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Licensing Bill

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

5.2 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am certainly not one to question your judgment—nor would any other hon. Member do so — but many people outside the House will wonder why amendment No. 1, which stands in my name and the names of many of my hon. Friends, was not included in Mr. Speaker's selection of amendments. It goes to the heart of the Bill on the question of permitted hours, giving the licensee scope and discretion in deciding for which 12 hours to open between the hours of 10 am and midnight. I feel that it should have been included in the selection, or that we should be told why it is not.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I agree with the hon

New Clause 2

Sale Of Intoxicating Liquor On Licensed Premises To Persons Under Eighteen

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.

    New Clause 3

    Prohibition Of Unsupervised Off-Sales By Persons Under Eighteen

    "The following clause shall be inserted after section 171 of the principal Act—

    171A.—(1) In any premises which are licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises only or any off-sales department of on-licensed premises, the holder of the licence shall not allow a person under eighteen to make any sale of such liquor unless the sale has been specifically approved by the holder of the licence or by a person of or over the age of eighteen acting on his behalf.
    (2) The reference in subsection (1) of this section to an off-sales department of on-licensed premises is a reference to any part of premises for which a justices' on-licence has been granted which is set aside for use only for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption off the premises.
    (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.". — [Mr. Douglas Hogg.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this it will be convenient to take the following; amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in line 6, leave out from 'liquor' to end of line 9.

    Amendment (b) to the proposed new clause, in last line, leave out 'level 1' and insert 'level 3'.

    New clause 6— Under-age sales

  • '(1) In section 170(1) of the principal Act, for the words from "on a first conviction" to the end there shall be substituted the words "to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale".
  • (2) The following section shall be inserted after section 171 of the principal Act—
  • "171A. No person under the age of 18 employed in premises in respect of which an off licence has been granted shall be permitted to sell intoxicating liquor. The holder of the licence shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.".'.

    New clause 3 is part of our response to the problem of under-age drinking.

    The Masham report expressed the desire that the law regarding off-licences should be changed so that persons under the age of 18 who are selling alcohol should at least be supervised when they do so. I agree with that proposition because when people under the age of 18 are selling alcohol in off-licences there is an increased danger that they will sell to under-age persons or that they may sell to somebody who is already intoxicated. The purpose of the new clause is to impose an obligation that each sale should be supervised by somebody over the age of 18.

    I am not trying to catch my hon. Friend out; this is a genuine inquiry. Is it a fact that the people who assist in public houses must be over the age of 18?

    Yes. Under-age persons may not assist in public houses.

    It has been discussed whether we should put a total prohibition on persons under the age of 18 selling alcohol in off-licences. I would not commend that to the House because I believe that that would affect the ability of such persons to obtain employment in the retail sector. I believe that that would an undesirable state of affairs.

    I commend the new clause to the House on the basis that it is the proper solution to the problem and will not have the adverse consequences to which I have just referred.

    I shall be brief. The purpose of new clause 6 is to remove an absurd anomaly in the law whereby young people under 18 are allowed to sell in supermarkets and elsewhere a product which they are not legally permitted to buy. In promoting greater consistency in the law, my new clause 6 is entirely in line with what is described as being a main aim of the Bill.

    I am glad that in tabling their new clause the Government have moved from their untenable position in Committee where they refused to concede to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and her hon. Friends that allowing sales of alcohol by under-18s could even be regarded as an anomaly. If I may say so in all humility, I believe that my new clause 6 is superior to that tabled by the Government in that it has greater clarity, straightforwardness and practicality.

    The Home Office working group on young people and alcohol under the chairmanship of Baroness Masham briefly examined the issue of under-age sales, and its recommendations prompted this new clause. The Justices' Clerks Society has also expressed its dislike of the anomaly of under-age sales and wishes to see it removed. The Masham committee recognised that allowing sales of alcohol by young people under the legal age was an anomaly which might have undesirable consequences. As the committee pointed out, it may be difficult for a 16-year-old to challenge a 17-year-old who seeks to buy alcohol, and this anomaly in the law may help to undermine other legal controls on under-age drinking. I am sure that the House will recognise the truth of that, including my hon. Friends who strongly support extended drinking hours.

    One aspect of the problem not yet mentioned is that not all supermarkets have separate drinks departments but, as was observed recently by the Professional Advisory Committee on Alcohol for Scotland, some
    "display alcohol openly on shelves amongst other consumer goods, thereby placing the supervision of sales on the shoulders of the busy check-out girls",
    who may themselves be under age. The Committee continued:
    "It is anomalous that whilst it is illegal to employ anyone under the age of 18 in a public bar or licensed canteen, no such restriction is in force in the case of off-licensed premises or supermarkets. If legislation to restrict the sale of alcohol to a separate counter were included, it could also be enacted that staff on such a counter are subject to the same age restrictions as those which apply in public bars".
    That is an eminently sensible argument, but it would be equally sensible to approach the problem from the opposite direction by enacting new clause 6 precisely in order to give supermarkets a strong incentive to create separate drinks departments.

    The argument for my new clause is straightforward and I need not detain the House much longer. The Masham committee stated the crucial points in paragraph 147 of its report, which reads:
    "It is significant that off-licences are cited as a major source of alcohol for teenagers; and it is equally significant that some major retailers insist that staff under the age of 18 may not authorise off-sales, since they recognise the difficulties a 16 or 17-year-old may have in enforcing the law."
    If responsible retailers are already imposing their own prohibition on under-age sales, surely this is an instance where the law should follow the example already set by the responsible to curtail the activities of the less responsible. Moreover, the example of responsible retailers shows that any practical difficulties involved in enforcing an 18-or-over rule cannot be insuperable.

    On the question of practicability, the Government's proposal, perhaps contrary to first impressions, is inferior to my new clause 6. As I understand the Government's proposal, it is that each sale of alcohol must be specifically supervised by the licensee or his agent over the age of 18. The difficulty is in imagining how exactly this will be managed in a busy supermarket at peak shopping time. Those who do their own shopping, as I do, will readily recognise the truth of that. The sheer inconvenience of an under-age sales assistant having to call over the licensee or his adult agent each time a bottle or can of alcohol appears among a customer's purchases will surely lead either to impossible delays or, to avoid such delays, the law being widely disregarded.

    It will be far better to agree now to a clear-cut, simple measure which can be enforced. My hon. Friend the Minister has the opportunity to do that, and I recommend new clause 6 to the House.

    It is apparent from new clause 3 that the Minister does not know and does not care about the problems facing many people on housing estates and in other areas where sales from off-licences cause young people to gather together to drink alcohol obtained from those off-licences.

    Does not the Minister know of the time spent by the police in moving youngsters on? Is he not aware of the abuse of local people, and of the threats and damage to their property? If the Minister had my postbag, he would know of the anger felt by many decent people about the apparent lack of control of off-licence sales. What is his answer to those people? It is new clause 3, which continues to allow young people under the age of 18 to sell drinks in off-licences.

    The new clause states:
    "the holder of the licence shall not allow a person under eighteen to make any sale of such liquor unless the sale has been specifically approved by the holder of the licence or by a person of or over the age of eighteen acting on his behalf"
    But what does that mean? What does "specifically" mean? The dictionary meaning is "definitely", "particularly", "not generally or vaguely". Does that mean that permission must be given for every individual transaction?

    If so, let us consider what a sale is. It is the presenting, choosing, advising, obtaining from the cellar or shelf, wrapping and taking of money. All that is involved. Does the clause mean gaining approval for every one of those actions for every individual sale? If so, it cannot be practical in a busy off-licence.

    Is the law enforceable? If not, it should not become law. If the new clause means that if the holder of the licence gives his approval a 16-year-old can be employed and the supervision is much less, that is wholly unacceptable. It does nothing to prevent the intimidation of a young salesman by less desirable elements in his age group to persuade him, by threats, to sell them alcohol, knowing them to be under-age.

    The Government have had the opportunity in this Bill to prohibit young people under 18 from serving in off-licences. That they have not taken this opportunity shows once again that they are not concerned about young people and alcohol abuse. The control of the sale of alcohol is for adults; it is not for children. It is time that the Government and the House recognised that, and they should accept amendment (a).

    8 pm

    I wish to raise two points relating to new clause 3. First, I am concerned about the words "specifically approved". Despite the use of the word "specifically", it is a vague term. My hon. Friend the Minister may say that these words will have to be interpreted by the courts if a dispute arises about what they mean. I am not in the business of providing work for lawyers and I wish to provide more specific wording so that everyone can be clear about the meaning.

    In a chemist's shop, for example, when a preparation is sold, the assistant must hold up the item so that the pharmacist can specifically approve it. Unfortunately, the situation in most supermarkets is not as it is in branches of Boots. For example, in modern retailing, it is frequent practice for sales to take place by means of a laser scanner. The assistant need not press any buttons, but simply moves the items, including perhaps a bottle of spirits, under the scanner, so that the price is computed automatically. It would be helpful to know how such a problem could be tackled by the words "specifically approved". Would it be necessary for the assistant to ring a bell every time—a practice already operated by many responsible retailers?

    Secondly, is it right that there should be no defence to a charge under this provision if, through no fault of the licensee, a sale is made by someone under 18? For example, a young person may lie about his or her age. He or she may go to some trouble to give the impression to the licensee that he or she is over 18. The licensee may have no reason to think that the young person has lied and is under 18. As the clause stands, the licensee would have no defence, yet the person who had lied about his or her age and made the sale would have committed no offence. Should there not be a defence that the licensee had used due diligence and was, therefore, not at fault?

    As a further example, the person who makes the sale may disobey the rule laid down by his or her employer. The young person may be in a hurry and the supervisor, who is over 18, may be some distance away as a queue builds up at the check-out desk. The young person may make the sale, without the approval of the person over 18. Again, the check-out girl or boy has not broken the law under the provisions of the new clause.

    As the new clause stands, the licensee must carry the can, although he may have gone to great trouble to impress on the check-out assistant that the law must be obeyed. Should there not be a defence, if the licensee has used as much diligence as is humanly possible to prevent an offence taking place? I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to enlighten me on that point, before we go any further.

    I shall answer the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller). It is important to consider the new clause closely. An offence occurs only if the licence-holder allows a person under 18 to make a sale unsupervised. If the person under 18 makes a sale which is not allowed, and therefore acts contrary to the instructions which he has been given, the licence-holder is not committing an offence, because he has not allowed the sale.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley asked whether there should be a defence when the employee lies about his age. Perhaps we are piling difficulty upon difficulty, because, in most cases, an employer would want to find out the age of an employee and would take positive steps to do so. With great respect to my hon. Friend, this difficulty may not occur.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) asks that we should adopt one of two alternatives—that there should be either a shop within a shop or a prohibition on the sale of alcohol in off-licences by those under 18. I ask my right hon. Friend not to push the latter proposition to a Division, because it would be immensely damaging to the employment prospects of those under 18. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding).

    I shall give way in a moment.

    At one stage, I was attracted by the concept of a shop within a shop, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, but it would be unduly burdensome on small retail shops and it would be difficult to differentiate in law between a supermarket, where it might be possible to implement such a proposal and a small corner shop, where it would not easily be possible.

    In respect of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), that each sale must be specifically approved, does my hon. Friend the Minister anticipate that it will be impossible for a sale of liquor to be made on off-licence premises unless somebody over 18 is present?

    That is my conclusion and that is what we intend. I commend the new clause to the House.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 4

    Transfer Of Powers With Respect To General Orders Of Exemption In London

    'In section 74(6) of the principal Act (discharge of power to make exemption orders in City of London and metropolitan police district)—
  • (a) after the word "district", in the first place where it occurs, there shall be inserted the words "subsection (4) of"; and
  • (b) for the word "references", there shall be substituted, in the first place where it occurs, the words, "the reference" and in the second and third places where it occurs, the words "a reference".'. — [Mr.Douglas Hogg.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    This is a rather curious and narrow clause which will commend itself to the House and, therefore, I shall deal with it briefly. General orders of extension are, except in London, dealt with by justices. In London, they are dealt with by the two commissioners of police. There does not appear to be a good reason why the two commissioners of police in London should deal with the general orders of exemption. They do not want to continue to do so and justices are willing to undertake the burden. I therefore commend the new clause to the House.

