§ Order for Second Reading read.4.48 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Lime.
It happens quite often that the House moves from dramatic business to ordinary business—we have a way of doing that. It is particularly difficult to do so this afternoon because of the tragedy we have just been discussing, and the way in which everyone, including those who have some personal knowledge of Enniskillen and its people, joins in the sadness and anger that have been expressed. However, the people of Northern Ireland have to carry on their ordinary lives today—that is one of the badges of their courage—and we have no option but to do the same.
Over the past 30 years the English pub has become a much more cheerful and welcoming place. I do not suppose that that fact has been recorded anywhere in Hansard, but it certainly should be on the record. Here and there we complain about the architecture and the furnishings, or we press for better beer, but the improvements in style, standards of food and friendliness, and the general feel of pubs, are among the most striking social changes in our cities, towns and villages since the war. The pub, with its range of food and soft drinks as well as alcohol, now compares favourably with the average French, Italian or American bar.
There is one considerable oddity. On a normal weekday a pub is compelled to stay shut between 3 pm and 5.30 pm. The central purpose of this relatively modest Bill is to put that right and to open up the forbidden afternoon. Clause 1 will allow licensed premises to open from 11 am to 11 pm, thus removing the present restriction on afternoon opening from public houses, hotels, wine bars and other licensed premises as well as registered clubs. There is, of course, no requirement to open for longer hours; the provision really removes the obligation to close.
I cannot think that anyone settling down to devise a system for regulating the consumption of alcohol would light upon our present law as a sensible way of doing so. It is worth looking for a moment at the origin of the law. Through the 18th and 19th centuries there were various attempts to control drinking hours, but they were almost entirely directed at keeping drinking places closed on Sundays. The substantial legislation of 1872 and 1874 left it possible for a public house to remain open on weekdays for up to 19½ hours. The position changed dramatically as a result of the growth of the temperance movement, its links with the Liberal party and, above all, the conclusion reached during the great war that too much drinking was harming the production of munitions and was thus a threat to national security, especially near war establishments and naval ports. The forbidden afternoon which we are now proposing to abolish was established for that wartime purpose in 1915.
Much has changed since then. I cannot see why it is acceptable to drink at lunchtime, wicked to drink in the afternoon and acceptable to drink again in the evening. 38 We must remember that most drinking nowadays does not take place in public houses. Scottish evidence suggests that less than one third of drinking takes place in pubs. It is perfectly possible for someone to walk into a supermarket and load himself up with liquor to be consumed at any hour that he wishes. I would guess—though it can only be a guess—that someone is, on the whole, more likely to drink himself into a state of violence or ill-health or misery or nuisance to others if he drinks outside a pub than if he drinks sociably in one. Let me make it clear that it is no part of the Government's case that alcohol abuse does not exist or that it is not serious.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
As a result of what the Home Secretary calls this modest measure, does he expect alcohol consumption to increase or decrease?
§ Mr. Hurd
The Scottish evidence on that point shows that the extension of opening hours does not add to the dangers of misuse. I shall come to that in a moment. The hon. Gentleman has fired his shot a little too early.
As any Home Secretary must know, alcohol abuse is a serious and continuing threat to the individual and to society. I shall shortly examine what we arc doing about it. If I felt that by opening up the afternoon in the way that we propose we were increasing the dangers of alcohol abuse, I would not move the Second Reading of the Bill and we would not have put it in our manifesto. The evidence does not support such a fear. Let us look at the position in Scotland where afternoon pub opening is not, in effect, forbidden.
Since the Scottish Act of 1976 came into force there has been widespread use of extensions to allow licensed premises to open during the afternoon. Incidentally, this gives some indication of the demand from the public.
I now come to the matter raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). Total consumption of alcohol by men in Scotland determined by surveys by the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys did not differ significantly before and after the 1976 Act, although the average time spent drinking increased by over an hour. There was a significant increase in the consumption of alcohol by women who drank for an average of one and a half hours longer. However, in view of the figures for men, the OPCS concluded that this seems more likely to be due to changes in attitudes towards women drinking and is unlikely to be a consequence of the changed law. It is also worth noting that only 18 per cent. of women did most of their drinking in public houses.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
There has been much correspondence about the increased consumption of alcohol by women following the relaxation of the licensing laws in Scotland. It would help the House a great deal if my right hon. Friend would tell us whether there is any evidence about what has happened during the same period in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Hurd
I do not have that figure, but I shall ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to supply it if he can when he replies to the debate. As I have said, there is no reason to suppose that the clear increase in Scotland in the total consumption of alcohol by women is related to the change in the licensing laws — especially when one considers, as I have said, that less than one fifth of Scottish women do most of their drinking in public houses.
Figures for drunkenness offences in Scotland show little change, either in the number of offences recorded or the 39 charges proved, before and after the passage of the Scottish Act. The statistics for drunk-driving offences do not provide any evidence that flexible licensing hours have had any significant effect. Because of changes in recording and procedures, the figures are not easy to interpret. Police procedures have changed during this time. If anything, there appears to be little change in the trend in Scotland and an increase during the same period in England and Wales.
§ Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)
The Minister mentioned two matters. He said that no danger had resulted from the change in Scotland and that there has been no difference in convictions for drunken driving. How does he explain the fact that the peak for drunk driving in Scotland occurs in the late afternoon which is not the case in England and Wales?
§ Mr. Hurd
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures before and after the change in the licensing hours, he will see that he will be unable to show that there is any relationship between the incidence of drunk driving in Scotland and the change in the licensing law. As I have said, he will find that, although the trend in England and Wales was upwards in this period, there has been little change in the trend in Scotland.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that some road safety organisations are worried that the Bill may increase the amount of drinking and driving. He will also be aware that they consider that as a quid pro quo there should be a clear Government statement allowing random breath testing. Could he touch on that?
§ Mr. Hurd
I shall cover that aspect later. I was speaking about the evidence from Scotland. It is true that alcohol-related health problems have for a long time been higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, but the proportionate increase since the Scottish Act was passed in 1976 has been smaller in Scotland than in England and Wales. A study by Edinburgh university looked at all these figures. The study was published in the British Medical Jounal in 1986 and concluded:in relation to health, the new Scottish licensing arrangements can be viewed neither as a source of harm nor as a source of benefit. They have in effect been neutral".
§ Mr. Hurd
My right hon. Friend is correct; there has been no improvement. I do not claim that the change in the licensing laws in Scotland secured an improvement. Equally, there is no evidence to show that they brought about a deterioration. Our conclusions from the Scottish evidence is that there is a demand for pubs to be able to open in the afternoon and there is no evidence to show that if they do so there will be a harmful effect on society or that it will, in itself, lead to further misuse of alcohol.
It seems that, although people may drink over a slightly longer period, they do so in a more leisurely manner without increasing their total consumption. I fully recognise, of course, that there are dangers in making too close a comparison of different parts of the kingdom. We are not saying that the changes in Scotland have led us to introduce changes in England and Wales, but rather that 40 the evidence from Scotland has not produced findings that suggest we should not make the changes contemplated in this Bill.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I share the view of the Home Secretary that the Scottish evidence is wholly inconclusive. Why did the Home Office statement of 30 October assert that the Scottish experience demonstrates that there would be no change in drinking habits, just a more leisurely approach to drinking?
§ Mr. Hurd
I have been through the evidence. I am not claiming that and nor did the statement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There are no inconsistencies. I am not claiming, and nor does the statement, that the Scottish experience suggests that there has been an improvement. I am saying, as did the statement, that the effect is neutral. There is no evidence from Scotland which would lead anyone to argue against the change proposed in the Bill.
It was no doubt with these thoughts in mind that the British Medical Association wrote to us on 15 October, concluding:While opposed to any action which might lead to a significant increase in alcohol consumption in this country, the Association accepts the modest changes proposed in the Home Office Consultation Document, including those designed to bring opening hours for on-licensed premises more into line with those of off-licensed outlets.A little earlier, the Royal College of General Practitioners wrote to us with the following conclusion:The College believes that a liberalisation in drinking hours should be supported with the aim of reducing the image of the bar as a place to drink, to get drunk and quickly. We believe that such liberalisation would encourage the image of alcohol being incidental for the consumption of snacks and meals and also as an incidental in places where coffee, tea and soft drinks are also sold.Those are the reactions of two substantial medical groups to our proposals. There have been other reactions, but I am simply trying to nail any suggestion that medical opinion is united against the Bill. Two prestigious and substantial organisations have written to the Home Office, rather unusually, in substantial support of our proposals.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
My right hon. Friend has made an eloquent case for greater flexibility of opening hours on weekdays, but, before he finishes dealing with clause I, will he explain why he has not made the same decision in regard to opening hours on Sundays?
