was so woolly and it was difficult for charges to be pressed.

    The Minister said that either we are serious about trying to tackle the problem of under-age drinking or we are not. We agree that there is a distinction to be drawn between those who are serious about tackling this problem and those who merely pay lip service to it. We had hoped that the Minister would take the matter seriously. Our amendment is the serious way of tackling this problem. I urge the House to support amendment (a) and new clause 7.

    The House may recall that on Second Reading my main anxiety was that the Government were not prepared to tackle the problem of under-age drinking. I could not understand why the Government, introducing the first Licensing Bill for decades, appeared unwilling to tackle a problem graver than illicit drug-taking. About 1,000 young people die every year as a result of alcohol abuse. More young people die every year or have their health gravely impaired through alcohol abuse than heroin abuse. I am delighted that the Government have seen the error of their ways and are now prepared in new clause 2 to begin to move on this issue.

    I say "begin to move" because new clause 2 differs from the amendment which, in a letter of 22 December, the Home Office indicated it would recommend to the Wakeham committee. The amendment was to delete the word "knowingly", so making the offence absolute, but to introduce a defence for the licensee, namely:
    "The person charged to prove that he or she believed the other person to be of or above the age … and had reasonable ground for the belief."
    I am not concerned that the Government have changed the defence to "due diligence". After all, that is the wording of other sections of the Licensing Act 1964 in relation to young people, and it is a defence used in other statutes, such as the Fair Trading Act. I object to the inclusion in new clause 2 of the additional defence of the landlord,
    "(b) that he had no reason to suspect that the person was under eighteen."
    To prescribe an additional defence weakens the measure so much that we might as well have been left with the present wording of the Act, to wit "knowingly sold". The onus will still be on the prosecution to prove that the licensee "knowingly" sold to the person under age.

    It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Government have bowed to pressure from the Brewers Society and other drink industry representations on this matter. The Justices' Clerks Society, which has a special expertise in this area, is of the view that selling to youngsters under drinking age should be an absolute offence. In discussing the Home Office recommendations of 22 December and my new clause 7, the clerks said that they would go along with it because
    "it was a step in the right direction",
    but they did not believe that it was good enough. Nor do I. The Government's amendment, including the words,
    "had no reason to suspect that the person was under eighteen",
    is nowhere near good enough.

    I am dismayed, too, that, under the weight of evidence collected by Government statisticians, public concern and the wise counsels of a working party established by the Home Office, the Government are so weak-kneed that they have to bow to a vested interest. I feel so strongly about this issue that I shall press my amendment to a vote, unless my hon. Friend the Minister assures me that the second part of the new clause touching on a defence will be withdrawn.

    I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and her colleagues who served on the Committee, particularly for bringing the issue of alcohol and young people to the fore. This is a national scandal, and I am grateful to all who drew attention to the matter.

    It is said that the Government did not have an amendment ready for Committee stage where it could have been discussed and improved. I am pleased to note that some of my hon. Friends are beginning to see the necessity of Government action after the information supplied by the Opposition — alas, not by the Government. However, it was given to them.

    In that respect, I note the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) during the 10th and final sitting of the Committee:
    "I have been brooding on the issue for a while.… The more I think about this the clearer it becomes that some of the things said in earlier debates are valid … If there were alternative places for these young people to drink, to gather and to talk, I believe that many of those who now get hooked"—
    "hooked" is the right word to use—
    "into drinking alcohol would be perfectly happy not to do so."
    Youth leaders in my constituency, and no doubt in many other constituencies, have been saying for years that the problem is getting out of hand. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State paid tribute to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent, but he also paid tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), stating:
    "He will recall that we had talks about a possible way of amending the law. We discussed — the hon. Gentleman mentioned it in the Committee, as did I, in further discussion —the deletion from the offence of the word "knowingly" and the inclusion of a statutory defence along the lines of the Firearms Act 1968."
    We should note the words:
    "We felt that that might be a proper way forward."—[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 12 January 1988; c. 336–37.]
    I consider that it is

    Why this change of mind? Why has the Bill been worded in this way? Why move even further away from the expert opinion of the Justices' Clerks Society? Who is the Minister trying to placate? Why am I so deeply concerned? I am so concerned because I consider the facts. One out of every five 15-year-old boys drinks 25 units of alcohol per week. The safe limit for adult males is 21 units. One out of every 10 15-year-old girls drinks above the safe limit for adult women of 14 units of alcohol each week.

    By the age of 15, alcohol consumption is normal and it takes place illegally on licensed premises. Two out of five boys and one in three girls have been drunk on more than one occasion. One in five boys and one in eight girls have been unable to go to school after drinking. Where does this evidence come from? Have I plucked it out of the air? It comes from Government-sponsored research.

    Yet, in an answer on 17 November, the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), said that the number of licensees found guilty of "knowingly" selling to under-I8s had gone down from 248 in 1979 to 165 in 1986. It was appalling that the Minister could not give any figures for the period to 1979. Why not? Nobody had bothered to collect them. That is why I hope hon. Members will support my new clause.

    We must monitor the effects of liquor licensing, without which we are floundering in the dark. My hon. Friend conceded that the reason why few licensees are brought to court and convicted is the difficulty of proving that they have knowingly sold to under-age drinkers, the consequent waste of police and court resources and the Government's insistence on reneging on their promise to include words such as:
    "That he had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18."
    This will render section 169 of the Licensing Act 1964

    The Government must know that public and press opinion wants tighter measures. If the House represents the nation, it should know that the national and local press have been arguing for these for months past. I have sheaves of reports from provincial newspapers, but I shall refer only to two of them. The Colchester Evening Gazette of 19 January, under a headline, "A Welcome Crackdown", stated:
    "The Government's planned blitz on under-age drinking is long overdue. The law, as it stands, does not do enough to discourage the sale of alcohol to people who are obviously too young. The well-worn argument is that it is difficult to tell a person's age accurately, and teenagers invariably look older than they really are. In that way, those who sell alcohol illegally are able to shift the blame from themselves. Some, it appears, take the view that it is up to the person whose age might be in doubt to produce proof that he or she is over 18. Too many blind eyes are being turned. And far too many young people are becoming dependent on alcohol from an early age.
    Teenage drinking has become a growing worry, with the problems it causes increasingly more apparent. Those problems have surfaced time and again in Colchester town centre, where gangs of youths swigging from bottles and cans have, at times, made Saturday shopping a misery. A police woman, beaten up in Colchester town centre last year, for example, blamed the easy availability of drink for many of the problems. Anything to discourage alcohol abuse among the vulnerable under 18s is to be welcomed."
    Let me quote now from the Yorkshire Evening Post of 19 January which, under a headline "Alcohol Abuse," states:
    "The Government's latest moves to combat the problem of under-age drinking are a disappointment. While the announcement of stiffer fines for publicans serving alcohol to under 18s is welcome, more could be done to tackle the problem at its roots.
    The proposed legislation seems to ignore 50 recommendations made by an independent working party on young people and alcohol headed by Baroness Masham. The proposed Government Licensing Bill does not have the teeth to bite the bullet; it avoids direct action in favour of renewed publicity and educational campaigns. Until we see the authorities armed with a positive mandate to fight this problem it will continue to plague society.
    And today's young drinkers often grow into tomorrow's social outcasts."
    The great playwright, Arthur Miller, once said that a newspaper is a mirror reflecting the views of society. I guarantee that such views have appeared in every provincial newspaper in the country over the past year, and, if hon. Members read their local newspapers, they must know the truth.

    5.45 pm

    I must declare an interest before my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) calls me to task, as I am a licensee. The licensing trade shares the view expressed by my right hon. Friend. Surely it is not so much the licensee as the off-licensee who is at fault. There has been an increase in fines from £100 to £400, but that is nothing compared with the loss of livelihood if he is caught selling drink to under-age drinkers. Surely, therefore, we should tackle the off-licence trade.

    We have been told that there are very few prosecutions. For once, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). The overwhelming majority of licensees would like to see the law strengthened. They want to keep orderly houses. In some cases, it is impossible for them to do so. It is high time that the police were given the powers to deal with some of the matters that will emerge from this debate.

    I have been to the south and the north, so I must also refer to a midland newspaper. The headline of the Wolverhampton Express and Star of 19 January stated:
    "Get tough to dry out our teeny tipplers."
    The article continued:
    "The astounding statistic that half of all 11-year-old boys and one third of 11-year-old girls drink reveals the necessity for urgency by the Government.
    Though there obviously are landlords who knowingly serve drink to people under-age, guessing people's ages is no simple matter these days. There is also the problem that"—

    I shall give way in a moment, but, out of respect for the people of Wolverhampton, who loyally support this newspaper, I wish to finish the quotation. The article continues:

    "it is physically impossible for a landlord to know exactly who is in his pub at busy times, and it is a simple matter for an 18-year-old to buy for a minor. However, as the problem has already reached epidemic proportions, there is no alternative but to make landlords doubly aware of the onus that is on them."

    Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that any landlord has served an 11-year-old child in a pub? If that is so, the landlord deserves every punishment.

    I am merely reporting what the newspaper says. Before the hon. Gentleman shakes his head, let me say that newspapers reflect information collected by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, in a survey commissioned by the Government, to establish what was happening with teenagers in public houses. I am not the authority. The Government have the information. Let them provide it; let them publish it; and let us discuss it. If newspapers faithfully report what is happening, we should praise, not question or condemn, them.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is a question not of knowing the information—that is already available in numerous reports— but of enforcement and commitment? It is on those tests that the Government fail.

    I fear that I must agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is the purpose of my amendment, and it will be the purpose of much of what I have to say.

    In a letter dated 10 December 1987 to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, the Institute of Alcohol Studies said:
    "A tightening of the law in this respect would show that the Government has taken the problem seriously and would be an important safeguard against any adverse effect the Bill might have on this problem ֵֵ At present the law is difficult to apply and one cannot expect police forces to try to enforce it or for magistrates courts to spend time in trying to prove that alcohol had been 'knowingly' sold ֵֵParents should accept their responsibilities but this cannot be effectively done if the law colludes with a bad situation and offers little help to conscientious parents."
    The letter goes on to hope that the Government would reply properly:
    "This would be a clear signal that the Government has a real concern about the problem and is determined to stamp it out."
    The only answer that we have received from the Government is tepid. I hope that the House will reject it and support my amendment, which goes much further in heeding those who deal with alcohol abuse — the Institute of Alcohol Studies, those who administer the law, the Justices' Clerks Society and the vast majority of magistrates, teachers and caring members of the public. They cannot understand why a problem affecting our youth—our lifeline to the future—is treated so lightly.

    On reflection, does not my right hon. Friend consider that he is being a little unfair to the Government's new clause? Does he accept that there is a difference between the use of the word "knowingly" and the use of the defence mentioned in new clause 2, whereby the landlord would have to prove that there was no reason for him to suspect that the person was under 18? Does not new clause 2 put the landlord on guard, which is very different from the existing words in the statute?

    For reasons that I shall not repeat —many hon. Members wish to speak—I made it clear that the Government have weakened their position by inserting a second defence, and I think that that is wrong.

    Perhaps it would help the House if I were to explain that if new clause 2 is accepted, I am prepared to call amendment (a), in the name of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) for a division, and I shall ask her to move it formally at the appropriate time.

    With regard to new clause 7, which is being discussed with this group, the Chair will come to a decision when one has been made on new clause 2.

    I shall add such weight as I have to the Government's position on this matter.

    I support the anxiety that has been expressed about the problem of under-age drinking. It is notable that the House has accepted that absolute criminal responsibility, which is repugnant in principle and frequently inequitable in practice, is not the proper way to deal with the problem; not least because, as has been mentioned, the person who knows his or her age best is the under-age person to whom drink is supplied. Frequently, for the purposes of prosecution, the person who has committed an offence must be called as a witness to bring home a conviction against the licence holder or the person who has suppplied alcohol illegally.

    The Minister referred favourably to the Scottish position. The relevant provisions in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 are to be found in sections 68 and 71. With slight alteration, the Government propose a defence in terms such as are provided by section 71 of that Act.

    It is important to realise that that statutory provision represented a departure from the position prior to 1976, when the offence could be committed only knowingly. The Clayson committee, whose report formed a substantial basis for the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976, spent much time and devoted much of its energy considering whether "knowingly" should remain. It resolved that it should not, and the defence now provided by section 71 of the 1976 Act is a consequence of its recommendations.

    It must be emphasised that previously in Scotland, and currently in England, the existence of the word "knowingly" in the definition of the offence necessarily meant and means that it is for the prosecution to prove, expressly or by implication, that the person charged committed the offence in the knowledge of what he or she was doing.

    The Government's proposals, which reflects the terms of section 71 of the 1976 Act, puts the obligation of proof fairly and squarely on the person charged. It says so in terms. If people who are charged fail to prove either that they used due diligence to prevent the occurrence of the offence or that they had no reason to suspect that the person concerned was under 18, they will fail to satisfy either of the twin arms of the defence and inevitably will be likely to be convicted.

    It is important to understand that the proposal represents a substantial change in the onus of proof with regard to knowledge or implied knowledge. Anecdotal evidence is notoriously unreliable in these matters. There is little doubt that, prior to 1976 in Scotland, successful attempts to bring home a conviction in relation to an offence in which the word "knowingly" appeared were extremely few and far between.

    I do not say that what is right for Scotland is necessarily always right for England and Wales, nor that what was right for Scotland in 1976 should necessarily still be right in 1988. The proper approach is to consider whether there is any evidence to suggest that in Scotland the section 71 defence gives unreasonable protection to licence holders or stands in the way of prosecution or conviction. In my judgment — I accept that it is entirely a matter of judgment — the Government have achieved a proper balance between the public interest and that of licence holders. Occasionally, in our desire to underline the problem of under-age drinking, we tend to forget that licence holders have rights.

    Although the Opposition will have a free vote, I shall be happy to support the Government's proposal in this regard if it is pressed to a Division.

    I declare an interest as a licensee, a modest one. It may be necessary to quantify one's commercial interests in having a pub. I can only say that mine is more a local social necessity than a commercial enterprise.Without it, I do not think that the parish council or the parochial church council would have anywhere to meet. That is one reason why I am a publican. I took the pub to prevent it from being knocked down and the area developed as a housing estate.

    Having read from cover to cover the Official Report of the deliberations of Standing Committee H, I too am impressed by the time spent discussing the dangers of alcohol abuse and under-age drinking. Concern about under-age drinking is felt not only by hon. Members but by the public, publicans and the trade. That is why we welcomed the launch on 12 November 1987 of the campaign "Age Watch" to alert the public to the problem and remind staff in public houses of the penalties for selling drink to those under 18.

    6 pm

    I congratulate the Government on setting up the working party on "Young People and Alcohol" under the chairmanship of Baroness Masham. The working party's report to the ministerial group on alcohol abuse, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, led to Government new clause 2. I noted with interest the ministerial group's seven-point plan. The first proposal is:
    "To tighten the offence of selling alcohol to under-age drinkers and incease penalties for those found guilty of doing so."
    Secondly, the group calls for the
    "Creation of a new offence making it illegal for wholesalers to sell alcohol to persons under 18."
    That is very welcome. Thirdly, it proposes:
    "New regulations to require the alcoholic strength of prepackaged and dispensed drinks to be clearly shown."
    Fourthly, it calls for
    "Information aimed at particular groups such as young people."
    The fifth proposal is:
    "To request the BBC and independent broadcasting authority to review the way alcohol is presented to TV viewers."
    I think that hon. Members agree that that is important. The sixth proposal is:
    "To request the IBA and the Advertising Standards Authority … to take a fresh look at advertising codes of practice."
    The seventh proposal is:
    "Encouragement of the industry to increase promotion of low and non-alcoholic beers and wines."
    That is what the ministerial group wanted. So far, all, we have is the Government's proposal, which we are debating.

    The licensee, especially the publican—the on-licensee — is in no way interested in selling alcohol to those under 18. A conviction for doing so can result in loss of licence, livelihood and even the licensee's home. No responsible licensee would wish to take such risks when the penalties are so severe. The £100 fine—which will be increased to £400—is almost immaterial when compared with the other penalties that could befall any licensee who broke the law.

    The inclusion of the word "knowingly" in the Licensing Act 1964 has given some protection to the innocent licensee, but has still made it possible for irresponsible people to be prosecuted. Although I accept that the law regarding the sale of alcohol to young people needs tightening up, I do not believe that the removal of the word "knowingly" is the right way to do so.

    Notwithstanding the principle in British law, to which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State referred, of avoiding the danger of self-incrimination, I think that there could be more prosecutions under the existing law. Those under 18 can be prosecuted for purchasing and consuming alcohol on licensed premises — including registered clubs, but excluding private functions held on the premises. It would help if the consumption of .alcohol by under-18s in public places was banned.