    Question put and agree to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 9

    Sales To Or By Persons Under 18 Of Intoxicating Liquor On Wholesale Premises

    'The following section shall be inserted after section 181 of the principal Act—

    "Sales to or by persons under 18 of intoxicating liquor on wholesale premises.
    181A.—(1) In any premises from which he deals wholesale the wholesaler or his servant shall not sell intoxicating liquor to a person under eighteen.
    (2) In any premises from which he deals wholesale the wholesaler shall not allow a person under eighteen to make any sale of intoxicating liquor unless the sale has been specifically approved by the wholesaler or by a person of or over the age of eighteen acting on his behalf.
    (3) A person under eighteen shall not in premises from which intoxicating liquor is dealt in wholesale buy or attempt to buy such liquor.
    (4) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) of this section.
  • (a) where the person charged is charged by reason of his own act, it shall be a defence for him to prove—
  • (i) that he exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of an offence under that subsection; or
  • (ii) that he had no reason to suspect that the other person was under eighteen; and
  • (b) where the person charged is charged by reason of the act 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.
  • (5) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (3) of this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
    (6) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) of this section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.
    (7) In this section "wholesaler" and "wholesale" have the same meaning as in section 4 of the Alcoholic' Liquor Duties Act 1979.".'.—[Mr. Douglas Hogg.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in line 10, leave out from 'liquor' to end of line 12.

    Amendment (b) to the proposed new clause, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert—
    '(ii) that he had good reason to believe that the other person was over eighteen; and'.

    This is yet a further example of the Government's intention to meet the problem of under-age drinking. We seek to introduce further restrictions on the sale of alcohol to and by young persons. We are applying to wholesalers the same restrictions on the sale of alcohol to and by 18-year-olds as are currently applied to on and off-licence premises. I commend the new clause to the House.

    We support the new clause and its addition to the Bill. However, I suspect that few people will be affected by it. It is unlikely that the majority of people under 18 purchase liquor in bulk from wholesale premises. Nevertheless, we welcome it, and the proposal was recommended by the Masham Committee.

    I shall ask the Minister one or two minor questions about the new clause, because we intended to move an amendment that would omit the necessity for the sale to be specifically approved by a wholesaler, which would be an absolute barrier to any sales in any circumstances by people under the age of 18.

    We believe that there should be no difficulty in finding someone over the age of 18 in wholesale premises to make those sales. I ask the Minister to consider that point and possibly to amend the Bill in another place.

    My other point concerns a recommendation in the Masham report that is connected with the point about wholesale premises. The Masham committee recommended that this provision should be extended to registered clubs. It was thought that it might be necessary to give the police the right to enter such premises, and I can foresee difficulties in that regard. That may be why the Minister left that section out of the amendment, but I should be grateful if he would give his feelings and ideas, because it also may need to be the subject of an amendment at a later stage.

    Two points have been raised by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor); the first relates to clubs. I prefer to be candid with the House, and I usually am—that implies that on occasions I am not. I shrink from the concept of applying the licensing law to clubs. If we were to start applying it to clubs, we should open a Pandora's box which would probably prevent the passage of the Bill. We should not change the law relating to clubs by a side wind. If we want to do so, we must do it in a Bill primarily designed for clubs.

    With regard to the hon. Lady's other point, I have no doubt that it will be possible to find many people over the age of 18 who are willing to sell in wholesale premises. If we were to adopt the hon. Lady's suggestion, we would necessarily exclude those under the age of 18. I do not wish to do so, because of its impact on their employability.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 1

    Coach Services

    `In section 199(d) of the principal Act, for the words "or railway passenger vehicle" there shall be substituted the words "railway passenger vehicle or advertised, timetabled road passenger coach service with serving staff.".'.—[Mr. Roger King.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    The purpose of the new clause is to bring up to date the position of a new branch of transportation—inter-city road passenger coach services—which is left out in the cold, in that it is unable to offer for sale alocholic refreshment on its vehicles.

    I have looked at section 199(d) of the principal Act to see whether exemption from the licensing laws enjoyed by railways, aircraft and ships could be extended to road passenger vehicles on scheduled services with staff on board.

    8.15 pm

    One of the greatest successes of the Government since 1979 has been their policy of deregulation. The passenger coach industry was one of the first to be deregulated. It has enjoyed extraordinary success as it has developed into a formidable system, with thousands of services being provided throughout the length and breadth of the country.

    When the principal Act was devised in 1964, this type of service did not exist. Coach services were in their infancy and were not integrated into a national system. But now they are, and they can be seen on our roads system, operating to the requirements of the passengers whom they serve.

    It is a national system; it is sophisticated and respectable. It offers a highly competitive service compared with other modes of transport. It has been sufficiently competitive to force the railways and airlines into competition. In turn, they have reflected, with their improved services, the greater desire of customers to use them.

    Our legislation has opened up the service of road transport to a wide new market. Although coach services cannot compete directly on time, they offer good comfort and a much cheaper service. The latest coaches are not remotely like the traditional football charabancs of the past. They are very sophisticated vehicles, with double-deck construction, air conditioning, aircraft-style seats, video cassette machines, toilets and hostess services. Such service has transformed the principle of coach services. The customer has the highest level of comfort on board, and food is also available.

    Coach services at present are denied the opportunity to sell alcoholic refreshment, which should be put right. One can take drink on board the coach and the operator can give drink away. There is no reason why coach operators should not be allowed to sell drinks on their vehicles. Other modes of transport are allowed to do so.

    I have been in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Minister to explain why this new clause should be agreeable to him. He has been kind enough to reply, and it seems that there are one or two obstacles that the Home Office and certainly the police find unacceptable. First, there is the worry about football hooliganism. We all agree that we should combat the evils of football hooliganism, which often arises as a direct result of excessive alcoholic refreshment. That problem has not been created by intercity scheduled coach services any more than by inter-city rail services. If we are to ban the consumption of alcohol on a scheduled coach, we must ban alcohol on a scheduled train. It is often going to the same place as an ordinary road coach. To say that a coach operator, operating a timetable scheduled service, attracts football hooliganism is to say that British Rail suffers from the same problem, which it does not.

    Is not most football hooliganism caused by young louts taking drink on board? I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend, but would there not be the same problem?

    Scheduled inter-city coach services have been with us for a number of years. There is no evidence that football supporters use those services. It is a scheduled service travelling from point A to point B, not to football grounds. However, the problem might occur with private coach operators. The Government have been keen to eliminate that problem by extra policing at football grounds. The problem cannot be laid at the door of scheduled coach services. If it were, it would have been self-evident in the services already provided.

    The Home Office is equally worried about an inebriated passenger on a coach presenting a danger to the driver — hitting him on the head and causing an accident. However, that could happen if he takes his own alcohol on board. The provision of a hostess or steward on the coach would surely eliminate that possibility. In any case, that can happen on a train. The new sprinter trains have alcohol available on them, so it would be easy for an inebriated customer to walk up to the cab, force the door open and accost the driver. That does not happen, so that argument does not stand up.

    It is argued that it would create confusion among continental coach operators who see drinks being provided on one type of coach and wonder why they are unable to provide them. If one travels in any country, one should acquaint oneself with the local laws of the land. I see no difficulty in a foreign operator understanding the difference between his tour operation and a scheduled inter-city coach service.

    I shall not press the new clause, because I understand that there are problems, but it is worthy of further examination, with a view to including it in forthcoming legislation. The argument that the new clause might attract other amendments to the Bill does not hold water. We are talking about one element of public transport which is denied the opportunity to compete in the way allowed to other transportation modes.

    A train will leave Birmingham and travel towards London and a scheduled coach will do the same, travelling on the M1. For three miles they will travel side by side, offering exactly the same services. They are after the same market. One is allowed to sell alcoholic refreshment when it feels like it and the other is denied that opportunity. As our attitude to travel changes, our attitude to the law should change as well. I hope that, in any future revision of our licensing laws, the Government will look carefully at this proposal. There are not many passenger coach operators, but they operate throughout the country with advertised scheduled services. I hope that the Government will allow them to operate on equal terms with operators of other modes of transport.

    I mean no disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), for whom I have great affection, but this is a dangerous proposition. There is enough trouble on trains now from people who consume too much liquor, but at least passengers have the opportunity to move down the train. Such movement is impossible on a coach.

    There is a growing tendency—my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield seems to think that the law should be brought into line with this growing tendency—for more and more drinking to take place in public, outside public houses and clubs. One sees this disgraceful situation in any London tube station, but especially the large ones. There are used lager cans on the platform and the rail tracks. The abuse is growing every week.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield said that coach travellers take their liquor aboard. Of course they do. That is a well-known fact. They take crates of it aboard. I have just received a letter from one of my constituents, which states:
    "My wife and I are the proprietors of a seasonal business in Southend on the front. Every year is getting worse as far as behavioural problems with language, shoplifting, fighting and sexual abuse, all drink related. My wife is verbally abused, and I myself last year had to call the police several times to our premises. I am 47 years of age and am now at the age when I feel threatened and feel that we can no longer enjoy a happy successful occupation in my trade."
    My constituent refers in particular to the coach trade. He tells how people come down in coaches, flock into the pubs and, after the pubs close,
    "for the next 3 or 4 hours wander round town carrying packs of beer or whole bottles of spirit or cider. They come into our shop and try to steal what they can, and if we object they are abusive, foul-mouthed and dangerous. Nine times out of ten, these coach parties are drunk when they hit town and go from bad to worse."
    My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield made his case moderately and eloquently, but I beg the House not to encourage such behaviour and to compare the coach trade with the railway trade. I would have liquor banned on the railways as well. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned us more than once that if we wish to preserve the health of our young people, we may have to drink less rather than more. The object of the Bill, and of all the proposals along those lines which provide for longer hours, is to make the consumption of alcohol easier.

    There is a price to be paid. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson)—I do not know whether hon. Members picked it up, but they should have done—said that it is a well-known fact, established all over the world, that with the increase in the consumption of alcohol there is an automatic increase in the harm done. I make a plea for restraint. That is what the law should observe. I hope that the House will reject this preposterous proposal.

    On the face of it, this is quite an attractive measure. It has been attractively argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King). However, I must say, although for slightly different reasons from those advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), that I am not persuaded of the merits of the new clause.

    There are substantially three reasons for that. First, it could give rise to control problems on coaches. It seems to me that passengers on a coach have too ready access to the driver and that is a distinction between coaches and, for example, trains. Secondly, I suspect that the measure would be used by football supporters, at least sometimes, and that would tend to get around the control imposed by the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985. Those two considerations have influenced the police to oppose this suggestion. Thirdly, I have some sympathy with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point that a passenger on a coach cannot move away from a person drinking in the same way as a passenger on a train. That distinction needs to be noted.

    I should like to be candid, once again. I am against Christmas trees of Bills. I have a feeling that if I were to yield on the new clause, I might find it more difficult to maintain the purity of the Bill that hitherto we have been able to establish. For those reasons, I do not commend the new clause to the House.

    I have listened with interest to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point made no distinction between the tour tripper going to the seaside on a charabanc and the passenger on inter-city scheduled coach services. There are wide differences, and the two are not to be compared. Of course, there are always problems with tour trippers who go out for the day and with football supporters.

    My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State also made a mistake, if I may use that expression, in suggesting that if drink wereallowed on board an inter-city roadcoach it would attract football supporters. They can use the coaches now and bring their alcohol on board, but there is no evidence that they have done so. By the same token, why is British Rail allowed to run its scheduled Inter-City services to those cities to which football supporters are going, with full drink and refreshment facilities available, but coaches are not?

    The logic is that, if drink is not allowed on the road coaches, it cannot be allowed on the rail system. As for moving away from a person who is drinking, my experience is that it is difficult to do that if the train is crowded. During my frequent rail travel I do not see many instances of excess alcohol consumption. The advantage the coach would have is that an attendant would be visible and present on the same deck as all the passengers. However, I understand what my hon. Friend has said, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 5

    Monitoring

    `The following section shall be inserted after section 88 of the principal Act—

    "88A. The Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Transport shall monitor the effects of changes in licensing hours on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in relation to public order, road safety and public health in England and Wales.".'.—[Dr. Moonie]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    8.30 pm

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

    I feel marginally—I regret to say, only marginally—warmer towards the Bill than I did on Second Reading and in Committee. It still lacks several essential components, especially in the clause on the monitoring of its effect. It is sad that someone must move a new clause asking the Departments involved to monitor the effects of the changes. Unfortunately, they do not do that in any constructive way, and perhaps hon. Members agree that they should.

    The new clause would ensure that the Departments discharged the function that they should, and monitored the effects of this major change—despite the Minister's having called it a minor one—in the licensing laws. The clause in the Bill involves an increase in the time available for the consumption of alcohol on weekdays by 30 per cent., which is a major change. All changes in the law, in price or in the length of time in which there is access to alcohol produce changes in consumption. That has been proved by countless examples that have been quoted earlier in the debate, and I do not propose to go over them again, but merely to mention other countries in which there have been changes, such as Canada, Australia—there have been changes state by state there — and Finland, in which there is interesting parallel of the laws having been tightened up, followed by a fall in problems and consumption, and then liberalised, followed by a corresponding rise.