§ Mr. Hurd
I know my hon. Friend's views on this matter. I shall give what I hope he will not regard as too crude an answer. I want to get this Bill through. I do not want to overload it with a new argument which I know, from scars that I carry, arouses serious and emotional division on both sides of the House. That is a frank answer.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
Does my right hon. Friend realise that being timid in this matter has not significantly lessened opposition to the principles of the Bill? This is an important point for many rural areas involved in the tourist trade. Does my right hon. Friend 41 recognise the need for more flexible licensing, as in Scotland, to cater for the circumstances of particular areas?
§ Mr. Hurd
I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman when I have answered my hon. Friend's question. I do not agree with the analysis of my hon. Friend. The provisions in this Bill have been substantially welcomed. Since we published our proposals, the opposition to them has been considerably more muted than I had expected and I believe that that illustrates the basic good sense of what we propose.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Can we get this absolutely and categorically clear? Is the Home Secretary saying that if the Bill receives a Second Reading there will be an opportunity for it to be amended in Committee to allow Sunday opening? Is the answer to that question yes or no?
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would vote against an attempt to extend the Bill to Sundays?
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman
If such a misguided amendment were brought forward to try to include Sundays in the Bill, may we have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that he would not back such a move?
§ Mr. Hurd
I have already stated why I believe that it would be a mistake to overload the Bill by including such a provision. I am glad that I gave sway to my hon. Friend because I believe that she supplied the necessary counter-balanced to the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson). I have given three answers to this question and I wish to move on.
Clause 2 is a safety net, which, we hope will be unnecessary. However, in case the relaxation of licensing hours in the afternoon gives rise to unforeseen problems of annoyance, disturbance or disorderly conduct, we have made provision for restriction orders whereby the licensing justice, or the magistrates' court in the case of registered clubs, can reimpose closure for all or part of the afternoon break.
I do not believe that the House would want me to describe at length the other, mainly streamlining, procedural provisions of the Bill. They are designed to ease 42 unnecessary burdens on the courts and licensees and remove some of the anomalies that have come to light in the existing legislation.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
If the Home Secretary does not intend to deal in detail with the various points, will he say something about clause 10? It appears that those who traditionally have a right to object to a licence will now face the possibility of being saddled with court costs. Surely that greatly undermines a person's freedom to object — a freedom which exists in every other area including planning procedures. Would my right hon. Friend be willing to reconsider this matter in Committee, because it means that individuals are deprived or are put at risk if they put forward what they regard as a valid objection?
§ Mr. Hurd
I believe that it is a reasonable proposal, but I note what my hon. Friend has said. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary may wish to deal with that in greater detail when he replies, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) is a member of the Committee he may wish to bring that matter forward.
I should like to return to the question of alcohol abuse because I believe that part of the early opposition to the Bill—as I have said, the opposition has been less fierce than I expected—came from a feeling that we were not sufficiently alert to this evil. I hope that we have shown otherwise. The House will have welcomed the decision of the Prime Minister to ask my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to chair a new ministerial group on alcohol misuse. Perhaps I should make it clear to the House that it is a standing group and it is not its intention, as has been suggested, to work towards the production of a single report.
The group had its first meeting recently. Its aims are, as the published terms of reference made clear, to pull together the activities already undertaken by Government, by the drinks industry, by voluntary and other bodies as part of a general strategy for combating the misuse of alcohol. The group will look at priorities in the allocation of resources, it will be open to new ideas for remedying misuse and will seek to arrange for the better co-ordination of policy.
Young people have already been identified by the group as a priority. Indeed before the formation of the ministerial group, a working party was set up under the chairmanship of Baroness Masham to examine the part that alcohol plays in the commission of crime by young people and the problem of under-age drinking. The working party will present its report soon to the standing conference on crime prevention, which meets under the auspices of the Home Office. Obviously we in the Home Office will examine the report from the crime prevention angle and the Lord Privy Seal's group will, as part of its new remit, consider at its next meeting the working party's recommendations.
§ Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)
Does the Home Secretary accept that the evidence relating to crime and other aspects in the Bill is not inconclusive, but rather contradictory? Does he therefore agree that tonight would be an ideal opportunity to put his weight behind a move to suggest that the Bill be considered by a Special Standing Committee for a period of one or two months before going on to Committee?
§ Mr. Hurd
We have opened up this subject for wide consultation. I have already said that it was contained in the election manifesto. Indeed, I believe that, in August, we published an outline of our proposals. There has been a long time for discussion and examination of the proposals by interested groups. Indeed, those groups, as one would expect and hope, have come forward with their proposals. Although this is not a matter for me but for the House, I would not wish to press that such a procedure as a Special Standing Committee was necessary on this occasion.
A great deal of welcome activity on alcohol abuse is undertaken by probation services, the voluntary sector and other organisations. For example, I recently visited an interesting project in Coventry where, since February, a team led by the chamber of commerce and including representatives from the city council, the licensed trade and the police have been looking closely at the problems caused by irresponsible drinking in the city centre. The team has proposed a number of measures which it is hoped will go a good way to reducing those problems.
Misuse takes many damaging forms, but I suppose that drunk driving comes to public attention most often. As regards the Bill, the figures from Scotland for pedestrian casualties, child casualties, and pedal cyclist casualties during peak times all show that the proportion involved in drink-driving accidents decreased between 1975 and 1985, which covers the time when restrictions on the licensing hours in Scotland were relaxed. There is, thus, no evidence to link extended licensing hours with an increase in drunken driving or in road casualties. However, I accept that the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) went wider than that.
On the general problem of drink-driving, the Government and police forces are taking effective action. The police carried out 300,000 breath tests last year, and the Government's publicity campaign to persuade everybody that drinking and driving do not mix continues. Police powers are important as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham has said and we have considered carefully the calls for random breath testing. In fact, existing police powers are more substantial than is usually recognised. It is not always known—indeed, I am not sure that the Opposition have hauled this on board—that the police may use their general power under section 159 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 to stop any vehicle at random to decide whether there are grounds for requiring a breath test under section 7 of the Act.
§ Mr. Hurd
Well, sometimes the Opposition carry on and make public statements as if they were not aware that the police already have substantial powers.
Section 7 requires reasonable grounds, before testing, to suspect that the motorist has alcohol in his body or has committed a moving traffic offence or has been involved in an accident. Thus, the law as it stands permits random stopping though not random testing. In practice the police 44 are content with this and the Association of Chief Police Officers stated that it sees no need for wider powers. However, the door is not closed on our search for better ways of tackling this problem.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
Does the Home Secretary agree that the case in the House of Lords the other day—I forget the name—that has called into question the use of intoximeters may well cause some difficulties for the police force? Would he care to reconsider that matter and rectify the decision in that case?
§ Mr. Hurd
It is partly with a recollection of that decision — the hon. Gentleman is shrewd to draw attention to it—that I said that the search for effective ways of dealing with the problem must go on. The doors cannot be closed.
To conclude, I believe that this is a common sense Bill designed to remove an absurdity that has come into our law as a result of history rather than logic——
§ Mr. Hurd
No, I shall not give way, because I am coming to a conclusion and I have given way a great deal.
The British Tourist Authority has estimated that the relaxation of hours provided by the Bill will provide an additional 50,000 jobs, mainly part-time and in catering. I cannot vouch for that figure, but I do not doubt that there will be significant additional employment. This is not a Bill to please foreign tourists, although there is nothing wrong with doing that. Let us remember than most of the tourists in our country are British. Let us concentrate by all means on real ways of dealing with the dangers and miseries of alcohol abuse. Meanwhile, let us remove the irritation and absurdity of the forbidden afternoon from our statute book.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
The Labour party is to have a free vote on the Bill, so I can do no more and no better than to offer the House my own judgment rather than my party's opinions and policies. It is not an altogether unique experience for me and I know that advantages and penalties are in that course. The advantages allow me to say things about policy that I dare not and would not say were the imprimatur of Walworth road to be stamped upon them.