    The debate once again raises the knotty issue of the introduction of identity cards for everyone over the age of 18. That would assist not only the publican but the police and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who is also dealing with the knotty problem of firearms legislation. I welcome the crackdown on under-age drinking, but I do not believe that the Government have found the best way of doing it. I shall decide whether or not to support the Government's proposal after hearing the response by my hon. Friend the Minister. The other place must take on board what is said here and perhaps alter the Bill accordingly.

    I had better declare at once that one of the organisations whose view I may express is the National Association of Licensed House Managers. It is right that the association's view on such an important matter should be heard in the House, because it is a responsible body. I cannot think of anyone in the House or outside it who condones under-age drinking. It would be silly to do so. There is great concern that this is a growing disease, and I agree with every word that has been said about the consequences. It is a tragedy that so many young people find it easy to get hard liquor.

    I do not believe that deletion of the word "knowingly" will end the problem. Most licensees do not want underage drinkers on their premises. That can be a nuisance and can create a nuisance outside the premises. The licensee's difficulty is in detecting who is under age. The NALHM, as a responsible body, takes every precaution it can to avoid selling alcohol to those under age and that approach is also taken by the staff.

    It would be silly to say that that applies to every licensee. Of course it does not. There are one or two people who should be punished and convicted. However, one legal opinion says:
    "I know of no other occupation where an employee is automatically guilty of an offence as a result of lies, or deception by customers. That is the position the Licensee will be in. Further, in no other occupation is it so easy to become disqualified as a result of the dishonest activities of third parties."
    There are many consequences of conviction. It is not just the fine; it is the loss of livelihood. A licensee can lose his home as well. A heavy penalty can result from conviction so it is not in the interests of a licensee—whether a house manager or a tenant — to permit a person who is under age to drink on the premises.

    The question is whether the lawyer who proffered the legal opinion to which my hon. Friend referred had bothered to read the Government new clause. If there had been deception on the part of the young person, that would certainly provide a defence to the licensee under the Government's proposal. Either the legal opinion has no weight or it is out of date.

    My hon. Friend knows that often it is the licensee who is in court, not the person who committed the offence of drinking under age. Often it is that young person who prosecutes the person who sold the drink.

    I want to emphasise a point and reassure people working in the industry. We are not saying that everyone who serves someone under the age of 18 has committed an offence; we are saying that he has committed an offence if he did not take steps to ascertain the age of the customer. Our amendment says that if the licensee had good reason to believe that the person was over 18, that will be a defence. The reason that the young person may give may not be substantiated later, but if the licensee acted in good faith and genuinely believed the customer to be over 18, that would be a defence in court.

    Yes, I understand that, but good reason could be interpreted widely in that connection. That is why I prefer the word "knowingly". If the act was knowingly done, the licensee should have taken every precaution. If the change goes through, it could lead to many honest people being put in difficulty.

    It is also necessary to stop up the other loophole through which young people can easily obtain drink—I refer to supermarkets and off-licences. When I asked the Minister how many supermarkets had been prosecuted, he said that he would have to go away to get me the information. It is very easy for young people to get drink from such places. In bygone days, which Conservative Members profess to like—the Victorian and Edwardian eras—they sent the child with a jug to get the beer for the father when he came home. Now, however, a youngster can go into a supermarket and buy a can of beer, not for his parents, but for himself.

    That is the difficulty and the weakness in the present law. I am foursquare behind anyone who wants to try to prevent young people from drinking, but it seems to me that nothing is being done about this easy method by which young people can obtain liquor. We have seen it happen at football grounds near which all the pubs have been closed. Young people have gone on to the grounds with crates of beer and drunk them there. That beer was not obtained from public houses, but from supermarkets.

    Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the tighter the licensing hours are, the less often will people drink in pubs and the more will they drink at home? One of the results of the introduction of flexible hours in Scotland has been that more people — particularly women—have drunk in pubs. So drink has not been purchased in supermarkets and taken home, where the children can get their hands on it. It is drink in the home that is bad. The only sociable and responsible place for people to drink, therefore, is in the public house.

    We find ourselves today in a position that did not exist a few years ago — before the advent of supermarkets and the ease of obtaining liquor in them. I am asking that attention should be paid to that, and that the law should be tightened up. A few prosecutions would help. As has been pointed out, youngsters of both sexes become addicted to alcohol because it is so easy to go into supermarkets, see the liquor on display, fill up baskets with it and take it away. That is the problem.

    I shall listen to what the Minister says, but to believe that deleting the word "knowingly" will make a great deal of difference to under-age drinking is wishful thinking—unless we are prepared to pay some attention to the ease with which drink can be obtained outside of licensed premises, and especially in supermarkets.

    6.15 pm

    I begin by declaring an interest. One of my management consultancy clients is a leading company in the drinks industry.

    My main interest in the Bill is that it does a great deal for tourism. I represent a part of the country that is foremost in the business of tourism, for which the Bill would be beneficial. If an offence is blatant, no one would condone it and it should be severely punished. But unless it is, a sense of great injustice is often felt by the licensee who has been convicted, having used his best endeavours to find out the age of the customer concerned. I welcome the realistic provisions that my hon. Friend the Minister has brought forward.

    One of the points that needs emphasising again and again—as it was by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin)—is that the drink industry has no interest in trying to sell to under-age children in public houses. I am sure that the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) would agree with that. Not only is it socially undesirable, but it means that the licensee will probably—almost certainly—lose his licence and livelihood, and the industry will be slurred by the event. So it is not trying to sell to people who are under age.

    It has often been truly said that the great difficulty is being able to define what age a person is in an on-the-spot judgment. That is particularly difficult with young women, who often look much older than they are. I agree with hon. Members who have said that there should be some imposition on the culprit. There should certainly be a greater onus on the individual to prove that he or she is over the age of 18 when he or she tries to buy liquor in a public house.

    I asked my hon. Friend the Minister whether he had the figures for the number of convictions of such people, and he was good enough to say that he would try to find out. I suspect that they will be minimal, and that hardly any young people up and down the country had been prosecuted for endeavouring to obtain liquor, when under age, in public houses.

    As someone in the industry pointed out to me the other day, young people are eager enough to prove that they are under age when trying to obtain concessionary rail fares, so they should be obliged to prove that they are over the age of 18 and are legitimate customers.

    The licensee is involved in this almost intractable problem in several areas. My hon. Friend has removed the word "knowingly". Obviously, when a person has committed an offence by knowingly selling to an underage person, he deserves to be and should be punished. When he has acted carelessly, that, too, is a good ground for his conviction. But when he has sold to under-age people mistakenly — provided that it was a genuine mistake—and his judgment has subsequently proved to be wrong, he should not be guilty of a criminal offence.

    I agree with the Minister that it is important to enter a defence in the clause. That is essential, and the balance is now probably about right. It is important to be rigorous. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) that there should be tough measures against people who deliberately try to encourage underage young people to drink and who supply them with drink. We should also be rigorous, because, although my right hon. Friend does not agree with them, the Bill's provisions extend the licensing hours and liberalise the public house. To balance that, there should be a much tougher attitude to those who supply drink to under-age people.

    People sometimes forget that licensees can refuse to serve anyone. It does not have to be somebody who is drunk or about whose age he has doubts. A licensee need not serve anyone. Of course, he exercises his judgment. In future, as a result of the Bill, the licensee will err more on the side of caution. That will be a good thing. It may cause a certain amount of distress. Refusal often causes offence when a customer is innocent. There is nothing worse than an over-age person being accused of being under-age by a licensee or his assistant. In such circumstances, they will suffer. By erring on the side of caution, we have got the balance right.

    I regret that, unlike other hon. Members, I am not able to declare an interest.

    I am a Christian.

    I sympathise with some of the points that have been made. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith) made a valid point about the culpability of a young person. He will recall my intervention during the Minister's speech. The Masham committee made a specific recommendation that a young person should be legally obliged to declare his age to a police officer who reasonably requires it for the purpose of a prosecution. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Minister's response was that the imposition of such an obligation on a young person would breach a fundamental principle of our law, that of self-incrimination. One understands that self-incrimination is a cardinal principle of our law, but it can be breached and it has been breached if something is considered sufficiently important to do so.

    The Government's response to the Masham committee recommendation demonstrates that they have failed to show any real commitment to the enforceability of the provision. One imagines that it is extremely difficult for magistrates to know that a young person is under the age of 18. How can a police officer, the Crown prosecution service, or anyone prove that point? A young person is under no obligation to attend a court unless he is summonsed, and he is unlikely to wish to give evidence on behalf of the prosecution. One can well understand that, unless a police officer is furnished with such a legal course, the number of prosecutions will continue to be few. By failing to accept the Masham committee recommendation, the Government have undermined the possibility of enforcing the law in that respect.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) mentioned off-licences. Members of the National Union of Licensed Victuallers in my constituency, who, incidentally, do not accept the 11-to-11 fundamental change in the Bill, are concerned about the fact that the spotlight is constantly turned on the licensee rather than on supermarket owners. Therefore, it is said that the Government have chosen to deal only with that part of the matter.