    Scotland has been mentioned at length in support of the Bill. There was evidence after the Clayson proposals were implemented that the consumption of alcohol fell there. However, it has been clearly demonstrated that that fall was spurious; it was caused by other factors and not by the change in licensing laws.

    The need for monitoring has, if anything, been underlined by the Scottish experience, by the lack of data on which we can rely and by the ambiguity of the statistics quoted at such great length—

    Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it was one of the recommendations of the Clayson committee that there should be monitoring such as he is now suggesting?

    I am indeed. Again, it is a sad comment on the state of affairs in Scotland that there has not been adquate monitoring of the effects of the proposals, nor has there been full implementation of the Clayson recommendations. Had they been properly implemented, that might have led to a change of the type for which we were hoping from the Bill.

    If the availability of statistics is inadequate, it could be improved. Statistics are available. What is not available is some rational means of collecting and collating them so that they can be compared year by year and their effects noted. Increased consumption means increased problems—of drink-driving, and of injury and death caused by the same, particularly in the late afternoon. That is when a large amount of the extra time will fall—just when our children are returning home from school. That is when drunken drivers will be disgorged on to the streets and into their cars to cause mayhem. That is not an attractive prospect. If we do not bring in new legislation to combat it, we should at least examine it.

    I want to quote from a letter to the Home Office from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commenting on the Government's consultative proposals:
    "Paragraph 10 of the document states that action is more likely to be effective if it is focused on particular problems rather than if it is co-ordinated across a range of policies. At the same time the Government is making a change in one policy, namely, the extension of licensing hours, without any consideration of other policies which are yet to be developed, even though it is acknowledged that licensing controls have played a significant role in preventing nuisance, and in maintaining public order and safety. It is therefore totally inconsistent to introduce one measure, at this point, which will undoubtedly increase the availability of alcohol to the population as a whole
    There is evidence of a rise recently in overall alcohol intake and in death from cirrhosis. It is at least likely that the increased suicide rate in younger males may be related to alcohol problems, as well as I o unemployment. Many reports indicate that some 15–30 per cent. of general hospital admissions are related to alcohol problems. The present time, therefore, is hardly propitious for an extension of licensing hours. The proposal indicates a lack of concern on the part of the Government about the damage which alcohol does to the community and the individual and also the enormous costs incurred by the Health and Social Services, in terms of disease, morbidity and child care.
    Those European countries which have more liberal licensing laws also seem to have a higher level of overall consumption of alcohol and a higher level of alcohol related disease. All the evidence points to the fact that increasing the accessibility to alcohol by whatever measure increases its consumption …
    However, since the extension of the licensing laws in Scotland, there has been a marked increase in the combination of alcohol and self-poisoning. There has also been a recent acceleration, compared with England and Wales, in the rise of female deaths from cirrhosis …
    We do not accept that the licensing laws are in any way a hindrance to the tourist industry".
    One of the reasons for liberalising them is the tourist industry.
    "They may indeed be regarded as part of the British scene like 'Beefeaters' and other innocuous eccentricities. We believe that a unilateral act of increasing the licensing hours can only lead to increased problems from alcohol, particularly in those who are most vulnerable, i.e. those who already have a high alcohol consumption and also young people whose drinking is already causing considerable concern."
    I have quoted extensively from the letter because it underlines the royal college's concern about the effects of the Bill.

    The hon. Gentleman is a Scottish Member. Scotland already enjoys sensible licensing laws allowing people to drink during the afternoon. I am a regular visitor to Aviemore, where the slopes close at 4 pm. After skiing, people in Scotland can go for a drink during the afternoon. Does the hon. Gentleman think that skiing would be as popular in Scotland if people were given a cup of tea after they came off the slopes?

    I shall be happy for English ski resorts to be granted the same privilege. I cannot think of any off-hand, but I am sure there must be one or two. With that in mind, I want to quote from Saunders on licensing laws:

    "A central concern about the extensive granting of 'all-day' licensing is that as with all forms of drug use availability is a key factor in determining levels of harm. As noted above the lesson of Europe is that those countries with little or no legislative controls on alcohol use have the highest rates of alcohol related mortality. All day licensing makes us more like the French not only in drinking style but also in terms of patterns of problems. The French experience is one of infrequent drunkenness but extensive alcohol related mortality (9). It is possible that in Scotland we have created the basis for an explosion of physical damage from alcohol use which will over the next decade become increasingly evident in our general medical wards. With regard to this it is important to note that between 1976 and 1983 alcohol consumption in the UK as a whole rose by 4·5 per cent. but in Scotland per capita consumption increased at a disproportionate level—up by 13 per cent. The enthusiasm with which the Brewers Society is currently campaigning for extended hours south of the Border has no doubt been induced by their appreciation that more hours means more sales. From a public health perspective this inevitably means more harm …
    In Britain alcohol has never been controlled for health reasons, so it is likely that the Brewers Society will succeed in their campaign. Therefore, the next decade will be one in which Britons"—
    meaning the English, I presume—
    "consume more alcohol and experience more alcohol-related problems. When this melancholic fact is achieved the alcohol producers will have succeeded in making us more like the French."
    I ask the Minister at least to accept the premise that there may be ill effects of the Bill. I trust that he does not hope to cover them up by failing to look adequately at the statistics. Will he undertake to instruct the Home Office to work with other Ministries to make a careful study of the available statistics as they arise? Will he assure us that, should there be clear evidence of harm resulting from the Bill, he will think again?

    The new clause concerns the vital need to monitor licensing law changes in relation to public health and social well-being. It will require the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Transport to monitor the effects of changes in licensing hours on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in respect of public order, road safety and public health in England and Wales.

    The new clause is entirely constructive. It will in no way damage the main aim and purpose of the Bill or provide any impediment to its full implementation. It merely ensures that adequate information about effects is made available. I hope that the House will consent to it. I remind the House that it consented to an identical clause that was moved on the Report stage of the Licensing Bill which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). That Bill had the Government's approval. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) put her finger on the crucial consideration. In Committee, she observed that almost all debates had been taken up not with differences of political philosophy or moral points of view, but with arguments about matters of fact. Surely few hon. Members would wish to see extended drinking hours if there were no reasonable doubt that the result of such reform would be more deaths and injuries on our roads, more outbreaks of public disorder on our streets, and even more pressure being placed on the Health Service. Equally, few hon. Members would object to extended drinking hours if there were clear evidence that no harm would result.

    Unfortunately, debates on this Bill and on previous Bills — I have taken part in such debates for over 20 years—have been obstructed and prolonged by a lack of basic information. The Scottish experiment has completely failed to produce conclusive evidence on either side of the debate because it was not properly monitored. On Second Reading, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) said:
    "The Clayson committee was concerned to ensure proper monitoring of the effects of changes in Scottish legislation, but that has not happened. I hope that, recognising some of the apprehensions voiced today, the Government will feel that that should now be done in the whole of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it may be a topic for consideration by the interdepartmental committee." —[Official Report, 9 November 1987; Vol. 1427, c. 63.]
    That advice should have been taken. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke in favour of the Bill. He was a member of the Clayson committee. I should have thought that his view had added weight, and I endorse it fully.

    8.45 pm

    In his reply, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that he agreed that it would be necessary to monitor the effects of the Bill and that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys had already undertaken an up-to-date survey of drinking habits in England and Wales to provide data against which any changes could be measured. I have had on more than one occasion to point out to the House that that same monitoring did take place, but that the Government sat on the findings for over a year. I am glad that they have now seen the light, but it is not nearly enough. Many other aspects of the matter need to be examined in depth. If the Scottish experiment is any guide, even the OPCS survey, which the Minister mentioned, may turn out to be of only limited usefulness.

    I have lost count of the number of occasions on which the OPCS survey, "Drinking and Attitudes to Licensing in Scotland", has been cited as providing conclusive proof that extended drinking hours in Scotland have had no adverse affects but, possibly, some beneficial effects. In the view of one neutral reviewer, Dr. Philip Davies, the study
    "provides very little empirical evidence to support those who wish to see a further relaxation in licensing laws on either side of the border."
    I do not think that I am distorting Dr. Davies' views by adding that neither does the Scottish survey provide clear evidence against further liberalisation. That is the precise point that I make. For example, Dr. Davies points out that questions about alcohol problems or the abuse of alcohol were beyond the remit of the survey and that, similarly, questions regarding drinking practices in relation to eating out or other social activities were not asked.

    Therefore, the survey provides no information about whether married couples are drinking together in pubs more frequently now than they were before relaxation, or whether they are using pubs more frequently for eating out or other recreational activities, with or without their children. In other words, the survey provides no information about whether licensing reform in Scotland has encouraged more civilised drinking, as the Clayson committee had hoped. The fact is, however, that those who drank heavily before the Scottish reform now drink more heavily. There is some evidence, therefore, that the reforms are not all what their advocates had claimed.

    Although I am pleased to know that the Government have already laid a small part of the foundations for monitoring licensing law changes south of the border, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will assure the House that the surveys that are planned for England and Wales will be rather less incomplete and superficial than their Scottish counterpart. I hope that he will also accept that, although drinking surveys are important, they are only one part of the picture. We also need detailed studies of the matters that were excluded from the Scottish survey, for example, alcohol abuse.

    The Erroll committee strongly recommended that detailed monitoring of licensing law changes be carried out, and suggested that an interdepartmental working party should be created to direct and supervise the work. That was an excellent suggestion. I spent years advocating something along those lines. The Wakeham committee is now in existence, and I warmly welcome it. If there is one Minister in whose judgment and integrity I have supreme confidence, it is my right hon. Friend the Lord President and Leader of the House. The Government made a wise choice in putting him in charge of the interdepartmental committee.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members might support him if he were to state that he supported one of the other recommendations of the Erroll committee, which was that public houses should be open until midnight?

    I have heard some odd, peculiar and irresponsible suggestions in the years but—

    No Government have ever dared to implement the Erroll committee's recommendations. There is now an attempt to move a little in that direction. So far, no Government have ever done so, because of the known and uncontrolled harm that is done. My hon. Friend must not push me too far, or I shall trot out the case in detail. The Erroll committee was not wholly wrong. It was wise in making that one suggestion. We must not take away that little credit. Indeed, the Government and supporters of further licensing liberalisation should welcome the clause. I gave way to my hon. Friend because I thought that he, for whom I have great respect, was going to say that.

    There is a direct precedent. Following the passage of the Defence of the Realm Act 1916, some provisions of which this Bill seeks to reform, the Central Liquor Control Board was established to monitor its working and effects. If the changes that are brought about by the Bill are monitored in the same meticulous way as the Defence of the Realm Act was monitored by the Central Liquor Control Board, in five years we shall have the facts and experience to make rational decisions about the role that opening hours should play in national policy.

    I stress that between the two wars under that regime this was the most sober country in the civilised world. The deterioration in behaviour with regard to alcohol goes back only 15 or 20 years. During that time we have seen a huge increase in alcohol consumption and a huge increase in harm. That is the lesson that I am trying to put over today. It is a difficult task, but it must be done.

    Once we have proper monitoring, we can formulate policy along the lines confirmed by careful social investigation and no longer be in the present position of having to take steps in the dark. I do not deny that the required monitoring system would be extensive. One of the main distinguishing features of alcohol abuse is that it impinges on almost every aspect of social life. That is precisely why we should be so cautious about extending drinking hours. There is no need for me to describe at length all the various manifestations and consequences of alcohol abuse. However, I am bound to say that as a result of the helpful intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight)—

    He challenged me and I responded.

    I remind the House that the Bill is designed to increase the availability of a substance that is already an important contributory factor to approximately one in five admissions to general medical units. It is responsible for 40 to 50 per cent. of violent crime and approximately one third of divorce petitions and cases of child abuse. It is by far the single main cause of death and injury on our roads. Need I say more? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The truth shall make ye free. There are times when it is necessary to say these things so that hon. Members may understand that their liberalising efforts may have worthy objectives, but they carry a heavy price.

    Alcohol abuse is a problem for all society, not merely for a small minority of unfortunate individuals. I will not claim that it can be proved in advance that the Bill will make matters worse. I cannot say that. I can merely say that there is an obvious danger that it will do so. We are therefore under a considerable obligation to discover what the effects will be. Special social impact surveys will be needed to provide that information. The monitoring process must be regular and consistent, not spasmodic or erratic. It will also be necessary to ascertain regional variations in patterns of alcohol use and abuse. The effects of the Bill may differ from one part of the country to another. It may differ between urban areas and rural areas and it might vary between the north—which has a tradition for hard drinking — and the south. Those differences must be identified and understood.

    While the monitoring process will undoubtedly require considerable activity and expertise, it should not place an impossible burden on the three Departments named in the new clause. Increasingly, data on alcohol-related problems are being gathered, although as I suspect the Wakeham committee has already discovered, the information is far from complete.