To begin with, the Home Secretary told us about the improved conditions in public houses in the United Kingdom. I do not now when he was last in an inner-city public house and what his experience of inner-city public houses is this year compared with 1975 or 1965, but were he ever to take a Sunday morning pint outside Oxfordshire his judgment about the conditions in British public houses might be significantly different.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman talked about history. I confess that my preparations for the debate were enormously interrupted by reading Morley's "The Life of Gladstone" and the Gladstone diaries for the period of the first licensing Bill. I shall give only two quotations from what I learnt. First, Mr. Gladstone did not regard the subject of licensing hours as appropriate for debate between gentlemen, which at least allows me, if not the Home Secretary, to continue. Secondly, after his defeat in the 1870s, he remarked that the Tory party was invariably washed to power on a sea of gin and beer.
45 Perhaps more important than that was what the Home Secretary said about Sunday. With the freedom of the free vote that is to follow, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that I am a great deal more relaxed than some hon. Members about Sunday opening. I am also a great deal more relaxed about Sunday trading, which I may have the opportunity to debate as the year goes on.
There is no doubt from what the right hon. Gentleman has said—he should not deceive the House; not by intention, but by some other means—that if the Bill is given its Second Reading, it will pave the way for Sunday opening. Hon. Members will take their own view on whether that is desirable or undesirable, but, judging by what the Home Secretary said, there is no doubt that that is what is prepared for in the Bill.
§ Mr. Crowther
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a considerable distinction to be drawn between the matter covered by the Bill, which is essentially a leisure activity, and ordinary retail trading, which clearly is not? Is it not illogical to exclude from leisure activities the one afternoon on which most people have the most leisure?
§ Mr. Hattersley
I have considerable sympathy for what my hon. Friend says. I hedged it about in terms that I hoped would not be revealed until my hon. Friend asked that question, but I have that sympathy. Irrespective of my personal position, hon. Members should not vote for the Bill under any misapprehension. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, there will be pressure for Sunday opening and, sooner or later, that pressure will be irresistible. However, that is not the central issue of the debate, although it was inevitably raised by the Home Secretary. The central issues are whether we want more drinking, whether we want what I regard as the inevitability of extra drinking and whether there are penalties to be paid for that.
We should understand that the debate will be dominated by speakers who are, as the Under-Secretary of State described them on 30 October, "responsible drinkers". Most speakers will be in that category. In the context of the debate, I believe that "responsible drinker" is a most dangerous animal, for the responsible drinker — I flatter myself by saying that I am among that number — is far too often incapable of facing and understanding the real dangers of alcohol abuse and over consumption. Were some of those who will speak in the debate offered cannabis, they would be frightened as well as offended, but, were they offered alcohol, they would take it as the normal round of social intercourse. There has never been a candidate for judicial office, either in the United States of America or in Great Britain, who has withdrawn his nomination because, as an undergraduate, he experimented with alcohol. In Great Britain, alcohol is the acceptable addiction of the middle classes and most of us in the House—[HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."]—
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, in the context of what he has just said, that there is an organisation in the House called the all-party clubs group, which represents working men's clubs, with some 6 million members, a large part of whose enjoyment derives from consuming alcohol in the privacy of their clubs?
§ Mr. Hattersley
Of course. Nothing that I have said in any way undervalues or contradicts that. I am saying that 46 most hon. Members who speak for liberties and freedom will represent the acceptable addiction of the middle classes. If the hon. Gentleman wants to qualify that to refer instead to the acceptable addiction of the whole British population, I shall not argue with him. I say simply that we should debate licensing laws in the knowledge that most of us, by our upbringing and cultural background, are prejudiced in favour of alcohol in a way that makes us less than wholly unbiased on the subject.
Notwithstanding that, I make no apology for, or qualification about, my support for the general principle of more liberal licensing laws. I support that principle because I am opposed to the intrusion of the state into the private lives of its citizens, except when it is absolutely necessary in order to support and protect the welfare of society as a whole. However, we cannot support extensions of freedom for one group that imperil the interests—indeed the lives, in some particulars—of another group.
That is why the Home Secretary supports, in defiance and contradiction of the libertarian bodies, stop-and-search powers, tougher gun laws and the prohibition of knife sales. It is why the Prime Minister argues with the libertarian lobby which wants fewer police powers by saying that there is a freedom to be protected against burglary, mugging and assault.
The right to be defended against the penalties of extended freedoms offered to a single and specific group must be applied to the provisions of the Bill. The problem with the Bill is that it provides extra opportunities for drinking among a limited group of people. I support those opportunities, but the Bill provides none of the safeguards that should accompany those extra opportunities and protect the interests of society. The necessary safeguards concern far more fundamental matters than disorderly conduct in an individual public house, with the disadvantage and detriment to the neighbourhood, which are dealt with in clause 2.
We need safeguards that are intended to reduce the amount of alcohol-related crime. We need safeguards to reduce the amount of drunken driving. Above all, we need safeguards to ensure that afternoon drinking does not produce an even greater problem of alcohol addiction among teenagers and the very young.
The need for some safeguard is not in dispute. The facts of alcohol abuse demonstrate the need. For example, 45 per cent. of all violent crime in Great Britain is alcohol related—that is 50 per cent. of murders and 25 per cent. of child abuse cases. Each year there are between 1,400 and 1,500 road deaths caused by some form of alcohol abuse, and between 8 million and 14 million working days each year are lost through absenteeism caused by drunkenness.
The most important and terrifying figures are those revealed by the Health Education Authority survey which revealed a terrifying increase in drinking, not only among teenagers but among children. Thirty per cent. of the children aged between 11 and 12 who answered the questionnaire said that they had had some experience of alcohol during the previous seven days. That figure demonstrates the need for the most important safeguard if there is to be an extension of licensing hours. With juvenile drinking such a growing problem in society, it seems absurd that so much money and television time should be spent on advertising alcohol and promoting its sale. I can only support a relaxation of licensing hours 47 —although I support the general principle—if there are much more stringent controls over television advertising than the IBA is now able to manage and organise.
§ Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)
My right hon. Friend is right to emphasise the increase in drinking among children and women, but there is evidence that this is not related to pubs and to pub opening hours and that we should be examining the huge number of supermarket and off-licence outlets.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I support my hon. Friend's view. If the Government brought in a Bill to relax the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and chain stores, I should have reservations about that, too, if it were not accompanied by a crackdown on television advertising which pretends that the nature of the good life — of social and economic success — depends on regular drinking. We have to debate what is before us and we are debating the relaxation of licensing hours without any of the safeguards which I consider would make such a relaxation possible.
§ Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree, however, that he is wrong to claim that there are no safeguards in the Bill? Clause 2(2) gives just the safeguard that he wishes to see. If, as a result of afternoon drinking through the extended hours to which he referred, there is a nuisance or disorder, redress is given to apply for a restriction order which would close that pub for all or part of that afternoon period for up to 12 months.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I have been a neighbour of the hon. Gentleman for nearly 10 years and I should have known better than to give way to him. I dealt specifically with that point 10 minutes ago. I shall now explain it slowly for the hon. Gentleman. If a pub opens and causes nuisance to its neighbours, the licensing justices can take action against it. That is an admirable safeguard for neighbours. If that pub is full of teenagers drinking silently but to excess every afternoon, the licensing justices can do nothing whatsoever. I am more concerned about teenagers drinking silently to excess, than about the annoyance to the families on either side of a public house.
I shall now pursue the real argument, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do his best to follow. For drunken driving, juvenile drinking, and the cost to the Health Service and to the economy of alcohol abuse over the past five years, the Government have offered nothing but platitudes and promises.