    The hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) will surely accept that the current law, as the Government have argued, is not enforceable. The object of the change is not to ensure the conviction of licensees but, rather, to act as a deterrent to a minority of licensees who willingly choose to serve under-age drinkers, or fear that other licensees in their area will do so and pinch trade from them, and therefore acquiesce. At the moment, it is quite clear that, because of the inability to enforce it, the current law is not a deterrent. I judge the success or otherwise of the law not by examining the number of convictions but by its impact on the incidence of under-age drinking. That is the purpose of the legislation.

    I approach the Government's amendment more in sorrow than in anger. I thought that we had reached a broad consensus in Committee. The Minister put forward his preferred solution, the Firearms Act 1968 precedent. When he examined the various options and formulae that may be applied in place of existing ones, surely his civil servants would have referred him to the Scottish precedent. It is the most obvious one to consider. He chose to reject it.

    For the benefit of hon. Members who were not on the Committee, will the hon. Member share with us what the Scottish precedent is?

    Briefly, the Scottish precedent is the amendment that the Government now propose in place of the formula that they stated to the Committee that they would prefer, which they set out for consultation in a letter dated 22 December. The Government's amendment is based wholly on the Scottish precedent.

    A series of options were before the Minister. When they liberalised the law, it was sad that the Government did not, of their own volition, immediately appear before the Committee and say, "We are altering one side of the equation. We are liberalising the law. It is a relatively modest increase." The Home Secretary talked about ending the "dead afternoon". In view of road traffic accidents, perhaps that was an unfortunate phrase to use.

    The Government claimed that the increase was modest, but they certainly altered one side of the equation. Our complaint throughout was that they failed to alter the other side of the equation. It follows as night follows day that, if the law is liberalised and alcohol is more freely available, it is likely to lead to greater consumption. If there is such a correlation, unless there are adequate safeguards, it will lead to the drink-related problems that we discussed in Committee.

    I am sure that the Minister, as a reasonable man, will accept that it was unfortunate that, when the Government appeared before the Committee with the proposition to liberalise the law, they failed to make any provision in respect of under-age drinking, when all the facts relating to the incidence of under-age drinking, alcoholism and alcohol-related problems generally were available to the Government. That is a sad sign of the Government's priorities in respect of alcoholism.

    The Minister will recall that the establishment of the Wakeham committee was mentioned in Committee. A cynic might say that the Wakeham committee was cosmetic — to head off criticism of the Government's lack of action on alcoholism. We asked how often the Wakeham committee had met. We were told that, since its establishment in September until that time, it had met on only one occasion. Again, that is a sign of the Government's lack of commitment. We mentioned that, in his last Budget, the Chancellor did not raise the amount of duty on alcohol in line with inflation, as one would have expected. That is likely to lead to increased consumption.

    There is an obvious, well-established correlation between the price of alcohol and its consumption. Had the Government been seriously concerned about it, they would certainly have increased relevant duties in line with inflation. We wonder whether, in his March Budget, the Chancellor will continue to allow the real price of alcohol to fall and thereby increase consumption, without introducing any of the safeguards for which we have been pressing.

    If the man from Mars were to visit this country and looked at the Government's expenditure and advertising priorities, he would imagine that the real problems facing us were drug abuse and AIDS. So far, more than £17 million has been spent in this country in an effort to stamp out the drugs menace. In 1985, 11 people died after using heroin. In all, 99 people died from the illicit use of drugs. So far, 293 people have died as a result of contracting the AIDS virus and that has triggered the Government into spending £20 million on publicity.

    We must compare those figures in 1985 with the figures for alcohol abuse. It is estimated that in 1985 between 25,000 and 40,000 people died as a result of alcohol abuse.

    6.30 pm

    That is a good argument and it must be ventilated. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that currently 20 per cent. of acute beds in our hospitals are occupied by people suffering from alcohol-related disease? One cannot minimise the costs to the community and the country as a whole of alcohol when it is consumed to excess. That is the main reason why the Government have lost an opportunity to tighten the controls. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

    Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The figures showing the total cost to the country of alcohol abuse are readily available. However, I will not rehearse the figures because I want to make progress.

    I have already said that our approach to the Bill is to try to balance the liberalisation with certain safeguards. I have referred to the Government's manifest failure to do that and our sadness about the fact that the Government have retreated from their commitment in Committee. I therefore want to consider the current position.

    We have clear evidence of substantial flouting of the law concerning the supply of alcohol to under-aged persons. I want to take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North on this issue. I have considered the results of two surveys. The first, entitled "Adolescent Drinking", was commissioned by the DHSS from the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys. The second, entitled "Drinking among Schoolchildren", was carried out by the schools health education unit of the Health Education Authority by the university of Exeter.

    The OPCS survey discovered that 19 per cent. of 13-year-old boys, 22 per cent. of 14-year-old boys and 44 per cent. of 15-year-old boys who drink, obtained alcohol in pubs. The conclusion was that a significant minority of 13 and 14-year-old boys, a substantial minority of 15-yearold boys and the vast majority of 17-year-old boys obtain their alcohol in public houses. Although we should consider off-licences and supermarkets, the evidence commissioned by the Government suggests that, towards the upper end of the age scale, the majority of young people obtain alcohol in public houses. I could give other relevant figures to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North about that.

    I am indebted to my hon. Friend for those figures. My hon. Friend's conclusion is that young people go to pubs as they get older. However, they are getting alcohol at a very young age. They are not getting it from public houses; they get it from off-licences and supermarkets. Nothing is being done about that. The crux of the matter is the question where they start their drinking. Where they get the taste really matters, because the problems lead on from there. That point is not dealt with in the Bill.

    I understand my hon. Friend's puzzlement and the anger of licensees. The Government have failed to consider that matter in the round or to consider supermarkets and off-licences. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept the findings for what they are.

    The findings reveal that there is a substantial evasion of the law. They also show that there is great difficulty about enforcement of the current law, and I call in aid the Masham committee recommendations. I recommend that my colleagues read those recommendations. It is also clear that the Government introduced a proposal in Committee which covered the essential points that we were seeking to cover. The Government said that they would try to tighten the law.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has set out the nature of the undertaking made by the Minister in Committee. I concede that he provided himself with a small escape window by saying that he had to clear the proposal with his colleagues and that it was open to consultation. We then received a letter that was sent out for wide consultation. In his proposed amendment to section 169 of the Licensing Act 1964, the Minister proposed that there should not be an absolute obligation on the licensee, and no reasonable person would oppose that. The Minister referred to the precedent of section 24 of the Firearms Act 1968 which has been reproduced by my hon. Friends in an amendment today.

    When the Minister introduced his proposal, I am sure that he was convinced that, it was the best option available. It was the option most likely to do the job. I am also convinced that, having the advice of the civil servants and through his own substantial legal knowledge, the Minister would have surveyed all the options, including the Scottish option which the Government are now proposing. However, he has changed his position.

    I am sure that the Minister will accept that the Scottish option is a substantial dilution of the original proposal. Therefore, the question arises why, having gone so much further along the road in the light of the consensus in Committee, the Minister has now retreated. We accept that the Government amendment, as proposed, is a substantial improvement on section 169 of the Licensing Act 1964 and may provide a greater deterrent for errant landlords. However, why have the Government made the change?

    I give the Minister the benefit of the doubt. I believe that he was probably got at. Perhaps some of his elders, and those wiser than the Minister, reminded him of the Government's obligations to the brewing trade and said, "Young man, you're going too far. This is not acceptable." I pay tribute to the Minister. He was extremely courteous in Committee. He tried to be as helpful as possible and he took us into his confidence. However, we now see what by any definition is a substantial dilution of the original proposal. The House is bound to ask why that has happened.

    It might help the hon. Gentleman to know that the amendment represents my considered view. I have not been got at. I am not the kind of character at whom people get.

    If that is the Minister's considered view, I remind him that in December he put before the Committee the earlier formula based on the Firearms Act 1968 and that also was his considered view. I was about to quote a little jingle, but it is probably not appropriate.

    I shall rescue the House from my hon. Friend's jingle and ask him to reflect that the Minister gave us an indication of his preferred route. He said that his preferred amendment would be one in which the licensee had to show that he had reasonable grounds to believe that a person was over the age of 18.