    Some district health authorities have already begun to measure the incidence of alcohol-related accidental or non-accidental injuries presented to accident and emergency departments in a given locality according to the hour of day and the day of the week. Health authorities are also already improving their capacity to measure by means such as hospital activity analysis data the number of patients being treated for alcohol-related disease and the financial cost to the taxpayer of such treatment.

    If the Government are undertaking a review of the Health Service, including its costs, organisation and administration, they should consider alcohol abuse very closely. The cost to the nation as a whole is very high. Similarly, it would not be too difficult for the home accident surveillance system to be adapted to identify the contribution of alcohol abuse to home accidents including fires, the importance of which has been recognised in recent publicity.

    I remember the surprise I caused when commending some time ago the practice of one chief constable who listed whether alcohol was related to every charge on his records. That was not then a common practice in the police, but it should have been so that we could understand the total cost of alcohol abuse.

    Equally, there is no reason why social services and probation departments as well as the police should not be able to develop systems for the routine monitoring of caseloads and offences to identify the contribution of alcohol abuse. At the moment, individual pieces of research suggest strongly that alcohol abuse is a significant factor in all those areas, but we need to know much more. The Bill is before the House; why is the opportunity not being taken to include such a provision? I am here to help the Minister to move in the right direction.

    Whatever form the monitoring process takes, the public health and social well-being of the community requires that the results should be made widely available and of course to Parliament. This may or may not be the last occasion when an attempt will be made to change the licensing law, although I cannot believe that another Bill of this scope will be presented to the House in the foreseeable future. The least that we can do now, if we vote the Bill into law, is to ensure that a comprehensive monitoring process is established to bring the facts to light and inform those who have responsibility for public health, public order and public safety. The new clause can be regarded as a threat to licensing reform.

    I rarely intervene in debates, but it is rather cold at this end of the Chamber. I think that the boiler has fused. I am so interested and excited by my right hon. Friend's dissertation. Is he suggesting that all the new regulations should apply to the House of Commons? As temporary landlord of the bars and facilities here, I should be grateful to know, so that I can make appropriate preparation.

    I should not be drawn in that direction, but many of our constituents ask why the bars in the Houses of Parliament are outside the licensing law. If the matter rested with me, they would not be. I understand that this has something to do with the fact that we occupy a royal palace which is not subject to the normal licensing laws. I will not defend that for a moment. However, my hon. Friend, who presides as Chairman over the House of Commons Catering Sub-Committee with such grace, charm and high competence—never has the food here been so good—must address himself to that point. I should not tread any further down that inviting but perhaps rather dangerous road.

    The least that we can do now if we vote the Bill into law is to ensure that a comprehensive monitoring process is established to bring the facts to light and inform those responsible for public health, public order and public services. The new clause can be regarded as a threat to licensing reform only by those who fear the facts. I cannot believe that the House will take such a view and prefer ignorance to knowledge. I therefore commend the new clause to the House.

    I shall speak briefly in support of the new clause. My only interest in the debate is to represent the well-being of my constituents in Wakefield. I never cease to be amazed in such debates to see the number of Conservative Members who directly represent business interests. Tonight, Conservative Members have excelled themselves.

    9 pm

    It worries me that people outside the House assume that hon. Members come here to represent their constituency interests. We know exactly what interests Conservative Members represent in tonight's debate. As the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said, we are debating what is virtually a brewers' charter. The Bill is a brewers' charter. It is in the interests of the brewers and the business people who sit on the Conservative Benches. The Bill is a present from the Conservative Government to those who have loyally supported them in the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "Absolute nonsense."] It is a fact. The right hon. Member for Castle Point virtually conceded that point in his earlier comments. It is amazing that the Government can find legislative time to discuss extending drinking hours but not the real issues that have been touched upon — those relating to the problems of alcohol in our society. Those problems worry me, they worry other hon. Members, and they certainly worry my constituents in Wakefield.

    The problem of drunken driving has been referred to in the debate. Every year there are 100,000 drink-driving convictions, and every year accidents involving drivers who are drunk cost the country £89 million. There is a public clamour for random breath tests. We should be discussing those issues instead of extending drinking hours. We should be discussing family problems, marital violence, marital breakdown and child abuse related to drinking. The Government should be giving the House time to discuss those issues instead of what we are debating tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has referred to the £2 billion that alcohol-related illness costs the National Health Service.

    I should like to say a few words about drink-related crime. It is quite clear that there is a definite connection between offences that occur late at night and the amount of alcohol that people have consumed. I shall not go into great detail on the points that I made in Committee about the concern in my west Yorkshire constituency about drink-related offences which occur late at night, at around the time when pubs and clubs are closing.

    Drink-related crime has reached a crisis point in west Yorkshire, and I suspect in certain other parts of the country. The Minister will recall that I mentioned in Committee the police figures for the Wakefield subdivision of west Yorkshire police. My constituency has the largest percentage of offences for violence against the person in the whole of west Yorkshire. That is because there is more drinking in Wakefield than elsewhere in west Yorkshire. It is accepted that we have more late-night licences. People come from as far away as London on trips to Wakefield, which is deemed to be a drinking town. It is not my constituents who are the drinkers. The problem is that people come from outside to my constituency. They come in busloads. Football supporters use my constituency for late-night drinking.

    The huge crime figures, which have increased recently within the Wakefield sub-division, clearly correlate with closing time. The police say that around closing time in Wakefield city centre — Wakefield is small, with a population of less than 60,000 people — as many as 6,000 people can be milling around in various stages of intoxication. That is the cause of problems in Wakefield. Shortly before Christmas, 37 people were arrested for drink-related offences in Wakefield city centre in one night. The local police station had great difficulty in accommodating them.

    We need to have encompassed in the legislation a review of what exactly is happening as a result of drinking. The local authorities in the Wakefield area are blamed for that problem. We are told — this point was made in Committee—that local authorities can block those late-night licences through their entertainment licensing powers. I made the point in Committee that the authorities in Wakefield attempted to do that, but time after time on appeal they have lost and had costs awarded against them in their efforts to defend the interests of my constituents. The local people are desperate for action, but it will not come from this legislation.

    Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the new restriction orders, which are an intrinsic part of the Bill, address directly the problem of which he has just spoken?

    I accept that, but I am concerned about entertainment licences. That problem is not dealt with in the Bill, despite the fact that I raised it several times in Committee. The only way to deal with it is to follow the provisions of new clause 5 and hope that subsequently the Government will realise the extent of the problem in many parts of the country because of drink-related crime. The Government are totally oblivious to this worrying problem.

    I want to make three points, to which I hope the Minister will respond. It is vital that the Government examine the evidence from the police in areas such as west Yorkshire about drink-related offences. They will get a message contrary to what they are providing for in the Bill. The problem, which will be evident from the figures provided by the police, should have been tackled in the Bill.

    The Government should also take action to curb the increasing problem of late-night establishments which charge inflated admission prices of £4 or £5 and then sell beer or lager at 10p a pint. That is a financial incentive to people to get blind drunk. I accept that the Government do not want to get involved in market forces, but this practice encourages people to get drunk and commit crimes. Local authorities should be given real powers to block late-night entertainment licences and to tackle the problems of late-night drinking in areas such as Wakefield.

    The Goverment are unbelievably complacent about the real problems referred to by the right hon. Member for Castle Point and by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie). The provision for monitoring is essential. It is crucial to ensure that people's real concerns about alcohol are tackled by Parliament.

    Monitoring would have limited value. I intervene only to answer the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie). While we all accept that alcohol abuse leads to severe illness and death and to big social problems, restrictionism does not always equate with sobriety.

    Last week I was talking to a leading Swedish politician whom I know well. He told me that in his country alcohol is extremely expensive and that there are many restrictions. Has that caused a lowering of alcohol consumption? It has not. Alcoholism is on the increase in Scandinavia, and particularly in Sweden. It has reached the stage where large numbers of people, including families, have their own stills to make alcohol. That is against the law, but the Government, presumably abandoning the monitoring that they had undertaken, have turned a blind eye to what is happening. They do not prosecute the individual; they prosecute only when a person gets ambitious and starts selling the product.

    I am not suggesting that we will get to that position. Indeed, the liberal and far-sighted approach of the Government in this excellent Bill will assist us in being sensible about the problem. Time and again one hears from the critics a tale of woe and disaster. The one way of countering the problem is to stop drinking altogether or to restricti it severely. In some parts of the world restricton has been attempted but has not worked.

    I should like to respond to the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith). All the figures that I have seen, both national and international, suggest that there is a correlation between availability and consumption and between price and consumption. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that it is important that the facts be established. I do, and that is why I support new clause 5.

    I hope that everybody agrees that we need an informed debate on this vital issue. There must be greater public knowledge about it. We need legislation which is not a stab in the dark but based on the best available knowledge of what the effects of that legislation are likely to be. I hope that the Government will monitor those effects and will publish their findings. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington can feed in his own considerations, and we can all come to reasonable conclusions on the basis of knowledge rather than our respective presuppositions.

    We also need enforcement and action. Our fear is that the Government may not want too much knowledge as they might be forced, as a result of public opinion, to take some action which they found distasteful. The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) observed that if the Government want to save money on the National Health Service, they should address themselves to the enormous financial burden on that service caused by alcohol abuse. That burden can be increased or decreased by Government policy on alcohol.

    We need monitoring, as it is quite clear from what the Minister and the Secretary of State have said that the Government take a dynamic view of the liberalisation of the licensing laws. This is only the start. The Secretary of State said on Second Reading that he would go much further. There is a dichotomy between his restrictionism with regard to refugees and immigration and his liberalism concerning the licensing laws. He favours more liberalisation for Sundays and, given half a chance, the Government would add to the liberalisation represented by the Bill. The Government are approaching the matter on an incremental basis. They will go step by step towards, possibly, total deregulation. It is therefore all the more important that we should know what the consequences of such action might be before it is taken.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) said that the Welsh Office is mentioned in an amendment which we are to consider later. I shall not bore the House with the arguments that I made in Committee, but there is indeed a Welsh dimension. The scale of the problem is much greater in Wales, so I hope that the Welsh Office will take a role in the issue.

    If the Government do not want to know the facts, they will continue to stumble along in the dark. It seems that they are unprepared to research the effects of the changes. Perhaps the findings of such research would be unwelcome to them.

    9.15 pm

    I do not commend the new clause to the House. My reasons are both broad and narrow, and I shall deal with the latter first. This House should not impose statutory obligations that are incapable of enforcement. The new clause seeks to do just that, because, although it specifies objectives, it does not specify means. Nor does it say what has to be done to comply with a statutory obligation. On those narrow grounds alone, the new clause is defective.

    Secondly and broadly, the problem is not lack of information—there is plenty of information—but lack of interpretation of the information. We can have all the information that we like, but I strongly suspect that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), with all the eloquence for which he is noted, would argue for a different conclusion to be drawn from that information from that which I would draw.

    Government Departments such as the Home Office, the Department of Transport and the DHSS accumulate a vast body of information relating to the problems of drink, their consequences and their characteristics. In places like this, we are concerned not with lack of knowledge but with the interpretation to be placed on it. That being so, although I greatly admired my right hon. Friend's speech, I cannot commend his new clause to the House.

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

    The House divided: Ayes 69, Noes 270.