That is why, before I examine the safeguards that should be put in place, I wish to ask the Home Secretary about his timing and tactics. I hope that the Under-Secretary will answer my simple questions when he replies. Why are the Government in such a hurry and why do they support their case with such dubious arguments? Two months ago, the Wakeham committee was set up with the widest possible terms of reference. Its duty wasto review and develop the Government's strategy for combating the misuse of alcohol.I was told by the office of the Leader of the House that there is a chance that the first of the Wakeham committee's casual reports will be made some time in the new year. It is extraordinary—indeed, it is irresponsible—that we should have the Bill to extend licensing hours first and the report into alcohol abuse later. Will the Under-Secretary of State explain the timing to us?
48 Another question on timing relates to the activities of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport. No one can complain that he does not report frequently. He seems to report all the time—usually on television and radio—and his reports make the flesh creep in a variety of ways. Sometimes he draws attention to accident statistics. Sometimes he suggests bizarre penalties, such as making publicans responsible in law for damage caused by drivers whom they have served with alcohol. All that he does is tell us about the terrible road safety problems caused by alcohol, that something must be done about it and that he will do things of which he has not yet conceived. But all that the Government do is extend the licensing hours without implementing, or considering or recommending the implementation, of any of the things which the Under-Secretary of State for Transport constantly tells us must be done. Why do the Government wish to alter the licensing laws before they have received reports on the problem of alcohol abuse?
§ Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)
The right hon. Gentleman has accused the Government of acting in haste, but it is about 15 years since the Auld committee reported. That report has been gathering dust on the shelf ever since. It is 10 years since the Clayson reforms were implemented in Scotland. We must have had enough time to study the position.
§ Mr. Hattersley
During that period, alcohol abuse, alcohol-related crime and juvenile addiction have increased. All the problems have intensified. The Erroll committee offered a much more comprehensive answer to the problems than a simple manipulation of the licensing laws. Indeed, the Erroll committee convinced at least one right hon. Member that there should be a comprehensive examination of alcohol abuse and the licensing laws, which is the proposition that I make today. That right hon. Member was the former Secretary of State for Social Services, who is now Secretary of State for Employment. Had there been such a comprehensive examination, many Opposition Members would have been much more sympathetic to the Home Secretary's proposals.
§ Mr. Hattersley
It would be the ideal procedure, and I wish that I had thought of it. This is a proper Bill for a free vote of hon. Members. If it is a matter for individual judgment, it is ideal for the type of investigation which my hon. Friend described. There is general agreement that the Home Secretary's consultation period was woefully short. But the Government will vote against my hon. Friend's proposal because, as I understand from my conversation with the brewers a fortnight ago, they have been promised that the Bill will be law soon after Christmas. I doubt Whether the Home Secretary would agree to such a procedure, but the Under-Secretary of State can tell me later whether I am wrong.
The Government have used strange arguments to justify the Bill. The main argument on which they rest their case is that the relaxation of licensing hours will not result in an increased consumption of alcohol. On 30 October, 49 the Under-Secretary of State, in his exuberance, speaking for the entire British population and interpreting the national psychology in a single sentence, said:People will exercise the freedom that this Bill will bring not by drinking more but by adopting a more leisurely approach to drinking.
§ Mr. Anderson
My right hon. Friend will recall that in their 1981 policy statement, entitled "Drinking Sensibly", the Government concluded:Available evidence suggests that licensing restrictions may have a broad influence on both the level of average consumption per head of alcohol and the influence of alcohol-related harm.Nothing that the Home Secretary said today suggests anything to the contrary. Would it not be appropriate for the Government to provide us with the evidence on which they changed their mind?
§ Mr. Hattersley
The main change is that the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) arrived at the Home Office and, with that natural exuberance, announced his judgment on the conduct and character of the entire British people. Today the Home Secretary was much more cautious; he said that there was no evidence either way. The Under-Secretary of State was given the onerous and unpleasant task of announcing the Government's certain view——
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
Is the right hon. Gentleman frightened to give way?
§ Mr. Hattersley
The Minister is right: I am terrified out of my wits by the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale).
If there will be no increase in the consumption of alcohol, why are the brewers so keen that the Bill should be passed? What is more, if there is no increase in the consumption of alcohol, how will the brewers finance the extra 25,000 jobs which they say will be the product of the Bill? The claim that there will be no extra drinking is wholly implausible. To their credit, the brewers make no such categorical suggestion. They say that there will be no additional alcohol abuse, which is open to some argument. The Government, in the form of the Under-Secretary of State, say that there will be no extra drinking. As I understand it, the Government base their claim on the Scottish experience following relaxation in 1976.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Not for the moment. I have given way a great deal. Hon. Members will wish to make their own speeches, and I must bring mine to a speedy end.
The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys considered the Scottish experience, and its conclusions were quoted by the Home Secretary. He said:There is no evidence that the 1976 Act has caused an increase in alcohol consumption." — [Official Report, 4 February 1986; Vol. 91, c. 102.]That must mean that the conclusions to be drawn from the operation of the 1976 Act are neutral. The Home Secretary has no reason to assume, demonstrate or argue that that 50 Act proves that a change in licensing laws will not increase consumption. He can conclude only that no evidence in either direction is available from the operation of that Act.
Those who support the Bill with less discrimination than the Home Secretary showed today have chosen to take the evidence of what happened in Scotland to suggest that a relaxation of the law will certainly not increase drinking and might reduce its overall incidence.
§ Mr. Hattersley
No, I will not give way.
Such a conclusion from the Scottish experience is justified only by a misuse of the available statistics. The available statistics from Scotland prove, first, that alcohol consumption among women has increased. I ask the Secretary of State—yes or no?
§ Mr. Hattersley
In other words, it has increased. Secondly, the statistics prove that alcohol consumption among men in general has not reduced but has remained steady, largely because the consumption among the unemployed has fallen as unemployment has increased and the purchasing power of the unemployed has fallen.
The statistics also prove a third point and, if the Home Secretary wants to contradict me, as he did a moment ago, I will gladly give way to him. Thirdly, convictions for drunkenness in Scotland have fallen largely because of changes in prosecution practice following the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 rather than changes in drinking habits. Whatever else one may say about the Scottish evidence, none of it is strong enough to justify any additional extension of the licensing laws in Scotland or anywhere else.
§ Mr. Hattersley
The reasonable conclusion of the experience from this country and others must be that extra drinking hours mean extra drinking, particularly among vulnerable groups. I make no apology for bringing to mind at once the unemployed teenagers in my constituency who have nowhere to go, nothing to do and little hope. If the Bill becomes law, we will find that the public houses of Sparkbrook, not at all the welcome hostelries that the Home Secretary tried to describe 40 minutes ago, will be open to them during their long and desperate afternoons.
We ought not to comfort ourselves, as I fear the Home Secretary tried to do, with the pretence that the longer hours allowed under clause I will not become universal. The brewers are changing the clause in their contracts with tenants that requires those tenants to be open at all permissible hours, but that clause is likely to remain in the contracts of licensed managers and, more important, the pressure on public houses from brewers, users and every sort of group able to exert pressure is likely to mean that every public house will open for the full 12 hours. It only needs a public house around the corner to open for managers, licensees or tenants to know that if they do not open, they will lose business that they cannot afford to lose.
I suppose the Home Secretary has read the explicit and precise evidence of Clayson that, whenever there is a 51 permissible increase in opening hours, that permission becomes the universally applied rule. I have no doubt that that will happen here.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I really must continue and I hope that my hon. Friend and hon. Gentlemen will forgive me.
The conclusion that it is a virtual certainty that there will be additional drinking leads some of those who are most concerned with alcohol abuse—for example, the campaign Alcohol Concern—to to insist that restrictions on opening hours are necessary and should be a permanent safeguard. That is not my view. Safeguards other than restrictions in opening hours would be far more effective and far more acceptable in a free society.
I should like to see longer opening hours and more effective safeguards of a different sort. Were those more effective safeguards in place, I would vote for the relaxation in opening hours that the Home Secretary has proposed. For example, I think that we need a general and widespread use of the random breath test. We understand perfectly well section 159 of the Road Traffic Act 1972. It is a question not of the stopping of drivers but of the certainty of the testing of drivers. The Home Secretary knows as well as I do that the most dangerous driver is the man who says, "I may be above the limit but because I can hold my liquor, I will not commit a traffic offence and therefore I will not be breathalysed." That driver has to be convinced that, even if he believes, rightly or wrongly, that he can hold his liquor, if he drives while over the alcohol limit he may be stopped at random and be breathalysed. That will be the greatest inhibition on over-limit drinking that it is possible to imagine. Were that provision general within the United Kingdom, that would substantially cut road deaths.