    Whatever variation the Minister came up with, it should incorporate the principle in our amendment (a). The new clause does not fulfil the basic commitment that the Minister gave in Committee that defendants would have to show that they had reasonable grounds to believe that a person was 18.

    I accept my hon. Friend's helpful point. I have conceded to the Minister that, although his proposal is an advance on the existing law, it is a substantial retreat from what he had originally proposed, and the reasoning that he gave in Committee for that original proposal, made when the Scottish option forumula was before him.

    I am sceptical about the Scottish experience. I have already told the Minister that the Scottish formula does not go much beyond shifting the burden of proof. Essentially, if we compare the number of convictions in Scotland with that in England and Wales, we are not comparing like with like because the law is much more liberal in Scotland. The sample was only small. I think that the Minister said that there were 160 convictions in Scotland. That small sample may have resulted from other factors, such as the enforcement policy of the police force. One cannot draw any helpful conclusion from the Minister's points about the Scottish experience.

    If we are to be true to the scale of the problem in Britain, our aim must be to find effective safeguards. As we know, substantial vested interests are involved. I would not have made the partisan point about the link between the Conservative party and the brewers that was made by right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). Far be it from me to make such points, although cynics might say that the right hon. Gentleman was being a little unfair in talking about the traditional and historic links—indeed, the financial links — between the brewing industry and the Conservative party. I would be the last person to make such allegations.

    The Government, by their new clause, have let down the Committee. They have gone back on their pledge, and the formula that they now propose should not be accepted by the House.

    I must first declare an interest, not only as the Member for Parliament for the brewing centre of England, Burton-on-Trent, but as the chairman of the Burton breweries charitable trust. However, I shall confine my remarks to new clauses 2 and 7.

    I agree with all hon. Members who have said that alcohol abuse and under-age drinking are serious problems that must be dealt with. I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in welcoming the initiative taken by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and his Committee. I hope that he comes up with a substantial contribution to the reduction of those problems.

    New clause 2 will do absolutely nothing to solve those problems. It will be an irritating waste of time and place some licensees at risk. Therefore, it is simply not worth the candle.

    The deletion of the word "knowingly" shifts the burden from the prosecution to the licensee, to displace what, but for the defence, would be an offence of strict liability. That is not the right approach to dealing with under-age drinking.

    Hon. Members on both sides of the House have urged the removal of "knowingly" and of the defences as well. I do not think that that strict liability would work either. Sometimes, there are good reasons for having strict liability offences. Those reasons are much loved by Governments, but usually they should be resisted in the interests of civil liberty because they involve the conviction of people who have behaved blamelessly, and who do not need to have their conduct changed in any way because it was wrong.

    6.45 pm

    Strict liability offences cause great distress, grievance and resentment. They certainly would cause great resentment to licensees, because the consequences of a conviction for an offence of strict liability would not only be a fine. Licensees would lose their jobs because it would be difficult for them to get a licence before the licensing justices if there had been a conviction for allowing sales of alcohol to people under the age of 18. I am pleased that the Government have not gone down that strict liability road.

    I do not accept new clause 2, or new clause 7—if my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) will allow me to dissent from his views—first, because I do not believe that it is particularly fair or practicable to make life more difficult for licensees. Our pubs are changing. They are getting more family-oriented. We have had debates in the House about how we can best reduce crime associated with alcoholism. The licensing trade—I have been lobbied by licensees but not by the Brewers Society or by the breweries—has been trying hard to make pubs more welcoming and socially amenable places. We hope that, by encouraging families to go to public houses, there will be less violence, because there is less violence in social activities that involve the whole family.

    More of such centres for decent social contact are springing up in large numbers all over the country, reviving the historic and traditional importance of the public house. Young people throughout the country, in villages, suburbs and town centres are meeting in public houses to consume soft drinks or non-alcoholic liquor. They are meeting on warm summers evenings in the new gardens in the public houses.

    In the old days, we banned children from public house premises. Now we welcome young people — not necessarily children—to the non-drinking areas of public houses. Youngsters who are coming into adulthood are welcomed into pubs, provided that they treat them as reasonable, decent places in which they should not drink. In those changed circumstances, the publican is no longer behind the bar of a small pub where he can observe everything that goes on.

    It is simply not practicable or fair to expect the new kind of publican in the new kind of pub to supervise every nook and cranny of his premises, as he could in old-fashioned small pubs. Even if he could, what would he find? How can one run a pub if one has for ever to go up to young people who look as if they are over 18 and ask for proof of their age? Some of them even have beards at the age of 18. The girls all look beautiful and mature over the age of 18. One cannot run a pub on the basis of continually going up to young people and saying, "Please show me some proof that you are over the age of 18." So my first objection is that in the new circumstances it is not practicable or fair to place such burdens upon publicans.

    Secondly, if I may say so to my normally logical hon. Friend, there seems to be little logic in deleting the word "knowingly" in regard to sales to under-18-year-olds but retaining it for allowing the consumption of alcohol on the premises or for allowing others to sell to someone under age. If there is merit in keeping "knowingly" for those offences and not requiring the burden to pass to the publican, why does the same merit not apply to this clause? What elements are different? Why draw a distinction? Why be illogical? The changes proposed are illogical, unfair and impracticable and will irritate licensees who will feel that they are at risk.

    More important than those reasons is the fact that the proposed change is unnecessary in practice, considering how little good it is likely to do. First, it is my view, after many years of experience in the courts, that few local magistrates who have to try licensees will convict under these proposals if they would not have convicted under the law as it stands. The difference between whether in all the circumstances the licensee was so careless as to turn a blind eye to the obvious or to refrain deliberately from making inquiries, the results of which he might not care to have —which, under our law, are sufficient to prove that the licensee knew that the sale was to a person under age—and whether he exercised due diligence is almost certainly non-existent in practice.

    The difference is too esoteric for a lay magistrate. It will make a lot of money for lawyers, which is not a cause that is normally attractive to my hon. Friends. But it will make no difference to the lay magistrates, who just ask themselves the simple question: has the licensee taken reasonable steps, or has he not? Whether he sells knowingly, or not knowingly but with no due diligence, seems unlikely, in practice, to make a ha'porth of difference. The magistrates will convict.

    Equally, if the bench thought that the licensee had put up enough notices and had sent enough staff round to ask about people's ages to discharge the proposed defence, it would have acquitted him under existing law. So what, in practice, does my hon. Friend think the proposed change will achieve?

    Secondly, it is unnecessary to introduce this change into the law because the police, if they use their powers, have a ready means of stopping a licensee from selling to youngsters who are under age. The police warn them. They say, "It has come to our attention," or "We have been drinking in this pub and we see too many youngsters being served drinks. If you do not put your house in order, we will oppose your licence at the next licensing session." That happens. That is why there are so few prosecutions. When the police warn licensees, any licensee who wants to remain in business puts his house in order. That is the best he can do. The licensee will be irritated if we try to change the law and have higher expectations of him.

    My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, knowing that I was concerned with these matters, was good enough to write to me explaining the Government's position. Among other matters, he explained that the existing law makes it difficult to bring proceedings and secure convictions. I do not know why it will be easier to bring proceedings under the proposed changes.

    My hon. Friend helpfully gave me the figures for 1986: there were 296 prosecutions and 165 convictions. I cannot think of any other branch of the criminal law where the conviction rate is so high. Generally, the acquittal rate is over 50 per cent. in all cases in magistrates courts or Crown courts where pleas of not guilty are entered. The figures given by my hon. Friend show that the conviction rate is over 50 per cent., so I do not know what he is complaining about. It seems to be as easy to get convictions under the existing law as it is in any other branch of the criminal law. So that reason which he gave in his letter scarcely seems to be justified.

    As to the position in Scotland, just because there are more prosecutions and convictions I do not know that that tells us much. Scotland is different. It is smaller; the system is different; and the police approach is different. We can learn lots of things from the Scots, but, because changes in the law in Scotland have achieved a marginally higher conviction rate, that does not necessarily show us that there has been a substantial reduction in alcohol abuse or under-age drinking. I am not convinced about that.

    Of course, the licensed trade knows how concerned the Government are about sales to people under 18, which was another reason given in my hon. Friend's opening. He said that the change would bring home to the licensee the importance of the matter. Licensees know already how important it is. They do not need an insignificant, irritating change in the law to bring home what is desperately important to them if they are not to lose their jobs. The trade has no wish to offend against the law. Brewers do their best to get rid of bad licensees.