    Division No. 166]

    [9.16 pm

    AYES

    Allen, GrahamMcCartney, Ian
    Alton, DavidMcCrea, Rev William
    Anderson, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)McNamara, Kevin
    Barron, KevinMahon, Mrs Alice
    Beggs, RoyMarshall, David (Shettleston)
    Beith, A. J.Maxton, John
    Bermingham, GeraldMichael, Alun
    Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
    Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Morgan, Rhodri
    Campbell-Savours, D. N.Murphy, Paul
    Cryer, BobPaisley, Rev Ian
    Cummings, J.Parry, Robert
    Cunliffe, LawrencePatchett, Terry
    Dalyell, TamPike, Peter
    Dixon, DonPrimarolo, Ms Dawn
    Doran, FrankRichardson, Ms Jo
    Douglas, DickRobertson, George
    Duffy, A. E. P.Ross, William (Londonderry E)
    Faulds, AndrewShort, Clare
    Fearn, RonaldSkinner, Dennis
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
    Flynn, PaulSpearing, Nigel
    Foster, DerekSteel, Rt Hon David
    Golding, Mrs LlinTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
    Hardy, PeterTurner, Dennis
    Haynes, FrankWallace, James
    Heffer, Eric S.Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
    Hinchliffe, DavidWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
    Howells, GeraintWise, Mrs Audrey
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
    Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineTellers for the Ayes:
    Kilfedder, JamesDr. Lewis Moonie and
    Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)Mr. Eric Illsley.
    Livingstone, Ken

    NOES

    Aitken, JonathanBonsor, Sir Nicholas
    Alexander, RichardBoswell, Tim
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBottomley, Mrs Virginia
    Allason, RupertBowis, John
    Amess, DavidBoyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
    Arbuthnot, JamesBrandon-Bravo, Martin
    Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Brazier, Julian
    Aspinwall, JackBright, Graham
    Atkins, RobertBrowne, John (Winchester)
    Atkinson, DavidBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
    Baldry, TonyBuck, Sir Antony
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBurns, Simon
    Bendall, VivianBurt, Alistair
    Benyon, W.Butler, Chris
    Bevan, David GilroyButterfill, John
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterCarrington, Matthew

    Cash, WilliamHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
    Channon, Rt Hon PaulHunt, David (Wirral W)
    Chapman, SydneyHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
    Chope, ChristopherHunter, Andrew
    Churchill, MrHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Irvine, Michael
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Irving, Charles
    Colvin, MichaelJack, Michael
    Conway, DerekJanman, Timothy
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Jessel, Toby
    Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
    Cope, JohnJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
    Cormack, PatrickJones, Robert B (Herts W)
    Couchman, JamesKey, Robert
    Cran, JamesKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
    Crowther, StanKirkhope, Timothy
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaKnapman, Roger
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Knight, Greg (Derby North)
    Day, StephenKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
    Devlin, TimKnowles, Michael
    Dorrell, StephenKnox, David
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLamont, Rt Hon Norman
    Dover, DenLang, Ian
    Dunn, BobLatham, Michael
    Emery, Sir PeterLawrence, Ivan
    Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Lee, John (Pendle)
    Evennett, DavidLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
    Fairbairn, NicholasLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
    Farr, Sir JohnLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
    Favell, TonyLightbown, David
    Fenner, Dame PeggyLord, Michael
    Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Luce, Rt Hon Richard
    Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyMacfarlane, Sir Neil
    Fookes, Miss JanetMacGregor, John
    Forman, NigelMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
    Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Maclean, David
    Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMcLoughlin, Patrick
    Fox, Sir MarcusMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
    Franks, CecilMadel, David
    Freeman, RogerMalins, Humfrey
    French, DouglasMans, Keith
    Gale, RogerMaples, John
    Gill, ChristopherMarland, Paul
    Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMarshall, John (Hendon S)
    Glyn, Dr AlanMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
    Goodlad, AlastairMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Gorman, Mrs TeresaMeyer, Sir Anthony
    Gorst, JohnMills, Iain
    Gow, IanMonro, Sir Hector
    Gower, Sir RaymondMontgomery, Sir Fergus
    Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Moore, Rt Hon John
    Greenway, John (Rydale)Morrison, Hon Sir Charles
    Gregory, ConalMorrison, Hon P (Chester)
    Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Moss, Malcolm
    Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Nelson, Anthony
    Grist, IanNeubert, Michael
    Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynNewton, Rt Hon Tony
    Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Nicholls, Patrick
    Hampson, Dr KeithNicholson, David (Taunton)
    Hanley, JeremyNicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
    Hannam, JohnPage, Richard
    Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Paice, James
    Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Patten, Chris (Bath)
    Harris, DavidPatten, John (Oxford W)
    Haselhurst, AlanPawsey, James
    Hayes, JerryPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
    Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyPorter, David (Waveney)
    Hayward, RobertPowell, William (Corby)
    Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPrice, Sir David
    Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelRaffan, Keith
    Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Rathbone, Tim
    Hill, JamesRedwood, John
    Hind, KennethRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Riddick, Graham
    Holt, RichardRidsdale, Sir Julian
    Howard, MichaelRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
    Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Roe, Mrs Marion
    Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Rossi, Sir Hugh

    Rost, PeterThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
    Rowe, AndrewThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Rumbold, Mrs AngelaThorne, Neil
    Ryder, RichardThornton, Malcolm
    Sackville, Hon TomTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Sayeed, JonathanTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
    Shaw, David (Dover)Tracey, Richard
    Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Tredinnick, David
    Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Trippier, David
    Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Twinn, Dr Ian
    Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
    Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Viggers, Peter
    Shersby, MichaelWaddington, Rt Hon David
    Skeet, Sir TrevorWakeham, Rt Hon John
    Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Walden, George
    Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
    Speed, KeithWaller, Gary
    Speller, TonyWard, John
    Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
    Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Warren, Kenneth
    Squire, RobinWatts, John
    Stanbrook, IvorWells, Bowen
    Stanley, Rt Hon JohnWheeler, John
    Steen, AnthonyWhitney, Ray
    Stern, MichaelWiddecombe, Miss Ann
    Stevens, LewisWilkinson, John
    Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Wilshire, David
    Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)Winterton, Mrs Ann
    Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)Winterton, Nicholas
    Stokes, JohnWolfson, Mark
    Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWood, Timothy
    Sumberg, DavidWoodcock, Mike
    Summerson, HugoYeo, Tim
    Tapsell, Sir PeterYoung, Sir George (Acton)
    Taylor, Ian (Esher)
    Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)Tellers for the Noes:
    Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Mr. Robert Boscawen and
    Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanMr. Peter Lloyd.
    Temple-Morris, Peter

    Question accordingly negatived.

    New Clause 8

    Garage Sales

    After section ((3) of the principal Act, there shall he inserted the following subsection—

    "(3A) premises which in whole or in part are engaged in the retailing of petrol or dery to motorists or other users of motor vehicles shall be disqualified for receiving a justices' off-licence.".—[Sir Bernard Braine.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    9.30 pm

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

    The purpose of the new clause is to prohibit the granting of off-licences to petrol stations and garages. The arguments in favour of the clause are simple, obvious and self-evident: alcohol and driving are plainly mismatched.

    I have been unable to obtain up-to-date information about the number of off-licences granted to garages and petrol stations, but I understand that the number is not large—probably less than 100. Indeed, I understand that licensing committees are more likely to refuse than to grant such a licence. However, the fact that applications are being made is a cause for concern. The purpose of the clause is to ensure consistency of practice by giving licensing committees clear directives, which I believe the vast majority would greatly welcome. Some directives would also be particularly welcome to the licensing justices in the vast majority of areas which have, quite rightly, held out against the granting of such licences.

    The police would also welcome the clause. Indeed, it was prompted by a letter to me from the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, which stated that, at the last executive committee meeting of the association in December, a motion was put forward by districts and subsequently adopted as official policy of the association, seeking the abolition of a loophole in the liquor licensing law created by section 4 of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979. That section allows liquor to be sold in bulk as a wholesale transaction without the need for any particular form of licensing control of the premises concerned.

    The letter stated:
    "In this respect many garage forecourts are supplying bulk amounts of alcohol to motorists and general shoppers, which the Association feels is in direct conflict with the duty of the police to reduce drinking and driving, apart from any other reasons to tighten up control over this kind of outlet."
    The House will be aware that police superintendents are senior field officers and their view should not be taken lightly.

    Would my right hon. Friend care to explain the problem that might be encountered at hypermarkets, where the sale of petrol is undertaken on the same premises where food and alcoholic drinks are also for sale?

    At this late hour I am not prepared to go into detail. All I will say is that the principle enshrined in my clause should commend itself to all hon. Members. However, I am not prepared to be diverted.

    I will not give way because Mr. Speaker clearly wants the business to move on.

    The arguments in favour of the clause are straightforward. First, given the large number of outlets for alcohol that now exist, it can hardly be claimed that sales from petrol stations are necessary for the convenience of the customer. Secondly, sales from petrol stations are totally and inherently inconsistent with the whole aim, purpose and direction of national policy against drinking and driving.

    I am not in a position to claim that alcohol sales from petrol stations have led directly to drink-drive accidents because if that were the case it would not be apparent from the official statistics. However, the fact is that alcohol sales from petrol stations give entirely the wrong message. The whole purpose of the Department of Transport's campaign is rightly to dissociate drinking from driving and driving from drinking. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) understands that.

    The codes of advertising practice—albeit voluntary—prohibit the association of drinking with driving in advertisements. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how an actual physical association between the two activities can be justified. Motorway service areas are, of course, already prohibited from selling alcohol.

    It may be argued that my new clause is unwarranted because there is no essential difference between driving off having stacked up the boot of one's care with alcohol bought at a local supermarket and doing the same thing with alcohol bought at the petrol station. I submit, however, that there is a fundamental distinction between the two cases. The function of legislation is not merely to affect behaviour in an immediate direct sense; in a democratic society such as ours, legislation also has an educational function. It is an important way in which our society makes a statement to the effect that some way of behaviour is unacceptable.

    Granting licences to petrol stations makes exactly the opposite statement to the one we wish to make. By definition, the essential aim and purpose of petrol stations, unlike supermarkets, is to serve motorists. The idea of serving motorists with alcohol is anathema to everything that the Department of Transport is trying to accomplish through its campaigns and publicity.

    The passage of the new clause will cause little, if any, significant inconvenience to the public and, indeed, strengthening the arm of the licensing benches to refuse inappropriate applications for licences from premises, the primary purpose of which is to serve drivers, would meet with the approval of the great majority of the public and those responsible for safety on our roads. I commend the new clause to the House.

    Many of the considerations that apply to motorway service stations also apply to the new clause. The particular problem of hypermarkets could be solved by the words "primary purpose" or "ancillary to" if there were an appropriate qualification. I hope that at least the principle of the new clause commends itself to the Minister.

    The House would like to express its thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and to the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) for the brief, clear way in which they have advanced the argument. There are three reasons why I cannot commend the new clause to the House.

    First, the general powers which enable justices to refuse licences are sufficient. That probably explains why there are only about 150 garages with off-licence facilities.

    The second reason relates to the problem of hypermarkets. Hon. Members will know of the increasing tendency for out-of-town supermarkets and hypermarkets to sell both alcohol and petrol. One cannot honestly say that that was mistaken. If we follow the route of the hon. Member for Swansea, East, we shall reach every kind of complexity.

    Thirdly, in some—not many—small rural areas local stores sell groceries, alcohol and petrol. They serve a local need and it would be wrong to stop them. For those reasons, I cannot commend the new clause.

    Question put and negatived.

    New Clause 10

    Delegated Power Of Licensing Justices

    'In section 6 of the principal Act (provisional grant of new licence or removal), in subsection (4), after the word "justices" there shall be inserted the words
    "or a single licensing justice with delegated powers authorised under Schedule 1 Part I Paragraph 7 to this Act.".'.—[Mr. Waller.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this it will be convenient to take new clause 11—Adjudication of application by single licensing justice

    'The following paragraph shall be inserted after paragraph 6 of Schedule I Part I to the principal Act—
    "7. In the case of an application under section 6(4) above licensing justices may adjourn the hearing of such an application and delegate its adjudication to a single member of the licensing committee.".'

    Like the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), who came to the Chamber, made his diatribe against Conservative Members and departed, I speak for my constituents and I am concerned on their behalf alone.

    The existing law on the issue of licences is inconvenient not only for many new supermarkets and premises but for the public. Retailers who are opening new stores face a particular problem with section 6(4) of the principal Act, in that licencing justices can have a provisional grant of a justices' off-licence declared final at a transfer session only when such premises are completed in accordance with plans deposited. That leads to difficulties, as such sessions may often be held only five times a year. The likelihood of a new store being completed in accordance with the deposited plans on one such day during the year is rather remote.

    Consequently, a company opening premises on the day after a transfer session may face the prospect of not being able to sell liquor for a considerable period—perhaps as long as 10 weeks. It is difficult to see that any public good is achieved thereby. For example, when the Gateway store in Lavender Hill opened, it faced a delay of three weeks before it could sell liquor. In other cases, the opening of a store has been delayed because it did not coincide with the transfer sessions. Although the Bill contains a provision to change the number of licensing sessions to be held, the minimum number of such sessions will remain unchanged. The Bill does little, therefore, to improve the situation.

    New clauses 10 and 11 seek to enable the applicant who applies for a final order under section 6(4) of the 1964 Act to apply for the matter to be heard upon the date on which the premises are declared to be completed. A store would already have been granted a fire certificate by the local authority. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say that he sympathises with and will consider ways of taking on board this point.

    The proposal would delegate power to one licensing justice to hear the application, rather than inconvenience, the bench and require the minimum of three justices, as are required to attend a licence transfer session. I do not foresee that any disadvantages will flow from this proposal and I hope that the Minister will accept it.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) has asked me to say two things: first, that I sympathise with the point; and, secondly, that I shall consider ways of taking it on board. I shall do both of those things.