We need a more effective programme of education about the problems associated with alcohol and we need far fewer advertisements pretending that alcohol is inevitably and irrevocably associated with economic and social success. We need the brewers to commit themselves to a real campaign, not simply to keep under-age drinkers out of public houses, but to reduce the drinking of alcohol by teenagers in general. Perhaps we should make low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks a compulsory feature of every public house so that it is possible for teenagers to go into public houses to socialise without being forced to booze.
Most important, we need a drive by the Government, that the Opposition would gladly support, to try to explain to the population that alcohol, whether used moderately or not, is not the pattern and model of the good life, that it carries with it severe penalties and that nobody should use it without being conscious of those penalties.
Were those safeguards on offer and were they firm, definite and certain, I should gladly vote for the Bill, for my instincts are against extended controls over licensing hours. As I half hinted earlier, I would vote for more extensive relaxations of opening hours, but, as the Government choose to relax licensing laws without providing any of the alternative and, in my view, necessary and much more effective safeguards, I shall vote against the Bill, and I urge other hon. Members to do the same.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
This modest measure can be properly judged only against the changes, for good or for ill, that have taken place since the Licensing Act 1961.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is inclined to speak as if licensing restrictions have remained unaltered since the first world war. That is not so. The Bill is not the beginning of liberalisation of permitted hours, but a continuation of a process of weakening control. The 1961 Act was hailed as a measure that would set the people free. I know — I was here at the time. The Government spokesman who wound up the Third Reading debate became quite lyrical. He ended with a quotation:Now is the time to drink. Now is the time to stamp the floor with the feet of freedom".It seemed quite right at the time to take that view, because the Ministry of Health was claiming that alcohol abuse was not a problem. Indeed, at that time we had a national reputation for sobriety. The question is: what has happened since 1961? It can be answered quite simply. We have seen a doubling of alcohol consumption and with it more than a doubling of alcohol-related harm. The situation deteriorated so rapidly that in 1972 Sir Keith Joseph, who was then the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, invited me to become chairman of the National Council for Alcoholism, because in his view alcohol abuse had already become a major problem. He told me that if I agreed to do the job he would find the resources. I accepted the challenge, and successive Governments kept faith with me by finding increased resources, at least until the late 1970s. Those of us who have worked in this area know that in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, increased consumption means increased harm. The clarion call in 1961 may have been, "Now is the time to drink," but it has led to an appalling state of affairs.
Consider the facts. For the first time in this century, 16-year-old boys are more likely than middle-aged men to be convicted of offences of drunkenness. Under-age drunkenness has increased ninefold. In 1965, under-21s accounted for one in 12 of all drunkenness offences, and by 1985 they accounted for one in four. Goodness knows what the figure is now.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
No, I shall not give way to my hon. Friend. If he has the opportunity to speak in this debate, I hope that he will declare his interest in these matters.
The Blennerhassett committee, in reviewing the reasons for the declining effectiveness of drink-drive legislation, pointed to increasing alcohol consumption as a major factor. Alcohol is a contributory factor in one out of three domestic accidents, in four out of every 10 fires, in one in five deaths from drowning and in two thirds of all attempted suicides. Alcohol abuse by a parent is one of the major reasons for children being taken into care. One in three divorce petitions cite excessive drinking as a contributory factor.
The link between alcohol and crime, especially violent crime, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made clear, is indisputable. One in five of our hospital beds is occupied by a patient with an alcohol-related disease. It is clear that that fact was in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 53 for Social Services when, at the Conservative party conference at Blackpool, he referred to the enormous saving of Health Service resources that would be achieved if the problem of alcohol abuse were to be brought under control.
According to the royal medical colleges, alcohol is responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year and is the third largest killer after cancer and heart disease. We do not hear the Department of Health and Social Security saying now that there is less alcohol abuse in England and Wales than there was in the restrictive 1950s.
Contrary to the claim advanced constantly by the drink industry, alcohol problems are by no means restricted to a small minority of alcoholics. The levels of consumption that are known to cause medical and social damage are substantially lower than those required to produce alcoholism. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) was responsible for the nation's health — my right hon. Friend is now the Secretary of State for Employment—he said:The problems of alcohol abuse are not those of a small minority. We are not concerned solely with those whose lives have been totally destroyed by drink … or with the problems of liver cirrhosis or alcohol psychosis … They arc a tiny part of the total problem although they are also useful indications of trends in the overall size of alcohol misuse in our society.Precisely. I hope that that statement will be accepted as a definitive rebuttal of the myth assiduously cultivated by those with a vested interest in the sale of alcohol that its victims are only a tiny minority.
How do the Government respond to this appalling state of affairs? Do they bring before us a Bill to end the scandal of under-age drinking or to reduce the carnage on the roads by introducing random breath tests? Do they introduce stringent controls on advertising? No, they do none of those things. Instead, they have introduced the modest measure that is now before us, the sole purpose of which is to increase the sale of alcohol.
Those who claim that licensing controls are irrelevant to alcohol abuse, or even counter-productive, should explain why all the indices of alcohol-related harm have increased steeply since the 1961 Act ushered in an era of increasing alcohol availability.
We have been told in the past, and no doubt we shall be told again—there have been some interventions on this issue already—that the Scottish experiment proves that licensing restrictions can be loosened without a harmful effect. In reality, the evidence from Scotland is ambiguous, inconclusive and quite insufficient to give the green light to further liberalisation in England and Wales. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has conceded as much. The idea that Scotland is now largely free of the sort of alcohol-related violence and disorder that previously disfigured it is another myth.
An article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph of 26 October stated:Inside a young girl is pinned to the wall by a big angry drunk wielding a long knife. Another girl is grabbed by the throat while a clean-cut, sober-suited young man tries to wrestle her attacker to the ground … This is Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency unit—Britain's biggest and busiest and arguably fast becoming the most dangerous and violent.Said a young registrar, 'You'd he a fool not to expect violence any night of the week here … It is no longer a question of whether you will be assaulted on duty but when. A lot of medical students coming here are terrified. They are not taught to cope with the drunkenness and violence … 54 Something like 80 per cent. of all the patients we see in here at night have alcohol on board. Fifty to 60 per cent. of those can best be described as legless.'That was said by a registrar of a fine hospital in the capital city of Scotland, where no one, we gather, is very sure of what happened as a result of the 1976 Act. The consultant in charge was reported as saying:The genuinely ill are having their treatment compromised by rampaging drunks.If that is Scotland after the supposed benefits of liberalisation, I shudder to think what it was like before.
England is not to be compared with Scotland. In considering the Bill, it is what we know has happened in England and Wales that matters. The 1961 liberalisation coincided with rising living standards. Both factors worked together to increase consumption, and with this to increase harm. The consequences of further liberalisation in England and Wales must be assessed also against the background painted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presenting us with the happy news of increasing real incomes. The drinks trade claims that the Bill will create 50,000 additional jobs—three cheers! — but that in itself must lead inevitably to increased consumption. It is inevitable, too, that that will lead to increased harm.
I must be fair to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and accept that he had to respond to the commitment that was set out in the manifesto to introduce a Bill to liberalise the licensing legislation. I accept also that there may be practical reasons for introducing this measure early in the new Session. I recognise, too, that my right hon. Friend has moved some way towards the amendments that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and I tabled to the Bill that was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) in the last Parliament. For example, my right hon. Friend has accepted 11 pm as the closing hour, and that is excellent as far as it goes. That was also reflected in the Conservative party's manifesto, which promised that a Conservative Government wouldkeep a sensible limit on late-night opening".I am pleased about that.
That is something that must not be forgotten by my right hon. Friend, nor by those who seek to become members of the Committee that will consider this measure. I trust that my right hon. Friend will vigorously resist any attempt to introduce a later closing hour. To do otherwise would be to renege on our electoral commitment and go against public opinion. A MORI poll conducted over the past few weeks has shown that 61 per cent. of the population oppose public houses remaining open until midnight, and there is similar opposition to extended hours on Sundays.