    When there is no evidence of a wholesale betrayal of responsibility by licensees, and when the proposals are so illogical, unfair and unnecessary, why should we bother about changes which will only irritate a decent group in society who are doing a job for which we all have much regard?

    I come back to the point that I made at the beginning. The Government's proposal is an irritating waste of time. We should spend more time implementing some of the other recommendations of the Masham report. There will also be excellent recommendations which would do something about alcohol abuse and under-age drinking which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Lord President will produce in due course.

    The biggest tragedy today is alcoholism among the young. Sadly, once they are hooked they are all too often hooked for life. Much as I dislike smoking among the young — I am always getting at my children about it — drinking is infinitely more serious. It changes the character of the person. Years ago I used to practise in the divorce court. I never had a client divorcing a partner for smoking, but I had many who did so because of drinking and the conduct that flowed from it.

    The peak age of delinquency is 15. I believe that much crime at that age is alcohol-induced. Drinking leads to football hooliganism, to school truancy and to many of the sex offences committed by the young. Mugging and many forms of crime are committed to get money to buy drink. It is vital to take every possible step to curb this scourge. Therefore, I am sorry that the Government have greatly weakened the prospect of enforcing the law on under-age drinking by the inclusion of subsection 3(b). I much prefer the new clause of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine).

    I apologise to the House and to my hon. Friend the Minister. I was giving evidence to a Select Committee from 5 o'clock until 6 o'clock, which is why I missed the earlier part of the debate.

    I think that we can easily lose focus and come to believe that drinking in pubs is conterminous with consuming alcohol. That certainly is not the case. To bring in an absolute offence which the accused person has to prove his way out of does not deal with the problem, because so much of the problem is not in public houses anyway.

    It is entirely healthy that young people should get into the habit of going to public houses before they can legally consume alcohol. They can get into the habit of going with their parents, drinking soft drinks and eating meals so that they come to associate going to pubs with enjoying themselves without consuming alcohol rather than, at the age of 18, suddenly being able to go to pubs and drink alcohol.

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will therefore put pressure on his friends in the brewing industry to reduce the price of non-alcoholic drinks in pubs. The mark-up rate of such drinks is a scandal, and it must be one of the reasons why so many young people drink beer. It is cheaper than Coca-Cola.

    7 pm

    I think that the public interest is served by the opposite approach. There is now at least as good a profit margin on soft drinks as on alcohol. Once upon a time it paid a licensee to push alcohol rather than soft drinks, but I understand that the profit margin on soft drinks is now such that there is no incentive to the landlord to push alcoholic drinks any more.

    We spend much time in the House concentrating on inner cities, but, in rural areas, it is in public houses that young people meet. Most days of the week, there is no other place for them to meet. In small villages, there is no youth club and there is often no public transport, so young people must meet in the pub or not meet other young people.

    I see no reason, because of the undoubted problem of under-age consumption of alcohol, to produce an injustice so that licensees, acting in good faith, can easily be penalised. It is not possible to prove a negative. The one person who knows that an offence is being committed is the person who buys the alcohol when under age. That is the person who ought to be prosecuted far more frequently and punished much more severely. That is the person who knows without any doubt that an offence is being committed.

    Young people who are just over 18 resent bitterly any implication that they are what are termed children. It is to them insulting to be asked whether they are over 18. If they are under 18 and they say that they are over 18, there is no way in which the landlord can tackle that person unless he or she knows that young person personally.

    I cannot tell what age people are. It is a problem from the age of about 15. We have to ask whether they are wearing make-up, what sort of clothes they are wearing and, as has been suggested, whether they have a beard. There is a problem unless, as some licensees recommend, we have indentity cards, but that is not a course of action that I recommend.

    My hon. Friend the Minister and the police should concentrate far more on the person who undeniably and knowingly commits an offence and, by so doing, is not just putting the licensee's livelihood at risk, but putting the roof over his head at risk. The pub is his home and his family's home as well in the representative case. In villages especially, it is a caricature of a pub to represent it merely as somewhere where alcohol is sold. People who know the very large number of good pubs would not so categorise it.

    In much of the area that I represent, the pub is the old persons' club, in effect. An old person will drink perhaps half a pint of beer in the whole evening and play whatever the local games are. They vary from one part of the country to another. They have heat and company at the expense of the licensee, who does not chase them out, because that is part of the atmosphere of the public house.

    In some of the areas that I represent, when there is a bad winter, I have known it not to be exceptional but almost to be expected that the licensee provides free meals twice a day for old people who live in their bungalows when, owing to the snow, they cannot get out and buy their normal supplies. Nobody regards that as an act of sainthood. Rather, it is regarded as just being a good neighbour and a good publican in an area of mutual support, which many of our villages are.

    On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. What has this to do with the point under discussion?

    If the hon. Lady listens, she will learn, to her advantage. What is under discussion is whether the law should be left as it is—when an offence is committed if the licensee knowingly sells alcohol to a person who is under age, or whether the balance of proof should be altered so that the full weight of the law falls, as I believe it should, on the person who knowingly commits an offence, who is the person who buys the drink, and we do not put, the great expense of defending him or herself someone who, in the vast majority of cases, does not know and cannot know. That is the dilemma for the licensee, however conscientious and however good.

    If, out of what I can call only terror tactics, licensees are prosecuted when they have not sold drink with a guilty mind and knowingly and are ruined, the only way in which licensees will be able to protect their livelihood will be by chasing young people out into the street. That will include some who are over 18, because licensees will not be absolutely certain that they are over 18. I do not believe that we will then have a healthier society. Such people will be able to buy all the liquor they want, as they do at the moment, from off-licences, where the control is very much less. They will then drink on street corners, in cars, out in the open and in the other places which, in the real world, exist and are used.

    That is why I believe that the existing law, though not perfect, needs tightening in the direction of more prosecutions and more penalties for those who commit an offence knowingly — the purchasers — rather than tinkering, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who is a distinguished silk, advised the House, for purely cosmetic purposes in such a manner that innocent licensees will inevitably be caught out by a few rogues.

    As ever, I shall declare my interest, which is as a multiple licensee operating a small company which has the tenancies of five public houses in London. I do that because I speak with some knowledge and experience of enforcing the present law.

    I welcome the recommendations of the committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. I believe that all responsible licensees will welcome those recommendations. Licensees generally do not want under-age drinkers in their pubs. They are, frankly, a pain in the backside. They threaten the livelihood and the licence of the licensee, and the roof over his head. Enforcing the law with under-age drinkers is difficult, as many hon. Members have already said. Underage drinkers, and those just turned 18, become aggressive and noisy and they upset older and more mature customers. No one honestly likes the young trade.

    So far, no one has mentioned the fact that 14-year-olds may already enter public houses, although not to drink. However, because of the difficulty in preventing those over 14 from drinking once they enter public houses, or from being bought drinks by other people — acknowledging that to be an offence—many publicans decide that it is better to enforce a no-under-18s rule and, even now, a nounder-21s rule in many public houses in London.

    I spent four years running a large discotheque public house. Three nights a week, I used to stand at the door and try to determine who was and who was not over 18, because we had a no-under-18s rule. If, in particular, the young girls seek to deceive, with make-up and dress, they will succeed many times. We asked for birth certificates. They produced those of their older sisters.

    We have talked about identity cards. I share the apprehensions of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) about identity cards, but the only sure and certain way of being able to enforce the law would be to issue photo-identity cards, of the type that we, as Members of the House, carry, and ones that carry a date of birth.

    Like many other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), I believe that the chief source of supply of drink to those under 18, and particularly those substantially under 18, is the off-licence trade. Those outlets are much less well controlled. There is no outlet in this country that is as heavily constrained and controlled as the public house.

    On a number of occasions I have listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) speak on the subject of under-age drinking, and I know that he has particular feelings about the matter. However, what changes at 18? One day, one is a day off 18 and is not allowed to drink in a public house, and the next day one is 18 and suddenly becomes able to do so. I am enthusiastic about the possibility of youngsters being introduced to drink in a slow and controlled manner, perhaps by their parents, so that when they do become 18, they drink in a public house in a more mature way.

    A happy experiment is the recent opening in Brixham in Devon of a pub called the Minnows Arms, which is open to serve strictly non-alcoholic beers, wines and cocktails to children between the ages of 11 and 16. Adults will be banned from the pub, which will serve from 6.30 pm to 9 pm. That is a sensible experiment, which tries to introduce young people to the environment of the public house without the dangers of under-age drinking. There are many sides to the argument.