    In view of that response, which, albeit brief, I take to be sympathetic, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 1

    Modification Of Permitted Hours

    I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 11, at end insert—

    '(2) In section 60(1)(b) of the principal Act (permitted hours in licensed premises on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday) for the word "five" there shall be substituted the word "three" and for the words "beginning at two in the afternoon" shall be substituted "between two and seven in the afternoon.".'.

    With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 11, at end insert—

    '(2) In section 60(1)(b) of the principal Act (permitted hours in licensed premises on Sundays, Christmas Day, and Good Friday) the words "with a break of five hours beginning at two in the afternoon" shall be omitted.'.

    We might describe one of these amendments as frivolous and the other as eminently sensible. Both relate to the permitted hours issue on Sundays. Amendment No. 4 is rather impractical, at least in political terms, as it attempts to treat Sundays like other days of the week by abolishing the need for licensees to close during the afternoon. In the light of the Shops Bill, I do not think that the House is ready for such a change. I am sure that the time will come for such proposals, so for the moment I shall not seek to press amendment No. 4.

    Perhaps it would be advisable to remind the House of the licensing law on Sundays, Christmas day and Good Friday. The permitted hours are from 12 noon to 10.30 pm, with a break of five hours beginning at 2 pm. Pubs are therefore closed between 2 pm and 7 pm, a total of five hours. My proposal would limit the closing to three hours only, leaving it to the publican to decide during which of the three hours between 2 pm and 7 pm he would close.

    I realise that I am on extremely dangerous ground, as I have dared to touch on the issue of Sunday trading. This is only a modest inching forward on this issue; it is not even a step forward, but it is a modest move in the right direction towards what we might describe as "sense on Sunday". I am mindful of the ignominious fate of the Government's Shops Bill, defeated in the House by an unholy alliance of the official Opposition, the trade union movement and a number of Back Benchers, no doubt with marginal seats, who demonstrated the truism that a politician's mind is conditioned by the state of his seat.

    That is a monstrous, disgraceful and utterly untrue statement. I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw it.

    With respect to my hon. Friend, I shall withdraw it. If I have touched on any sensitivities, I withdraw that statement unreservedly.

    Would my hon. Friend also withdraw it in respect of myself? Over the years, I have been consistent on this subject. It has not affected the vote in my constituency, which, I am happy to say, has increased at every election.

    If it needed to be shown that Sunday trading is a sensitive issue, I have done so. I unreservedly apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine).

    Amendment No. 2 also questions the Government's commitment to reforming the laws on Sunday trading. They should be a little more courageous than they have been in this Bill.

    9.45 pm

    I draw the House's attention to a commitment in the Conservative party manifesto of the last general election. The relevant paragraph appears immediately before the commitment to reforming the licensing laws. It reads:
    "We will, therefore, look for an acceptable way forward to bring sense and consistency to the law on Sunday trading."
    In that regard, I suggest that amendment No. 2 would be a sensible first step.

    Earlier my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said that public houses in Britain are changing very fast. Many public houses now offer meals. To cope with the provision of meals, a measure of flexibility in Sunday opening hours would merit serious consideration.

    What I am proposing would ensure that Sundays were still treated specially. One cannot change that by law. I do not believe, as do my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that the amendment would jeopardise the Bill. On Second Reading, they were questioned about their attitudes on changing the Sunday trading law. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) to say whether he would agree to changing the law on Sunday hours. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) asked:
    "Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would vote against an attempt to extend the Bill to Sundays?"
    The Secretary of State said:
    "I am not. I am simply stating facts."—[Official Report, 9 November 1987; Vol. 122, c. 41.]
    When pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellet-Bowman), he was still a little ambivalent. There is much support, not only on the Conservative Benches but in the Government, for a change in the law on permitted hours on Sundays. I have heard no good arguments advanced for preserving the status quo. No doubt hon. Members who feel strongly on the subject will make their views known.

    We must accept that the social scene in the United Kingdom is changing very fast. In keeping with the efforts that are being made to encourage tourism, particularly in rural areas, licensees should be given an opportunity to respond to the demands of their customers.

    Essentially, we are talking about an element of choice, and choice is an important Conservative principle. At present, public houses open at midday and have to close at 2 pm. Two hours is not long to eat a lunch on Sundays. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State looks very much like a port and pheasant man. He has already admitted in another debate that he is a shooting man. I am sure that, when he has finished his lunch on Sunday, he will not be able to enjoy his glass of port before being driven home by his wife, who has been drinking Perrier water, because there will not be time to do so. That is ridiculous.

    If we accept, as I believe we have, the arguments in favour of a change in the so-called permitted hours from Mondays to Saturdays, surely it is inconsistent and illogical not to reform the hours on Sundays, Good Fridays, and Christmases as well.

    I am sorry that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) is not here to move this amendment. He has taken part in previous licensing reform debates and was present during the lobby of Parliament last December. He told some 400 assembled licensees in the Great Hall that he favoured a change in the licensing law operating on Sundays. A number of Opposition Members favour a change in the law on Sundays with regard to licensing, although they do not favour a change generally with regard to retail trading.

    This is not what is described a probing amendment. It is essentially a prodding amendment to persuade the Government to think again. We shall listen carefully to my hon. Friend the Minister.

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who has moved the amendment in a moderate way. Three headings need to be taken into account. First, I do not think that there is any hon. Member who does not believe that this change will eventually come about. I emphasise the fact that this is a modest move, which paves the way for future change. If the change is not made now, and the amendment is not accepted—I do not expect that it will be—surely it will come within the next decade.

    Secondly, the present Sunday opening hours are not understood by foreign tourists. They find all our licensing laws puzzling, and Sunday hours are especially puzzling. As my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside said, many modern public houses serve food. Many foreign tourists eat in public houses and it becomes something of a liability if the bell is rung at 2 o'clock.

    Thirdly, I submit that a limited change is sensible and would not cause any more disturbance than now occurs on Sundays. I support the movement to keep Sunday special, with only limited shop opening. I abstained in the vote after the Sunday trading debate. I am certainly not a free-for-all man in respect of Sundays. In speeding this legislation on its way, we should take account of the position on Sundays and provide for a modest increase in hours.

    I oppose the amendment, which is clearly against the public interest and which, moreover, runs counter to many of the assurances given with regard to the modest scope and purposes of the Bill.

    I wish to be fair to the Government. I voted against the Bill on Second Reading because, with the Wakeham committee having just been established—a development which I warmly welcomed—I did not believe that this was the appropriate time to meddle with the licensing laws and because the Bill did not at that time include any safeguards in relation to the problem of under-age drinking.

    I am glad to concede that the Government have taken important steps towards the inclusion of additional safeguards. Whether I vote against the Bill on Third Reading depends on the outcome of the drink industry's attempts to obtain longer opening hours. I shall await what my hon. Friend says about that with the greatest of interest.

    I am pleased that so far, during Second Reading and in Committee, the Government have honoured the assurances that they gave the House about Sunday opening. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will continue to resist pressure from the drink industry with the utmost vigour.

    Would it help my right hon. Friend to know that we have no intention of departing from the assurances that we have already given?

    I did not think for one moment that my hon. Friend would depart from his assurances, but it is necessary to make a stand in these matters so that there should be no misunderstanding. Some of the speeches in the debate have shown a considerable misunderstanding of the position. For that reason, I am entitled to give my reasons why the House should reject the proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin).

    I have already mentioned my first reason, which is that to accept the amendment would renege on repeated assurances that the Bill would exclude Sundays. The Government's consultative document stated that they would be excluded, as they were, and the Bill completed its Committee stage unaltered in that respect. No doubt there would have been more opposition to the Bill in Committee if Sundays had been included.

    The second reason is that there is no evidence that the majority of the public want extended drinking hours on Sundays. Indeed, the evidence from opinion polls strongly suggests that a large majority of the population opposes such a change. In view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside has said, it is necessary for me to say something. The MORI poll in November 1987 found that only 29 per cent. of the population agreed with longer pub opening hours on Sundays, while 59 per cent. were opposed. Thus, to accept the amendment would he not merely to renege on previous assurances but to do so knowing that we were flying in the face of public opinion.

    The third reason for opposing the amendment has to do with the additional harm that would be created by extending drinking hours. In the first place, there is the matter of prolonged annoyance and aggravation to local residents. For many people, Sunday afternoon is the only time in the week when they can enjoy rest and relaxation with their families at home, free from the noise and disturbance that characterise the rest of the week.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith) said, Sunday is regarded by many people as a special day. The amendment, if carried, would be likely to spoil that specialness for a great many people. I do not represent and have never represented the views of Sabbatarians but a vast number of our people who do not go to church or have religious views about Sunday want to keep one day in the week when they can enjoy peace and quiet. Those living in the immediate vicinity of a pub would he especially likely to experience additional annoyance, but the problem would by no means he restricted to them.

    Many of us are anxious about the likely effects of the Bill in increasing outbreaks of public disorder during the week, which is why I have tabled an amendment to improve the safeguards. But the disorders are most likely to occur at weekends, the time of the week when most alcohol is consumed. We await with some trepidation what will happen in our streets and town centres on Saturdays once the Bill is in force. The prospect of the peak drinking period being extended to include Sundays would certainly cause considerable alarm to the staff of the accident and emergency departments of hospitals and to the police, who will have to cope with the consequences.

    I quote a brief extract from the Yorkshire Post on 21 September last year. It shows what I have in mind. The heading is:
    "A wet Friday night out"
    It states:
    "A scream of obscenities was followed by a thud as a drunken youth pushed another up against a hot-dog stall, raining blows on his face … as we passed McDonalds restaurant to see (another) youth, face covered in blood, being comforted by his friends … Across the road, a line of young drunks urinated in a shop doorway in full view of a crowd of young girls … It was a wet Friday night in Leeds as the city centre pubs disgorged their customers, many of them below the legal drinking age."

    My right hon. Friend has read a graphic account of trouble outside a public house on a wet Friday night. I understand that the amendments concern Sunday hours, not wet Friday nights.

    It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

    Business Of The House

    Ordered,

    That, at this day's sitting, the Licensing Bill and the Welsh Development Agency Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Neubert.]

    Licensing Bill

    Bill, as amended, (in the Standing Committee), again considered.

    Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

    My hon. Friend's intervention was a waste of time. He should have listened a little longer. He is prolonging what I have to say. The problem in Leeds is to be found in many towns and cities.

    Not yet, but certainly on other days. I have given evidence of that over and over again. My hon. Friend's ears are closed to the subject.

    The report stated:
    "It was a wet Friday night in Leeds as the city centre pubs had disgorged their customers, many of them below the legal drinking age."
    The House will he well advised to note what happens on Saturday afternoons and bank holidays after the Bill is put into operation before making any further extension of hours to those proposed by the Government and undermining traditional family quiet days such as Christmas day and Good Friday. Moreover, the amendments are likely to have a particularly marked effect on problems caused by alcohol abuse.

    In Committee, the Minister conceded that a relaxation of the Sunday law would probably lead to an increase in consumption. That is a frank admission from the Government. It has been stated over and over again, the world over, that increases in consumption are accompanied by increases in social and physical harm. The Minister also argued against allowing airports to have extended licensing hours on Sundays, on the ground that to do so would be likely to give rise to an increase in drunken driving. There is good evidence to show that the Minister was right on both counts.

    Dr. D. Smith of the Western Australia Alcohol and Drug Authority has shown that, following the introduction of Sunday alcohol sales in Perth, there was a 63·8 per cent. increase in the number of persons killed on Sundays in comparison to the other six days of the week. Similarly, in Brisbane, following the introduction of two two-hour drinking sessions on Sundays, road casualties increased by 130 per cent. If my hon. Friend would like me to tell him what is happening in other countries, I am ready to do so.

    The introduction of a 10-hour Sunday hotel session in New South Wales was followed by a 22 per cent. increase in fatal road traffic accidents. The House already knows that the peak time for alcohol-related road accidents occurs when pubs are turning out, and especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

    In introducing the Bill, the Government have taken no counter-measures to prevent such harm from increasing. It would be utter folly for the House to pass my hon. Friend's amendment without also strengthening the law against drinking and driving.

    If libertarians want a person to be free to drink when and where he likes, and if the drink industry wants the opportunity to sell alcohol at any time during the day, they would make a better case if, at the same time, they were prepared to see the Department of Transport's "Don't drink and drive" policy better enforced by introducing random breath testing, increasing the penalties for such offences, and lowering the legal limit. Until such action is taken, removing the existing safeguards on alcohol consumption without replacing them with other measures is tantamount to aiding and abetting the killing and maiming of more people on our roads.

    The amendment is trade-inspired. It promotes a drinking day rather than a family day. It is more likely to promote "one for the road" than "none for the road." By maintaining the present Sunday licensing law, there is a greater likelihood that pubs will open and sell tea and coffee—as was recommended by many hon. Members—and attractive alcohol-free drinks which all the family can enjoy, including the driver.