I welcome, too, the provision to allow licensing justices or magistrates courts to exercise discretion in granting special hours certificates and to attach limitations to them. This reform is long overdue. The proposals for the administration of licensing committees will, I know, be welcomed by the justices' clerks. However, the Government should reconsider the proposals to award costs. We should take account of the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) on this issue. By giving powers to award costs against objectors the Bill does not reflect what the Justices' Clerks Society wanted, and it is likely to deter residents from objecting. That is not sensible, it is not just and the proposal should be changed.
55 Nor do I approve of the dismantling of a 70-year-old safeguard, the afternoon break. Without doubt, this break has helped to make British pubs the orderly and pleasant places that many of them are. Many licensees I know want the afternoon break to be retained. They work damned hard, as do their wives, and they deserve this break. Whether they will be allowed to have it if the Bill is enacted, bearing in mind all the pressures that will exist, is another matter. It is ironic that, just when the Government are introducing a Bill to destroy the afternoon break, the New Zealand Ministry of Justice is recommending the introduction of an afternoon break for the first time in that country's history, precisely because it has concluded that the break here has helped to advance sobriety in this country.
Hon. Members will have received a personal communication from the Campaign against Drinking and Driving, a group which represents the innocent victims of alcohol-related road crashes. The campaign's anxieties regarding the Bill's likely effects on road safety — particularly the fear that it will increase the number of' alcohol-related road casualties during the afternoon — must be taken seriously. This is, after all, a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, it does not seem to me that the Government are taking it at all seriously, although I look forward to hearing what they have to say.
The consultative document promised that one of the grounds for the imposition of a restriction order on afternoon opening would be public safety. The licensing justices could impose restriction orders if they were convinced that all-day drinking had contributed to increased deaths and injuries on the roads. However, the Bill contains no such provision. Public safety is excluded altogether as a ground for imposing a restriction order. That is wholly unacceptable, and I hope that the Government will look at the matter again in Committee.
Let me now deal with the Bill's gravest omission, the absence of measures to deal with under-age drinking. I cannot understand why a Government who are prepared to tackle the problems of drug abuse with stringent legal measures, and who responded so promptly to the tragedies of Zeebrugge and Hungerford, should appear so unconcerned and so reluctant to make decisions on the problem of under-age drinking. Only last Thursday The London Evening Standard carried the headlineHalf our children are regulars at the pub",and reported the results of a survey by Exeter university based on a sample of 18,000 schoolchildren throughout the country, which revealed that almost half our 14 to 15-year-old boys — and almost as many girls — had visited a pub or bar in the two weeks before the survey was carried out.
Such findings are not new. They merely confirm what the Government already knew in October 1985 when the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys handed a report that it had commissioned to the Department of Health and Social Security. I have to speak as I feel and say what I know. The history of that document is a disgrace. The Government's behaviour remains a complete mystery to me. When I tabled questions about the report in February 1986, I was fobbed off with the reply that it would be published later in the year, and so it was. It was sneaked out a few days before the Christmas recess. The findings confirmed that, for adolescents, the 56 major drug of abuse was not glue, or heroin, or cannabis, but alcohol, and that adolescents suffer many more problems from alcohol than from all the other drugs combined.
The Government have now sat on that report for over two years. It concluded that under-age drinking was rampant and, if not tackled seriously, would be completely out of control by the end of the decade. In spite of that, the Government now bring before the House a major piece of licensing legislation containing no measures to deal with the problem. Indeed, the very extension of hours that the Government seek in the Bill would worsen what has already become an epidemic—and I choose that word carefully.
The Government know that one in five 15-year-olds drinks more than 25 units of alcohol a week, which is well above the maximum regarded as safe for an adult. They know that the law on under-age drinking is not only flouted by young people, but, if their own surveys are correct, that it is ignored by the majority of publicans. More than 1,000 young people die every year as a consequence of alcohol misuse. In 1984, 2 per cent. of resident patients discharged from detoxification centres in the North East London regional health authority area were under 15 years of age, and in some district health authority areas the figure was 5 per cent. That number is increasing.
The Government are very well aware of the situation. Their consultative document, published on 4 August, recognised that action was needed. Indeed, the document clearly implied that the Bill would contain provisions to tackle the problem of under-age drinking. It was no doubt the promise of such action, coupled with the announcement of the inter departmental committee that persuaded the British Medical Association an the Institute of Alcohol Studies to be less hostile to the Bill than they had been to the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood. Last Christmas the Institute of Alcohol Studies called for rigorous enforcement of the law on under-age drinking and urged that the court should no longer need proof that a licensee knowingly sold alcohol to a minor in order to prosecute, a view widely expressed in editorials throughout the country, but the Home Office had already been alerted to the need in 1983 by no less a body than the Justices' Clerks Society. The justices' clerks administer the law and recognise the gravity of the problem. They are the people who know, and who hear the facts in court.
I find one matter extremely puzzling. According to the press, a working party of the standing conference on crime prevention set up by the Home Office to consider the problem of under-age drinking is due to issue its report later this month. I am led to believe that it will recommend tough action, including a ban on drinking in public places by persons under the age of 18, the removal of the word "knowingly" from those sections of the Licensing Act relating to the selling by licensees of alcohol to children and the raising of the age limit for persons to enter licensed premises.
It seems that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be present at a meeting on 24 November at which the report will be discussed. That means that the recommendations must be known to him already. Why, then, are they not reflected in the Bill? Are we to understand that the Government intend to deal with this aspect of the law in Committee, or will they at some time in the future introduce another Bill to deal specifically with under-age 57 drinking? Or are we to assume that the Government intend to ignore the recommendations of their advisory committee? Whichever is the case, it is difficult to see what useful purpose can be served by debating the Bill, let alone passing it, when we are ignorant of the Government's intentions.
I might not have spoken so strongly had I not seen an article dated 22 October in a journal entitled Publican, which stated that the proposals of the standing conference on crime prevention would not be entertained by the Home Office. How does the author know? The article states that the Home Office is known to want a smooth passage for the Bill and will not entertain the addition ofanti-alcohol measures or fresh restrictions which might delay its progress.Is that so? We need to know whether that article truly reflects the view of the Home Office. I read the consultative document and learned of the establishment of the interdepartmental committee, and I warmly wlcome the latter initiative because I know that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is a man of firm principle, sincerity and integrity; I expect action from him, and I know that we shall get it. But clearly in this the Government are putting the cart before the horse.
Originally, I took the view that I would not vote against the Bill on Second Reading but would abstain. That was when I had not seen the Bill. I have seen it now and I cannot acquiesce in a measure which is so untimely and which fails to tackle the problem of under-age drinkers. I trusted the Government and thought that they would at least be prepared to grasp the nettle and seek ways and means of reducing alcohol-related harm.
I am sure that my hon. Friends will forgive me if I begin to have a lurking fear that the Government intend to do nothing that might offend the drinks industry. I hope that I am wrong about that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will assure me that the Government intend to act positively and that further legislation will follow. I hope that my hon. Friend's reply is helpful because, if it is not, the Government cannot count on my support.
I hope too that throughout the debate, both in the House and in Committee, we will all bear in mind the escalating drain on our Health Service, the increasing number of broken homes, the harrowing loss of a child, parent, husband or wife because of the criminal action of a drunken driver, and the blighting of the lives of more and more of our young people. That is what we should consider before we chance our arm with this further increase in drinking hours. I hope that we bear in mind that it is not the public who are clamouring for the Bill, but those who make money out of peddling our No. I drug of abuse.
This morning I had a telephone call from a licensee who wished me to make these comments to the House. I venture to suggest that a number of licensees—decent, responsible people—do not want further deterioration. We should bear in mind the fact that, with events already out of control, there is no case for risking further deterioration. We should also remember that the World Health Organisation has urged all member states, including Britain, to reduce their consumption of alcohol by 25 per cent. by 1995, for health reasons. Will this untimely and incomplete Bill really be our country's answer to that sensible and urgent plea?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. Clearly, a large number of hon. Members are seeking to take part in the debate. Brief speeches will reduce the number of disappointments.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
Although the speech of the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) may not have been particularly brief, many hon. Members should pay attention to it. The right hon. Gentleman described the Bill as "modest", but the arguments that he advanced demanded a sense of responsibility which we have not yet seen from the Government. We certainly did not see it from the large number of Conservative candidates in the general election, who gave a remarkably high priority to the liberalisation of licensing laws but much less to issues such as unemployment, which may well have been worthy of a little more attention.