    I am apprehensive, as I am sure many of my fellow licensees are, about the new clause, because it shifts the balance, as my hon. Friend the Minister admitted, from a person being innocent until proven guilty to that person being guilty until proved innocent, and that is contrary to natural justice. It is a fearsome weapon in the hands of anti-drink policemen who have the responsibility of enforcing the licensing laws in their area. There are more of those than the public perceives.

    I hope that my hon. Friend will think again about introducing the clause. If he will not do so, I should prefer the House to accept the Government new clause, rather than the new clause of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point or amendment (a). I hope that, even at this late stage, my hon. Friend the Minister will say that the Government will think again about whether they have the balance right.

    7.15 pm

    The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) emphasises that this has been a vigorous debate. Two competing points of view have been presented. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said that we have not done anything, but my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham said that we have placed a fearsome weapon in the hands of the police. My view is that we have followed a careful road down the middle and have got it about right.

    We want to be clear that we are talking about a major change in the law. If the new clause is accepted, the prosecution will no longer have to prove the element of knowing, there being prima facie evidence of an offence at the moment of the sale to the under-age person. At that moment, it will be open to the prosecution to commence proceedings. That is a dramatic change and I point out to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point that it is an important step in the direction to which he is pointing.

    The question then is whether it should be an absolute offence in the true sense—that is, one to which there should be no defence — or whether there should be a defence. The common view in the Chamber has been that there should be a defence. Therefore, the essential dispute is about the nature of the defence. I willingly acknowledge and concede that in Committee I pointed to the firearms model on a number of occasions as one that struck me as attractive in the context of what we are doing. However, what I have brought to the House is something different. Therefore, it is fair to ask, "Why is there a difference?" The answer is that I changed my mind, and I shall explain why.

    In the case of the sale of a firearm, the position is different in two major respects. First, the sale of the firearm is perhaps a more serious and grave act than the sale of a drink. That is a qualitative judgment, but it is mine. Secondly, the sale of a firearm is a more leisurely transaction than is the sale of a drink at a bar counter. When one is selling a firearm, one can make the kind of inquiry which it is not reasonable to require of licensees at a bar. Therefore, there is a difference.

    If one uses the same language in the context of a drink offence as is used in the context of a firearms offence, one may find the courts applying precisely the same tests and asking licensees to adopt the same standards. I have been persuaded that that would be wrong. It is not a question of being got at. It is a question of being persuaded, and this is the view that I offer to the House.

    I see other possibilities than the provisions of the Firearms Act 1968. However, in Committee the Minister did not commit himself to that procedure. He was careful to say that he believed that there should be a defence whereby the seller of the drink had to prove that he had reasonable grounds for the belief that the person was over the age of 18. Will the Minister comment on our amendment, because that allows for a defence? It allows for the defence that the licensee had good reason to believe that the person was over 18. Would that not satisfy the criterion that the Minister was trying to find in Committee?

    That is a perfectly logical and sensible position for the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) to adopt. It is a question of balance. The hon. Lady is, in effect — although not quite — describing the firearms defence. For the reasons that I have outlined, I think that the firearms defence imposes too high a standard on licensees. I accept that it is a matter of judgment. I am not suggesting that the hon. Lady's position is illogical, untenable or unsustainable, but I think that it places too heavy a burden on licensees.

    I am encouraged in this matter by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), because, as the House will appreciate, he has the advantage of being a Scots lawyer and has direct knowledge of the way in which the Scots have been using the legislation in Scotland. His remarks were important. He said that the legislation had resulted in more convictions but that it had not enabled landlords to get off on technicalities and that the nature of the defence had not proved obstructive in bringing prosecutions in proper cases.

    In the end, it is a matter of balance. I offer the judgment that the balance in the new clause is the correct one.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 289, Noes 47.

    Division No. 164]

    [7.21 pm

    AYES

    Adley, RobertCash, William
    Aitken, JonathanChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
    Alexander, RichardChannon, Rt Hon Paul
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelChapman, Sydney
    Allason, RupertChope, Christopher
    Alton, DavidChurchill, Mr
    Amess, DavidClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
    Arbuthnot, JamesClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Conway, Derek
    Aspinwall, JackCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
    Atkins, RobertCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
    Atkinson, DavidCope, John
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Cormack, Patrick
    Baldry, TonyCouchman, James
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Cran, James
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCurrie, Mrs Edwina
    Beith, A. J.Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
    Bendall, VivianDavis, David (Boothferry)
    Benyon, W.Devlin, Tim
    Bevan, David GilroyDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnDover, Den
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Dunn, Bob
    Maker, Rt Hon Sir PeterDykes, Hugh
    Body, Sir RichardEmery, Sir Peter
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Boscawen, Hon RobertEvennett, David
    Boswell, TimFairbairn, Nicholas
    Bottomley, PeterFarr, Sir John
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaFavell, Tony
    Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Fearn, Ronald
    Bowis, JohnFenner, Dame Peggy
    Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Brazier, JulianFookes, Miss Janet
    Bright, GrahamForman, Nigel
    Browne, John (Winchester)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Franks, Cecil
    Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickFreeman, Roger
    Buck, Sir AntonyFrench, Douglas
    Burns, SimonGale, Roger
    Butcher, JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Butler, ChrisGill, Christopher
    Butterfill, JohnGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Glyn, Dr Alan
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Goodlad, Alastair
    Carrington, MatthewGorst, John
    Carttiss, MichaelGow, Ian

    Gower, Sir RaymondMaples, John
    Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Marland, Paul
    Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Marlow, Tony
    Greenway, John (Rydale)Marshall, John (Hendon S)
    Gregory, ConalMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
    Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Mellor, David
    Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Meyer, Sir Anthony
    Grylls, MichaelMills, Iain
    Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynMiscampbell, Norman
    Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
    Hampson, Dr KeithMonro, Sir Hector
    Hanley, JeremyMoore, Rt Hon John
    Hannam, JohnMorris, M (N'hampton S)
    Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Morrison, Hon Sir Charles
    Harris, DavidMorrison, Hon P (Chester)
    Haselhurst, AlanMoss, Malcolm
    Hayes, JerryMoynihan, Hon C.
    Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyNelson, Anthony
    Hayward, RobertNeubert, Michael
    Heathcoat-Amory, DavidNewton, Rt Hon Tony
    Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelNicholls, Patrick
    Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
    Hill, JamesNicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
    Hind, KennethPage, Richard
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Paice, James
    Holt, RichardPatten, Chris (Bath)
    Hordern, Sir PeterPatten, John (Oxford W)
    Howard, MichaelPawsey, James
    Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Porter, David (Waveney)
    Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Powell, William (Corby)
    Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Price, Sir David
    Howells, GeraintRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Rathbone, Tim
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Redwood, John
    Hunt, David (Wirral W)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Riddick, Graham
    Hunter, AndrewRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
    Irvine, MichaelRidsdale, Sir Julian
    Irving, CharlesRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
    Jack, MichaelRoe, Mrs Marion
    Janman, TimothyRossi, Sir Hugh
    Jessel, TobyRowe, Andrew
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRumbold, Mrs Angela
    Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Sackville, Hon Tom
    Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
    Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Sayeed, Jonathan
    Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineScott, Nicholas
    Kennedy, CharlesShaw, David (Dover)
    Key, RobertShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Kirkhope, TimothyShelton, William (Streatham)
    Knapman, RogerShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Shersby, Michael
    Knowles, MichaelSkeet, Sir Trevor
    Knox, DavidSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    Lamont, Rt Hon NormanSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Lang, IanSpeed, Keith
    Latham, MichaelSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    Lawson, Rt Hon NigelSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
    Lee, John (Pendle)Squire, Robin
    Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Stanley, Rt Hon John
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSteel, Rt Hon David
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Stern, Michael
    Lightbown, DavidStevens, Lewis
    Lil ley, PeterStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
    Lord, MichaelStewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
    Luce, Rt Hon RichardStokes, John
    Macfarlane, Sir NeilStradling Thomas, Sir John
    MacGregor, JohnSummerson, Hugo
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Tapsell, Sir Peter
    Maclean, DavidTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    McLoughlin, PatrickTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Madel, DavidTemple-Morris, Peter
    Major, Rt Hon JohnThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Malins, HumfreyThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Mans, KeithThorne, Neil