    How can a licensee start selling tea at 7 pm on a Sunday afternoon? If the Government accepted my amendment, the publican would have the flexibility to close at 2 pm and open at 5 pm. That is a far more practical proposition, and the publican could do what he wanted.

    How naive can my hon. Friend get? The whole object of the amendment—never mind where it comes from—is to increase the sale of alcohol. The House is not composed of fools. We know the purpose of the amendment,. Perhaps some people believe there is no great danger in the amendment, but many of us believe there is.

    By maintaining the present Sunday licensing laws there is a better chance of getting public houses to open and sell tea, coffee and attractive alcohol-free drinks which all the family can enjoy. We should encourage rather than obstruct such a change in our drinking habits. I hope that the House will reject the amendment decisively.

    I will be brief, but I want to say a few words because these are important matters. The cost of alcohol-induced accidents and alcohol-induced disease is a major problem. If we did not have to look after people suffering from an excess of alcohol, our National Health Service would not be in crisis. There would be a surplus of beds because so many of them at present are occupied by people with alcohol-induced difficulties and diseases.

    I want to speak out clearly against the amendment. The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said earlier that these amendments were trade-inspired. I am beginning to wonder whether Agnes Maude Royden's aphorism, that
    "The Church should no longer be satisfied to represent the Conservative party at prayer"
    is any longer true. It looks as if the Tory party is more concerned about praying to the brewers than being part of the Church of England.

    Although I would not argue that Sunday should be closed or isolated from many human activities, some of which employ people, we must decide whether we are trying to preserve Sunday as a reasonably quiet day with some people having to work to provide services, such as the supply of electricity, staffing hospitals and running the railways and other public services. We accept that that is part of Sunday. We must also make a judgment not to extend the law to erode Sunday so that the precious nature of Sunday is removed for many people. That precious nature may stem from a religious preference, and, although I do not particularly share that, I honour and respect those people who wish to make a decision in that direction.

    People may want to maintain Sunday as an emphatically family day. We must be careful not to allow Sunday to be eroded gradually by watering down legislative safeguards that have not been properly examined. As the right hon. Member for Castle Point said, a committee is examining the procedure. I regret the fact that the committee did not report to the House before the legislation was introduced.

    We must consider another aspect of this matter—the workers. Wherever Sunday working is introduced, there should be safeguards for workers. There should be a conscience clause that people can exercise so that employers cannot force them to work on Sundays against their will. People may argue that that does not apply in some industries at the moment, and that is probably true. I regard that with considerable regret because employers can pressure people into working when they want to keep Sunday free.

    Even when there is a conscience clause, it is often honoured more in its breach than its observance. It is difficult for people who are faced with the possibility of dismissal — not because they would not work on Sundays, but because an employer would choose another reason to dismiss someone who was not prepared to cooperate and work on Sundays.

    That was the argument against the extension of Sunday trading. I do not think that that argument was properly made. The amendments contain no protection for workers. There is no protection in the parent legislation. I should have thought that if hon. Members were really concerned about the rights of those who differ from the movers of the amendments, they would include in their proposals safeguards so that people are not coerced into working on a Sunday if they do not wish to do so.

    Lastly, representations have been made to me by members of the St. John the Evangelist parish church at Great Horton. They sent me a petition, containing more than 400 signatures, expressing opposition to the Bill. I share that opposition. The vicar, Canon H. M. Wigley, asked me specifically to oppose the legislation. That is why I am taking the opportunity to speak out against proposals for the incursion of yet more pub opening hours on a Sunday.

    I do not like the Bill, but I certainly dislike those aspects which, as the right hon. Member for Castle Point put it so aptly, are trade-inspired. I do not like trade-inspired amendments, because we are making a judgment. My judgment is that the two amendments will not add to the sum of human happiness or pleasure. They will cause more pain than pleasure. They will cause more discomfort and more disagreeable intrusions into a day which, when we examine the circumstances, we should try to keep as free as possible from difficulties for people who wish to take pleasure in a simple family day.

    For reasons similar to those expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), I oppose the amendment. It is unfortunate that it was introduced at this late stage. It should have been considered on Second Reading, not on Report.

    Nevertheless, I respectfully submit that, even today, the comparative peace of Sunday is invaluable to people, whether or not they are churchgoers. That peace can easily be eroded, and we would then regret its departure. It has become part of the life of this country; and it is difficult to envisage a seven-day working week, which is what we are in danger of achieving.

    There have been many attempts to erode the difference of Sunday. Fortunately, the Shops Bill 1986 was defeated, but it would have been an invitation for the wholesale secularisation of Sunday, and the creation of a good deal of traffic, disorder and destruction of the environment, all of which would be undesirable.

    In the eyes of its sponsors this is a modest change. Unfortunately, it is a move in the wrong direction. They are all incursions into the kind of Sunday that we have known, and in the long term they are cumulatively injurious to the environment. I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) that people who are under pressure to work on Sunday should have some protection. There was no such protection in the Shops Bill. There was not the complete protection that is desirable.

    I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has given an assurance that the Government will not adopt the amendment. I hope that very few hon. Members will vote for it and that it will be defeated conclusively and comprehensively, as it is an undesirable move in the wrong direction.

    10.15 pm

    This is not the time to rehearse all the arguments about the special nature of Sunday, but, like the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), I have the honour to be a patron of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. We look back with interest at the campaign which we waged in the House on the Shops Bill. We also look back to last Friday when the Government, after their experience on the Shops Bill, were much more wary on the Sunday Sports (No. 2) Bill, the key effect of which would be to open betting shops on Sunday.

    The Government are treading warily because of their experience, in spite of the fact that the Home Secretary sees the need to make Sunday like any other day of the week. I do not believe that that is in tune with the wishes of the great majority of the people. I shall not rehearse the general arguments, but I am glad that the Government —at least for the moment—resist the amendment.

    The Government have been timid on the question of Sundays. A small adjustment, such as that suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) to allow a slightly longer lunchtime session on Sunday, would have satisfied many people who like to take their families out for lunch on Sunday. At present, opening hours are unequal on Sundays. As a result of the noble Lord Montgomery's Licensing (Restaurant Meals) Act 1987, restaurants and public houses with restaurants which are entirely separate may open throughout the entirety of Sunday afternoon to serve drinks with meals.

    Public houses are constrained by the antiquated requirement whereby they can open only from 12 midday to 2 o'clock. If they wish to serve food during Sunday afternoon, they are still constrained by the 12 to 2 o'clock rule. As I said on Second Reading, the rule is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. There is more abuse of the opening and closing times at Sunday lunchtime, particularly in London, than in any other session during the week.

    I take issue with the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) that a modest increase in the number of hours allowed at Sunday lunchtime would lead to an enormous rise in crime, motor accidents, and so on. Sunday is a day when people would very much like to go out with their families for a meal and to have a slightly longer time in which to buy a drink with a meal in a public house which offers such good value in the food that it serves.

    My right hon. Friend suggested that the amendment was inspired by the trade. If the trade, in its desire to serve its customers with what customers want on a Sunday, has inspired the amendment, that is nothing to be ashamed of. I accept what was said about this being a prodding rather than a probing amendment, on which I suspect that we will not get a result this evening, but I hope that the Government will bear in mind that the question of opening hours on Sunday is still alive, whereas, had they taken a modest step to increase the Sunday lunchtime session, the whole question of the permitted licensing hours on Sunday would have died not for the next five or 10 years but probably for 25 years. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State must expect the question to be raised again, even if the amendment does not get the approval of the House tonight.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) has spoken modestly and persuasively. Had my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) spoken in similar terms when he moved the amendment, he might have won more friends, although he was gracious enough to apologise and to withdraw his remarks which impugned the motives of some of his colleagues. None of us should ever do that. It set the debate off on a sour note.

    Many of us believe that Sunday is special and different and that it should not become a duplicate Saturday. That is why I have resisted attempts to encourage Sunday trading. It is not that I do not believe that the law needs tidying up—it does—but that I do not want Sunday to become a second Saturday. We should be doing a great disservice to the British people if we took such a course.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside prayed tourism in aid. Tourism is extremely important. It brings great revenue to the country. Tourists are welcome, but, although we welcome and must look after them, we do not have to change all the laws of the land to accommodate them. That is a slightly threadbare argument, and it should not be pushed too far.

    I was glad that my hon. Friend the Minister said that the amendment would be resisted. I hope that it will not be put to a vote. I hope that there can be a long and—I choose my words advisedly — sober look at the law governing Sundays in all respects to meet the legitimate designs and aspirations of everyone. I declare an interest as a non-executive director of a small group of hotels.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham said, we should take into account the fact that people who can afford a fairly expensive meal can buy drinks, but those who cannot do not. We must nevertheless be extremely careful. The hours of trading must be restricted. Sunday must not become a second Saturday. We should therefore follow the lead offered by my hon. Friend the Minister and, if the House divides, we should support the Government against the amendment which I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside is proposing unadvisedly.

    Although I represent an English constituency, I come from Wales. I must say that there is something reminiscent, in the arguments against the extension of flexibility on Sunday, of the arguments in the Principality against drinking on Sunday. Under the force of public opinion and democratic voting, flexibility has gradually been extended. I believe that even the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) will admit that Wales has not turned into a terrible Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed, it has benefited.

    The Government have implicitly accepted the arguments in favour of liberalising the licensing laws on the grounds of the extra amenity and employment that would be created. I should have thought that those arguments applied just as much—if not more so—to Sunday as to any other day of the week.

    I am in favour of extending choice, provided that that does not overbear on the choice available to others to keep Sunday as they wish. I want the Government to be more radical on this matter.

    I do not commend the amendment to the House for two reasons — one broad and one narrow. I shall deal with the latter first.

    The proposals amount to flexible hours, but make no provision for enforcement, without which the amendment cannot sensibly be proposed. The amendment therefore falls on that narrow ground.

    There is another point, which is of greater substance. The Government have made it wholly plain that we do not intend at the moment to change the law on Sundays. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made an unequivocal statement to that effect, and I echoed it. Other people, including hon. Members, altered their stance on the basis of those assurances. It would be wrong to depart in any way from those assurances. I hope that I can persuade my right hon. and hon. Friends to take up the same position.

    I am pleased that I tabled these two amendments, and that the more modest of the two has been debated. I think that you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it has been an extremely good debate and I for one could not have been accused of closed ears. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) was on his feet, who could have closed his ears to such eloquence and power?

    There have been strong arguments for and against some relaxation of the law on Sunday. The Government must now consider how they will honour the manifesto pledge to bring sense into the law on Sunday trading generally. I was proposing a modest step in that direction with licensing law reform. Having made my point, and having listened to the arguments, I can only hope that, when the other place comes to debate this matter, with the will of the House, it will pick up the banner and carry it forward, and that an amendment along the lines of mine will be tabled.

    The anxiety expressed by Ministers about opposition to changing the law on Sundays arises mainly from their fear of what might happen in the other place. As hon. Members know, in this place we can be dragooned in the right direction to a certain extent, as we are being tonight. That is regrettable, when Opposition Members have the opportunity of a free vote, such as that which we enjoyed in the debate on the Shops Bill in 1986. With those thoughts in mind, and in the hope that an amendment like this may appear in the other place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 11, at end insert—

    `(2) In section 60(1)(b) the words "The licensing magistrates may modify the permitted hours for bona fide English vineyards so that they begin no earlier than 12.00 noon for a total of no more than five and a half hours" shall be added.'.
    This is an interesting and unusual issue which I feel that the House, even at this late hour, would like to hear a little about. There are 200 commercial vineyards in this country, 100 of which are open to the public. Increasingly, they are a tourist attraction, but they are also a sort of small business enterprise, and many of them are on farms, where farmers have heeded the Government's exhortations to diversify and have gone into the vineyard business. They are creating successful wines which are the envy of many parts of Europe and the world.

    The problem, which is endemic, is the law relating to wine tasting or sampling, and the amendment specifically deals with that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, when he has heard the argument, will be able to say something helpful about the general point of tasting and sampling, beyond the scope of the amendment.

    Let me deal first with the issues. At present, a tourist visiting an English vineyard can taste wines if that vineyard has an on-licence during the hours that a public house is open. One can go to an English vineyard—as one can go to one in Germany, France or Italy—but one can taste the wines and enjoy the quality that the vineyard has produced only during the hours of 11 am to 3 pm in the day and from 5.30 pm to 11 pm at night. It will be appreciated that vineyards will be open not at night, but only during the day. If the charabanc arrives before 11 am or after 3 pm, the people in it will be shown the wonderful vineyard but told that they cannot taste what it produces.