Two or three years ago I would probably have voted in favour of liberalisation, but the experience in my constituency since then and the growing concern about the matters raised by the right hon. Member for Castle Point have convinced me that this measure is not merely "modest", but is extremely harmful. It will give a great deal more power and opportunity to publicans, but even more to the breweries.
I have been concerned about the fact that the major brewery in my area—my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) pointed this out after he declined, not unreasonably, to allow me to intervene—requires its landlords to be open during every permitted hour. On Thursday I asked what steps the Home Secretary was taking to ensure that the flexibility to which the Government claim to be attached is achieved. The Under-Secretary of State—the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)—replied in a written answer:This is a matter for negotiation between the parties concerned.Therefore, whether the breweries allowed their tenants or managers to provide the flexibility which the Conservative general election manifesto said would be sought was nothing to do with the Government. The Under-Secretary said:I understand that negotiations are in progress and the parties are hopeful that a satisfactory solution will be found.I suggest that the Bill should not have been brought before the House until proper arrangements had been made to give that flexibility.
My main reason for speaking is to express my deep concern because of the experience in my constituency over the past two or three years. Two licensed premises enjoyed late night hours until 2 am. When one stopped being open for those hours, the local crime rate fell by nearly 50 per cent. It might be worth the Home Office asking the South Yorkshire police to comment on the effect of extended hours on society in the Rotherham area.
The second of those licensed premises, which is now closed—the name is about to be changed—was called "The Kiss of Life". I reckon that I received up to 30 complaints a week about that public house, to which people repaired after they had done a great deal of drinking at other hostelries. I was pleased—as, I believe, were many hundreds of my constituents—when "The Kiss of Life" ceased to operate. It is about to re-open as a more respectable establishment.
§ Mr. Favell
I refer the hon. Gentleman to clause 4 which, I hope, will resolve the very problem of public houses that obtain special hours certificates, especially in residential areas. We have all suffered from such problems. The powers given to the licensing justices to deal with these problems have now been greatly enlarged.
§ Mr. Hardy
There are all sorts of protective arrangements in other clauses. The licensing benches had a certain amount of power before, and I have been disappointed that they have not exercised that power. I do not enthuse when it seems likely that those who appeal to the licensing benches may suffer financial forfeit.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I have a similar problem in my constituency. A number of people, having drunk all day in Scotland over the border, cause a great deal of public disorder while availing themselves of the opportunity to go to a late licensed premises in my constituency.
§ Mr. Hardy
The problem of the mobility of the inebriated is serious, and the Government will make it worse.
The real reason for my involvement in the debate is the experience of two landlords in Wath upon Dearne, which is where I live and is within my constituency. I know "The Oak Tree Inn" and its landlord. I spent most of my childhood within about 100 yards of that establishment, which is 250 yards from my home. The landlord is on four weeks' notice to vacate his premises because he has not reached the brewery's barrellage target. I wrote to the brewery, John Smiths, which took over the local brewery, Whitworth, Son and Nephew, which I think is now the preserve of an Australian commercial enterprise. John Smiths has given that landlord and the landlord of another public house in Wath upon Dearne four weeks' notice because they have not reached the beer sales target set by the brewery.
I pointed out to the brewery that the population is stable, that disposable household income has fallen and that there are three or four new public houses within the former urban district. I asked the brewery how on earth they expected the landlord to maintain or increase his sales when there was the same population, less money and more public houses. The brewery has not answered that point. It has said that its managers should be able to exercise ingenuity and industriousness. The right hon. Member for Castle Point will recognise the sort of ingenuity and industriousness which landlords could demonstrate.
The brewery thinks of its obligation to its shareholders. It is not concerned about under-age drinking or about encouraging its landlords to refuse to serve a person who has had enough. The brewery is not concerned about the noise and other problems that can arise. It is all very well hon. Members wanting to be flexible, but if they live on or close to a route from public houses where ingenuity and industriousness have caused a social nuisance to develop, they may feel, as many of my constituents feel, that flexibility and freedom must be considered at the same time as responsibility.
Only a few months ago I saw a girl in the middle of Wath upon Dearne completely inebriated at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Only three of four months ago my wife and I went to the police station to bring the police to four teenagers—I doubt whether any was anywhere near the age of 18—who were completely drunk at 3.30 on a 60 Saturday afternoon. One was so drunk that he could not get up and was lying in the middle of the road. That type of scene in my home town would not have existed 20 years ago.
§ Mr. Hardy
I am sorry, but I shall not give way. I have given way twice and I want to finish soon.
We did not see such scenes until relatively recently. As a former schoolmaster and one who is concerned with the health of my constituents, I believe that drunkenness among young people and alcohol abuse among the community generally have reached serious proportions.
It is time that the Government recognised the severity of the situation rather than appearing merely to be the pawns of those who manufacture drink. Decent landlords should be able to remain within the community, but the breweries want landlords who will maximise profit. The Government have an obligation to ensure that breweries' profits take second place to the interests of the community. The present proposals and current practices in the industry certainly do not put the interests of the community uppermost. I am deeply concerned at what is happening in my constituency and I fear that things will become a great deal worse if the Government have their way.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)
I shall return to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy). My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), as eloquent and well informed as ever on these matters, reminded the House that I had the honour to introduce a private Member's Bill last Session. That Bill involved more flexibility in licensing hours than the present Bill. Nevertheless, it had all-party support. It was supported by a number of Labour Members and especially by Sir Clement Freud from the Liberal Bench. It had a Second Reading without a Division and went through its Committee stage. That experience established that there was widespread, if not universal, support in the House for a modest reform of licensing hours in England and Wales.
The House must recognise the absurdity of the present law. A person visiting this part of London in the afternoon and wanting a drink can acquire alcohol without difficulty by going to a restaurant and consuming alcohol with a meal, by buying alcohol in a supermarket or off-licence and consuming it in St. James's park, by taking a train to Brighton and back and consuming alcohol throughout both journeys, or even, perhaps, by persuading his or her Member of Parliament to buy drinks in one of the bars here. The one place where such a person could not consume alcohol would be in the controlled social environment of a public house. To me, that is absurd. Surely the essence of reform is that it is better to allow the consumption of alcohol in a socially and legally controlled environment than to encourage people to buy alcohol from supermarkets and to consume it wherever they like, which is the effect of the present law.
The hon. Member for Wentworth spoke eloquently of the problems of late-night opening. Clause 4 provides new discretionary powers for licensing justices and courts in relation to late-night nuisance. That is an important additional safeguard. The fact that there are serious alcohol-related problems in our society is not in dispute. 61 The question before the House is whether a measure of this kind would improve the situation, have a deleterious effect or have broadly no effect, given the natural arguments in favour of choice and of measures likely to increase choice.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said, one must be cautious about drawing too dramatic conclusions from the evidence of Scotland. Nevertheless, I congratulate from the Labour Government—I hope that some Opposition Members will do so, including the hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) whose expertise in these matters is well known—on introducing the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. I think that it is universally agreed, first, that no one wishes to return to the status quo before that legislation; and, secondly, that it has led to more civilised drinking. Thirdly, it is an unquestioned fact that the police now support the reforms that were implemented.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point referred to the present situation in Scotland. It is no part of my case or of anyone else's to be complacent about the situation in Scotland. Nevertheless, before the 1976 Act, Dr. Clayson himself stated that on every index for studying the misuse of alcohol, the Scots were worse than the English. One may interpret the statistics optimistically, pointing out that between 1981 and 1986, when one would have expected the effect of the 1976 Act to become apparent, figures for cirrhosis fell by 16 per cent. in Scotland but increased by 14 per cent. in England and Wales. The decline in cases of drunkenness was also sharper in Scotland than in England and Wales. The number of drink-driving convictions in England and Wales rose by 64 per cent. between 1975 and 1985 but increased only slightly in Scotland. The overwhelming weight of evidence gives no comfort to the opponents of a modest reform of this kind.