    Thornton, MalcolmWarren, Kenneth
    Thurnham, PeterWells, Bowen
    Townend, John (Bridlington)Wheeler, John
    Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Whitney, Ray
    Tracey, RichardWiddecombe, Miss Ann
    Tredinnick, DavidWilkinson, John
    Trippier, DavidWilshire, David
    Twinn, Dr IanWinterton, Mrs Ann
    Viggers, PeterWinterton, Nicholas
    Waddington, Rt Hon DavidWolfson, Mark
    Wakeham, Rt Hon JohnWood, Timothy
    Waldegrave, Hon WilliamWoodcock, Mike
    Walden, GeorgeYeo, Tim
    Walker, Bill (T'side North)Young, Sir George (Acton)
    Wallace, James
    Waller, GaryTellers for the Ayes:
    Walters, DennisMr. Richard Ryder and
    Ward, JohnMr. Stephen Dorrell.
    Wardle, C. (Bexhill)

    NOES

    Anderson, DonaldMcWilliam, John
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Mahon, Mrs Alice
    Barron, KevinMichael, Alun
    Bermingham, GeraldMoonie, Dr Lewis
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Morgan, Rhodri
    Caborn, RichardMorley, Elliott
    Campbell-Savours, D. N.Mullin, Chris
    Corbyn, JeremyMurphy, Paul
    Crowther, StanPaisley, Rev Ian
    Cummings, J.Pike, Peter
    Cunliffe, LawrenceRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Dalyell, TarnRobertson, George
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Rowlands, Ted
    Dixon, DonRuddock, Ms Joan
    Duffy, A. E. P.Short, Clare
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Skinner, Dennis
    Flynn, PaulTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Foster, DerekTurner, Dennis
    George, BruceWigley, Dafydd
    Golding, Mrs LlinWilson, Brian
    Hinchliffe, DavidWinnick, David
    Illsley, Eric
    Livingstone, KenTellers for the Noes:
    Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Sir Bernard Braine and
    McFall, JohnMr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop.
    McNamara, Kevin

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time.

    Amendment proposed: (a), in new clause 2, leave out lines 17 and 18 and insert—

    '(b) that he had good reason to believe that the person was over eighteen".—[Mrs. Ann Taylor.]

    Question put, That the amendment be made:

    The House divided: Ayes 66, Noes 291.

    Division No. 165]

    [7.35 pm

    AYES

    Allen, GrahamDixon, Don
    Alton, DavidDoran, Frank
    Anderson, DonaldDuffy, A. E. P.
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Faulds, Andrew
    Barron, KevinFearn, Ronald
    Beggs, RoyField, Frank (Birkenhead)
    Beith, A. J.Fisher, Mark
    Bermingham, GeraldFlynn, Paul
    Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardFoster, Derek
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Fyfe, Mrs Maria
    Caborn, RichardGeorge, Bruce
    Corbyn, JeremyHardy, Peter
    Crowther, StanHaynes, Frank
    Cryer, BobHinchliffe, David
    Cummings, J.Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
    Cunliffe, LawrenceIllsley, Eric
    Dalyell, TarnJohn, Brynmor
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
    Dewar, DonaldLivingstone, Ken

    McKay, Allen (Penistone)Robertson, George
    Mahon, Mrs AliceRuddock, Ms Joan
    Marshall, David (Shettleston)Sheerman, Barry
    Michael, AlunShort, Clare
    Millan, Rt Hon BruceSkinner, Dennis
    Moonie, Dr LewisSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
    Morgan, RhodriTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Morley, ElliottWallace, James
    Mullin, ChrisWardell, Gareth (Gower)
    Murphy, PaulWilson, Brian
    O'Neill, MartinWinnick, David
    Paisley, Rev IanWise, Mrs Audrey
    Parry, Robert
    Patchett, TerryTellers for the Ayes
    Pike, PeterMrs. Llin Golding and
    Quin, Ms JoyceMr. Dennis Turner.
    Richardson, Ms Jo

    NOES

    Adley, RobertDay, Stephen
    Alexander, RichardDevlin, Tim
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDorrell, Stephen
    Allason, RupertDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
    Amess, DavidDover, Den
    Arbuthnot, JamesDunn, Bob
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Dykes, Hugh
    Aspinwall, JackEmery, Sir Peter
    Atkins, RobertEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Atkinson, DavidEvennett, David
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Fairbairn, Nicholas
    Baldry, TonyFarr, Sir John
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Favell, Tony
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFenner, Dame Peggy
    Bendall, VivianField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Benyon, W.Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Bevan, David GilroyFookes, Miss Janet
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnForman, Nigel
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterFowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasFranks, Cecil
    Boswell, TimFreeman, Roger
    Bottomley, PeterFrench, Douglas
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGale, Roger
    Bowis, JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGill, Christopher
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Brazier, JulianGlyn, Dr Alan
    Bright, GrahamGoodlad, Alastair
    Browne, John (Winchester)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Gorst, John
    Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickGow, Ian
    Buck, Sir AntonyGower, Sir Raymond
    Burns, SimonGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
    Butcher, JohnGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
    Butler, ChrisGreenway, John (Rydale)
    Butterfill, JohnGregory, Conal
    Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Carrington, MatthewGrist, Ian
    Carttiss, MichaelGrylls, Michael
    Cash, WilliamGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
    Channon, Rt Hon PaulHampson, Dr Keith
    Chapman, SydneyHanley, Jeremy
    Chope, ChristopherHannam, John
    Churchill, MrHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Harris, David
    Colvin, MichaelHaselhurst, Alan
    Conway, DerekHayes, Jerry
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
    Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hayward, Robert
    Cope, JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
    Cormack, PatrickHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Couchman, JamesHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
    Cran, JamesHill, James
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaHind, Kenneth
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Holt, Richard

    Hordern, Sir PeterPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
    Howard, MichaelPorter, David (Waveney)
    Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Powell, William (Corby)
    Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Price, Sir David
    Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Raffan, Keith
    Howells, GeraintRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Rathbone, Tim
    Hunt, David (Wirral W)Redwood, John
    Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Hunter, AndrewRiddick, Graham
    Irvine, MichaelRidsdale, Sir Julian
    Irving, CharlesRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Jack, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
    Janman, TimothyRoe, Mrs Marion
    Jessel, TobyRost, Peter
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRowe, Andrew
    Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
    Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Ryder, Richard
    Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Sackville, Hon Tom
    Kennedy, CharlesSainsbury, Hon Tim
    Key, RobertSayeed, Jonathan
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Scott, Nicholas
    Kirkhope, TimothyShaw, David (Dover)
    Knapman, RogerShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    Knowles, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Knox, DavidShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
    Lamont, Rt Hon NormanShersby, Michael
    Lang, IanSkeet, Sir Trevor
    Latham, MichaelSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    Lawrence, IvanSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Lawson, Rt Hon NigelSpeed, Keith
    Lee, John (Pendle)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSquire, Robin
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Stanbrook, Ivor
    Lightbown, DavidStanley, Rt Hon John
    Lilley, PeterSteel, Rt Hon David
    Lord, MichaelSteen, Anthony
    Luce, Rt Hon RichardStern, Michael
    Macfarlane, Sir NeilStevens, Lewis
    MacGregor, JohnStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
    Maclean, DavidStewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
    McLoughlin, PatrickStokes, John
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
    Madel, DavidSummerson, Hugo
    Major, Rt Hon JohnTapsell, Sir Peter
    Malins, HumfreyTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Mans, KeithTaylor, John M (Solihull)
    Maples, JohnTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Marland, PaulTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Marlow, TonyTemple-Morris, Peter
    Marshall, John (Hendon S)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinThorne, Neil
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyThornton, Malcolm
    Mills, IainTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Miscampbell, NormanTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
    Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Tracey, Richard
    Monro, Sir HectorTredinnick, David
    Montgomery, Sir FergusTrippier, David
    Moore, Rt Hon JohnTwinn, Dr Ian
    Morris, M (N'hampton S)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
    Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesWakeham, Rt Hon John
    Moss, MalcolmWaldegrave, Hon William
    Moynihan, Hon C.Walden, George
    Neubert, MichaelWalker, Bill (T'side North)
    Newton, Rt Hon TonyWaller, Gary
    Nicholls, PatrickWard, John
    Nicholson, David (Taunton)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
    Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)Warren, Kenneth
    Page, RichardWatts, John
    Paice, JamesWells, Bowen
    Parry, RobertWheeler, John
    Patten, Chris (Bath)Whitney, Ray
    Patten, John (Oxford W)Widdecombe, Miss Ann
    Pawsey, JamesWigley, Dafydd

    Wilkinson, JohnYeo, Tim
    Wilshire, DavidYoung, Sir George (Acton)
    Winterton, Mrs Ann
    Winterton, NicholasTellers for the Noes:
    Wolfson, MarkMr. Robert Boscawen and
    Wood, TimothyMr. Peter Lloyd.
    Woodcock, Mike

    Question accordingly negatived.

    Clause added to the Bill.