    10.30 pm

    I have been following my hon. Friend's remarks with interest. Surely, if one goes into any wine merchant's shop in a town or city with the possible intention to buy, the wine merchant will give one a tasting to enable one to make up one's mind. Is that against the law?

    As always, my hon. Friend has made a telling point. He must have foreseen what I was about to say. If the charabanc travellers arrive at the vineyard outside on-licensing hours, they may find that the owner of the vineyard has had the forethought to apply for an off-licence.

    In that case, in addition to the vinery, with tastings during on-licensing hours, he will have a separate building —which he will have had to build—containing an off-licence. The charabanc travellers will go into the off-licence and say, "I would like a bottle of wine." But they will not be allowed to taste it unless the tasting is free. The House will appreciate that if 1,000 visitors to the vineyard are all tasting the wine free in the off-licence, the modest farmer who is trying to diversify will be out of pocket very quickly; all his bottles of wine will be consumed at the off-licence outside on-licence hours.

    There is a much more serious problem. If the visitors buy a bottle at the off-licence in the hours when the on-licence does not apply, they are not allowed to consume it on the premises. Therefore, arrangements have to be made to take the bottle off the premises — [An hon. Member: "To the charabanc."] Yes, but they cannot drink it in the charabanc if it is parked on the premises of the vineyard. The vineyard owner will have to make arrangements with the next-door farmer to construct a third building to which the travellers have to go to open their bottle of wine. If there are a corkscrew and glasses in that third building, the travellers can then taste the wine.

    I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House—even at this late hour—will appreciate that the 1964 Act could never have envisaged this ridiculous state of affairs. In 1964 we did not have 200 commercial vineyards and the Government were not exhorting farmers to diversify because of our problems with food surpluses.

    My hon. Friend is making an important point. I am sure that the Government will listen to his argument about the problem and attempt to put it right to encourage this growing sector of business.

    Just outside Dorking in Surrey — not in my constituency, but not far from it—a new vineyard was planted two years ago. It is not producing yet, but its area is 120 acres, so it will be the biggest vineyard in Great Britain. It will be an important enterprise. It is a new business which has drawn on expertise from Germany and the rest of the continent. That is an example of how new firms can grow, which is exactly what the Government want.

    Any impediment such as the licensing impediment to which my hon. Friend draws attention should be removed if we wish such businesses to expand. Wine growing is very suitable for small, new businesses—just as it is on the continent. I do not say that 120 acres is small; indeed, it is very large. However, there will be many opportunities for small vineyards to start up, creating new jobs and new enterprises. I wish my hon. Friend well and I hope that the Governent will pay attention to the point that he makes.

    That was a helpful intervention. Although the vineyard to which my hon. Friend referred is not in his constituency, I know that he is interested in vineyards—particularly in the new vineyard at Dorking, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Other vineyards not quite as large as that are well known to my hon. Friend. The largest one — Lamberhurst — is already 55 acres and is doing very well and many other vineyards, in constituencies from Berkshire to Gloucestershire and right across the country, are springing up fast and doing well.

    I do not want to detain the House. I have set the scene of the problem and now want to explain briefly what will happen when the Bill becomes law, as I hope it will. The new law will help the vineyards — there is no doubt about that—because they can get an on-licence, not just for the pub opening hours as at present, but for the new pub opening hours of 11 o'clock in the morning to 11 o'clock at night—not that many people will want to taste wine at 5 o'clock in the evening until 11 o'clock at night.

    Therefore, although this is not directly connected with the amendment, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will perhaps encourage the other place to consider whether the 12 hours — 11 am to 11 pm — could be slightly flexible so that the magistrates could not, heaven forbid, increase the number of drinking hours, but allow the hours to be from, say, 10 am to 10 pm or even from 9 am to 9 pm. There could still be 12 hours, but perhaps they could be moved a little. That discretion and flexibility would allow our English vineyards the scope that the rigidity of allowing them to open only from 11 am to 11 pm prevents. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will say something which, although not immediately relevant to the amendment, will assist us when the Bill goes through another place.

    I turn to the sharp end of the amendment. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) will be attentive to this point because the 1964 Act, which will not be changed by the Bill, states that the number of hours on a Sunday will follow the identical hours of the pub openings. That means that on a Sunday, when the vineyards have their big tourist attractions, they are caught by the limitations of the pub openings as at present. That means that they cannot have any wine tasting on their on-licence before 12 o'clock midday and must stop their wine tasting immediately at 2 pm. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point will realise that, from 7 pm to 10.30 at night on a Sunday, there is no point in having wine tasting, unless it is by candlelight or in the vaults.

    The purpose of my amendment is to allow the magistrates some discretion to distribute exactly the same hours on Sunday, but to make those hours not from 12 o'clock to 2 o'clock and 7.30 pm to 10 pm, but to allow the English vineyards to provide a sample of wine between 12 o'clock and 5.30 pm. That would cover just the type of family outing that so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends talked about a moment ago. What nicer way is there of spending a Sunday afternoon than for a family to go out in their private car to look at some of the wonderful and enterprising vineyards and to enjoy a sample at the same time?

    My hon. Friend has done us a great service by drawing this matter to the Government's attention and I hope that they will listen carefully. I endorse his point about family outings on Sundays. My hon. Friend the Minister for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) mentioned earlier the problem of not having to change all our laws in this country just to suit tourists. When the three commercial vineyards in my constituency have opened on Sundays, they have attracted a completely different clientele—local families who want to see the process of wine making and the parents who, of course, want to enjoy the prospect of buying and drinking the product.

    I am delighted that so many hon. Friends, who have vineyards in their constituencies, have made such points, because my hon. Friend the Minister will obviously be impressed by the strength of feeling among Conservative Members. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) for making that important and telling point.

    The amendment will give the magistrates in each locality a discretion to manoeuvre the hours on Sunday —but not to increase them—so that families can enjoy wine tasting on an on-licence. It does not alter the fact that English vineyards will still need to have an on-licence and an off-licence.

    If the Minister rejects the amendment it will mean that at 2 o'clock sharp on a Sunday the vineyards—all 100—will have to have an off-licence. People will have to move from the on-licence, where they are sampling wines, to the off-licence. Unless those wines are provided free, people will have to buy a bottle and traipse over to the next-door farmer, with the corkscrew and the glasses, to sample the wines on their own in a little hut.

    The Minister may believe that such problems are modest and trivial, but tens of thousands of people visit vineyards. The present ridiculous anachronism could be altered at a stroke by the Minister.

    We are faced with the problems of on-licences, off-licences and flexi-hours on Sundays. I do not know whether my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken with such fervour would feel the same way if magistrates were given the discretion to switch and distribute the Sunday hours. The on-licence, instead of being confined from noon until 2 o'clock and from 7 pm until 10.30 pm, could be distributed differently.

    I should declare an interest. I have been involved with the English Vineyards Association for many years and indeed, I have four vineyards in my constituency. Many hon. Members believe that the amendment is important. I hope that the Minister will use this opportunity to say something constructive that will enable us to believe that, if he cannot act immediately, he will do his best to get rid of the present anachronism. Many European visitors to our vineyards consider that anachronism to be out of place and out of character with the British habit of getting things done in an appropriate way.

    The amendment deals exclusively with Sunday and the points that I made in the previous debate apply to this one. Therefore, I cannot offer my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) any hope.

    My hon. Friend has clearly described the wider problems faced by British vineyard owners on days other than Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas day. My hon. Friend has described those problems so graphically that I feel that I would like to reconsider the problem relating to those days to see whether there is anything that we can do to assist in resolving the problem that he has described.

    I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks.

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) I am a non-executive director of the Bluebell railway and at Sheffield Park, at the end of that line, there is an English vineyard.

    One of the problems that we face is that English wine has been cursed for years by ignorant people calling it "British" wine. In the past few months I have been able to introduce a major French wine grower to English wine. To his astonishment he found it drinkable. We all know that it is.

    Is the Minister saying that he will look at the general issues with a view to telling his draftsmen, if he is convinced, that something must be done when the Bill reaches another place?

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). In my constituency we have Biddenden vineyard, which won a prize for its Ortega 1986 vintage. Indeed, hon. Members on both sides of the House chose it in the wine-tasting before Christmas.

    My hon. Friend was right to underline the problems that over the years have been piled on English vineyards, but, despite those problems, they have thrived. At one time we had many Dutch, French, Belgian and German tourists passing through my constituency, and for them English wines were a joke until they tasted them. Now they enjoy them and like to taste them without all the nonsense that my hon. Friend described.

    I hope that the Minister and his team at the Home Office will take a long hard look at this, so that we can make life easier for enterprising English vineyards which produce some of the best wine in the world.

    10.45 pm

    I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for meeting us halfway, and support entirely the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen).

    England was excellent wine, but it is new wine on the world circuit, so is relatively unknown. Therefore, wine tasting is particularly important in order to sell it within the EEC and throughout the world. In the debate on the previous amendment, my hon. Friend the Minister clearly explained the problem with Sunday, and I accept what he said. But I urge him to persuade his hon. Friends to be flexible, because Sunday is a big day for bringing clients to vineyards. In Hampshire we have four big vineyards: Lymington, Swanmore, Ringwood and Beaulieu. Putting major investment into these alternative crops also fits the Government's policy of alternative use of farmland.

    I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for agreeing to consider days other than Sunday, but I urge him to press his colleagues to think again about Sunday.

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) and his moderate new clause. My hon. Friend the Minister certainly made a brief response which caused some disappointment.

    Has the Minister held any discussions with his hon. Friends in the Department of Employment? He did not mention the employment aspects, which are great, or tourism in connection with English vineyards.

    I have not held such discussions. This matter has not been raised with me previously; it was first brought to my attention when the amendment was tabled. I am against nonsense and there seems to be a certain amount of nonsense involved. If we can resolve it, we shall do so. But I cannot help my hon. Friends about Sundays.

    I am grateful for that further comment from my hon. Friend. Nevertheless, I hope that in another place he will consider getting out the old files; over many years there was enormous correspondence with his predecessors about this.

    Britain has enjoyed English vineyard wines since the Roman era. Those who look at Christies' catalogues and others will know that vineyards now extend even into Wales. The new interest since 1945 is attractive, but there is nothing special in our having vineyards, although we now have many hundreds of acres under the vine.

    Tonight we are faced with classic red tape. I do not believe that the Government wish to support red tape, but my hon. Friend the Minister is certainly putting up a good case for keeping the scissors in the cupboard. I wish he would take them out, cut the red tape, and consider the employment aspects of English vineyards and the English vineyard trail. What is so immoral about someone tasting a glass of wine on an afternoon in the south of England and even as far north as Yorkshire with a view to purchase? That should be considered in another place.

    For all those reasons, I hope that the scissors will be used and that my hon. Friend's officials will consider the matter in another place.

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) and I am pleased to hear that the Minister wants to get rid of much of the nonsense.

    I am chairman of the Conservative party's Back-Bench food and drink sub-committee. We recently held a wine-tasting, attended by many hon. Members. We tasted 10 wines, five English and five continental wines, in a blind tasting. The five English wines did very well, winning the first three prizes. That reflects the excellence of English wines and the desire of many people in this country to taste them.

    I am grateful for what the Minister has said tonight about getting rid of some of the nonsense, and for dealing with the problems explained to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams about days other than Sundays. I hope that the Minister will be able to bring forward proposals in the not too distant future.

    I do not wish to detain the House, except to say that I support the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen).

    I first became aware of English wines recently at a reception organised by an extraordinarily paradoxical body, the Milk Marketing Board. I support the proposal and hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will carefully consider it. Perhaps he will reflect that we might not have found ourselves in the present inflexible position in respect of Sunday if the Home Office, in the last Session, had not got us in such a mess over Sunday trading.

    I apologise for not having been present throughout the debate. I have been detained elsewhere on important constituency business.

    I wish to add my voice in support of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), because there is a vineyard in my constituency and I respect the way in which it has sought to bring employment into a rural area. It appears to be inhibited by these petty restrictions.

    I should like to rise quickly to prevent any more of my hon. Friends from rising, as I know that quite a number of them planned to intervene. I want to curtail that by saying that this has been an interesting debate. It has shown the strength of feeling on the Conservative Back Benches about English vineyards and the anachronisms and antiquated laws which affect them.

    I was tempted to press the amendment to a Division, but that would be quite inappropriate after the Minister's generous and flexible response in recognising the strength of feeling on this matter. It caught him by surprise, so he wants time to consider the issue. In view of his flexibility and intelligence and the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) supported most of my speech, the Sunday trading lobby may not be opposed to a little flexible discretion by the licensing magistrates.

    My hon. Friend has made a most interesting speech, which has already evoked a little promise from the Minister. I advise him not to spoil it.

    Whenever my right hon. Friend gives advice, one is wise to take it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 3

    Restriction Orders