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Short Title, Commencement And Extent

Volume 170: debated on Friday 20 April 1990

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I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 20 leave out from 'appoint' to end of line 22.

With this we shall take amendment No. 11, in page 1, line 21, leave out '30th June 1992' and insert '1st January 1994'.

I shall not detain the House for long on amendment No. 7 because I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) wishes to speak to his amendment, amendment No. 11, which is a halfway mark between what I wanted to do and what the Bill currently proposes. I am happy to leave the matter in his capable hands instead of pressing my amendment because I am aware that other hon. member wish to speak.

I fully understand the frustrations of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) about what has happened this morning. However, some of us have a solid record of speaking on licensing matters. I do so regularly and felt strongly in principle about the amendment that I moved earlier, although in practice it proved to be wrong. I apologised at the beginning of my speech for the fact that there would be times when I would be absent from the Chamber. I am now happy—

I acknowledge straightaway that the hon. Lady has shown me absolute courtesy. What I object to is hon. Members making speeches as long as that made by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr Brown) and then not being present to hear the Minister's reply.

I do not wish to delay the House any longer by arguing the toss on that one. I am happy to withdraw my amendment in favour of that of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton.

The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) can speak to his amendment, but if he wishes to pursue it, I shall ask him to move it formally later.

I have been persuaded to give a longer period to Government before the essential introduction of the Bill and to extend the date from the middle of June 1992 to 31 December 1994.

I am not willing to see the Bill pass through the House only to sit, like some private Members' legislation, on the shelf without being introduced simply because it requires a statutory instrument from the Government. I wanted to ensure that there was a date on which the provisions had to be implemented. I am happy for the Government to introduce the provisions earlier and we have given them the powers so to do through a statutory instrument.

I have been persuaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that because of the need to attempt to reach an agreement in the European Economic Community on labelling, and so that the industry would not have to implement two labelling alterations, implementation of the provisions might take longer than the period up to mid-1992. That being the case, it seemed reasonable to accede to the Ministry's request. I thought that another 18 months was long enough for the industry to get its finger out and to get on with the job. I hope that that is agreeable to the Government.

The Government are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). The original provisions allowed insufficient time for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to bring in the necessary labelling changes because they involved EEC regulations. The extra time will be extremely valuable to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton that the Government not only want to see the legislation on the statute book, but want it brought into effect. There will be no delay on the Government's part and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his co-operation.

Do I understand that the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) wishes to withdraw amendment No. 7?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 11, in page 1, line 21, leave out `30th June 1992' and insert '1st January 1994'.— [Sir P. Emery.]

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. Greg Knight.]

1.58 pm

I shall detain the House for only a moment. While I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) on the great progress that has been made today in bringing this Bill towards the statute book, I should like to comment on the role of the law in backing up the splendid efforts of not only my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic but his predecessor, in encouraging the brewers to produce and market effectively lower-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers and other beverages. Remarkable progress has been made during the past few years. This step, more than any other, has had an effect on drink driving.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a great virtue of the British system of Government is that this progress has been made voluntarily and by the action of independent interests rather than, as happens in so many countries, by means of statutory regulation?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The effect of random breath testing would be minuscule compared with the work that has been done to encourage people to drink beverages that are unlikely to lead them to drive while under the influence of alcohol. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has backed up that approach by introducing sensible legislation which will work hand-in-hand with the voluntary efforts being made. I congratulate him on promoting the Bill and I look forward to it becoming law.

2 pm

May I address, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) in two different capacities? First, he should be congratulated on promoting the Bill. However, there is a great lacuna in the House of Commons. We pass legislation, but there is no systematic monitoring of what we have achieved. In a year or so, therefore, it would be interesting if there could be an Adjournment debate on how the proposals have worked out in practice and whether they have led to the strides forward for which some of us hope.

Secondly, the hon. Member is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure. I hope that he will not just go away and forget what has happened today. There are lessons to be drawn from this debate. The Select Committee on Procedure should consider how we go about our business.

2.1 pm

I very much liked the first suggestion of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I hope that both he and I will be able to consider monitoring not just this Bill but other private Members' Bills to find out whether they have been brought into operation and whether they are achieving what it was hoped they would achieve. We need to follow up what we have passed to find out whether we have been successful. If one is trying to make profits, that is particularly important. There is just as much reason to do that for social and educational reasons. That applies especially to those who are concerned about the consumption of alcohol and drunkenness.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will write to me about the second matter that he has drawn to my attention. If he does, it will, as he knows, be dealt with by the Select Committee on Procedure.

I thank my hon. Friends and Opposition Members for their support; it has been excellent throughout the passage of the Bill. I thank, too, the Government for their support. I was praised for the drafting of the Bill. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that I had assistance from the Home Office to ensure that the drafting was correct. I should not want that fact to be unknown. I thank the Minister sincerely for his support.

When the Bill becomes law, I hope that we shall send out a message to youth clubs, Church organisations and all those who are trying to deal with the problem of alcohol consumption by young people that this new structure will allow them to provide for the consumption of low-alcohol drinks in youth clubs and at other social gatherings. Parents will have the assurance that their children can go to those gatherings knowing that there will be no fear of drunkenness or alcoholism. If we have achieved that today we shall have gone a long way towards dealing with one of the social problems with which society has to deal.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.