It has been suggested that the figures for alcohol consumption were affected by the recession, but the figures do not bear out the contention that Scotland was worse hit than England and Wales. Between 1974 and 1984, unemployment rose by 126 per cent. in Scotland compared with 139 per cent. for Great Britain as a whole, and personal incomes rose more in Scotland than in the United Kingdom as a whole.
I should be interested to hear any further comments from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with regard to Sundays. I have some sympathy with the case so honestly stated by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that doing nothing about Sundays would make it less difficult to get the Bill through. That is why my Bill did not touch Sundays. But there is a difference between a private Member coming eighth in the ballot and a Government, with all their advantages, implementing a manifesto commitment.
I would not go so far as the Erroll committee recommendatision. Of course there are arguments for keeping Sunday special, but that is not an argument for the status quo. In my view, the argument for liberalisation in principle applies strongly to the very limited period of two hours available at lunch-time on Sundays, which in my view is likely to lead to "beat the clock" drinking and to discourage leisurely drinking at a time of major importance for the leisure and tourism industries. I have no doubt that these aspects will be considered in Committee. The Erroll committee recommendation may be too radical, but that should not lead us to regard the status quo as the best of all possible worlds.
62 The House is rightly concerned about the problems of under-age drinking. The Scottish Council on Alcoholism has pointed to the problems in Scotland and, in particular identified consumption from supermarkets as being a major cause. The law in England and Wales varies unsatisfactorily and is in need of amendment. The Bill will bring undoubted benefits in choice, employment and tourism. I am not one of those who take an extreme stand on the Scottish figures. They must be interpreted with caution. However, I believe that the arguments from Scotland point in the direction of a sensible and modest reform, and I wish the Bill well.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)
Although I shall speak in favour of the Bill and vote accordingly, there is to be a free vote from the alliance Benches. We accept that the issues that we are called upon to determine today require the exercise of individual judgment. As has been eloquently demonstrated in some of the speeches, there is genuine concern about the effects of relaxation. I do riot share that concern, but I accept that it is not to be discounted or lightly disregarded.
I find myself substantially in accord with the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). However, before I expand upon that, it would be proper to declare an interest in two respects. First, as a practising advocate in Scotland, I have appeared on a number of occasions on behalf of companies that might be expected to profit from the provisions of the Bill. Secondly, I had the good fortune to be a member of the Clayson committee that sat contemporaneously with the Erroll committee. Indeed, the Clayson committee's proposals were surprisingly rapidly enacted in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. It is to the particular provisions of that Act that I wish to direct the attention of the House, especially in relation to clause 1 of this Bill, which has justifiably been described as a modest proposal.
The provisions of section 64 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 allow for the regular extension of permitted hours. Extensions have been sought for the period between 2.30 pm and 5 pm to such an extent that they have been granted virtually as a matter of course. That can only be because the licensing boards charged with the responsibilities of administering the Act have decided that such extensions can be granted without causing undue public nuisance or a threat to public order or safety — the statutory grounds for refusing an extension. Indeed, the fact that the period between 2.30 pm and 5 pm has been treated in that way by licensing boards was reflected in the consultative document produced by the Scottish Home and Health Department this year, which suggested that, in parallel with clause 1 of this Bill, 11 am to 11 pm could become the basic terms of a licence in Scotland.
The experience in Scotland does not suggest that the extension of hours in the afternoon has had anything approaching the adverse consequences that have been predicted for the provisions of clause 1. In a country that is endeavouring to expand the tourist trade, it has become clear that the facilities now available in Scotland in the afternoon have frequently proved beneficial. That is in line with the consequences of relaxation generally in Scotland, which has improved the standards of comfort and hygiene and been a civilising influence, even in licensed premises in urban areas.
63 A rather curious consequence of that relaxation is that the range of non-alcoholic drinks available in public houses has been extended and expanded. Whereas, prior to 1976, the atmosphere in a public house would have dissuaded someone from entering if he was not intending to drink alcohol, now he may more freely enter and have a non-alcoholic drink. The success of reform in Scotland has to some extent arisen because the powers of the licensing authorities were properly defined in the 1976 Act and because there was a proper recognition of the public interest and the right of the public to object either to applications for licences or to an extension of the hours otherwise permitted by the Act.
The extended power of licensing authorities in Scotland to intervene when standards have not been met has been effective, especially in the regulation of licensed premises after 11 pm and into the early hours of the morning. Certain enterprises, such as discotheques, are, by their very nature, operating at an hour when many people have already retired to bed. Clauses 2 and 4 of the Bill similarly reflect the principle of giving licensing authorities an effective policing power for premises under their jurisdiction.
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.
Having regard to the strictures about short speeches, I wish to conclude with a specific reference to clause 10. As I understand it, it gives power to licensing authorities to grant expenses against those who oppose applications if that is thought to be just and reasonable. That might impose a rather severe test on members of the public who wish to object to applications. I draw to the Minister's attention section 16(6) of the 1976 Act in Scotland which provides a similar power, but which requires the licensing authorities to be satisfied that the objection is frivolous or vexatious. If those principles are applicable north of the border they could, with considerable common sense, be incorporated into similar provisions south of the border. My experience of Scotland, however, is that the power to award expenses has rarely, if ever, been exercised.
The proposals in the Bill have been described as modest by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I think the description appropriate. They represent a modest liberalising of the law, and should commend themselves to the whole House.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I am grateful for this opportunity to intervene in the debate. I especially want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on securing this piece of legislation in our programme for this Session. The Bill responds to what the public at large feels has been a successful change in Scotland. If it goes through Parliament, it will bring us more into line with practices in Europe. Many people from all parts of the world who visit this country are confused by our licensing laws.
I am pleased to say that the legislation is based on conclusive evidence. In that respect, I am pleased to follow 64 the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) who, with his experience on the Clayson committee, has brought an important contribution to the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) knows more than anyone else about the effects of changes in the licensing laws in Scotland. Through the introduction of his Bill on licensing reform, he too brings to the debate the sort of evidence that we are looking for as justifying such changes. It is important that the changes that we make do not exacerbate the problems of alcoholism and misuse of alcohol. It is to ensure that we are in a better position to deal with such problems, but, at the same time, allow people to enjoy themselves and go about their lives in a civilised pattern.
Much is said about the Scottish evidence. Some studies have found no significant increase in the consumption of alcohol among men as a whole between 1976 and 1984. In 1976, an average of 14.3 units a week were consumed, as opposed to 1984 when 14.5 units per week were consumed. The difference is so minute as to be almost insignificant. The increase was due to an increase in the number of men's visits to public houses. Among women, there has been an increase. In 1976, 2.8 units of alcohol a week were consumed, and in 1984 the figure had risen to 3.8 units a week. That is a modest increase. In the main, it is due to the fact that more women are going to pubs in Scotland with their husbands and men friends, whereas hitherto they were put off by the general state and order of pubs. Since 1976, there has been an upgrading of public houses—the provision of more food and a much more civilised atmosphere — and that has been more acceptable to women who wish to go in and enjoy themselves.
§ Mr. Favell
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are no similar figures for England and Wales? It is impossible to say whether alcohol consumption has gone up by that modest amount in England and Wales. It could reflect a general trend throughout the United Kingdom towards greater equality for women who, at one time, were treated as second-class citizens in pubs and clubs, including Conservative clubs.
§ Mr. Banks
I am sure that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will understand that point. I certainly agree with what was said by my hon. Friend.
The final drink-up time that occurs just before closing is important. To my mind, the restrictions placed on the closing of pubs at 10 o'clock in Scotland before 1976 and at 11 o'clock now in England and Wales tend to accelerate drinking just before the pubs are about to close. That is the crucial time when people will drink just too much, putting them over the limit before they go and drive away in their cars, or they drink that much more, which leads them to commit some stupid crime or to do something silly. I prefer my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to accept that it is better to have greater flexibility so that, through the Bill, we may suggest that pubs can open at, say, 11.30 in the morning and close at 11.30 at night, with all the restrictions that would be imposed by licensing magistrates as a result of local opposition and objections if they were proved to be unacceptable.
If hours are staggered to take account of local conditions—prticularly in areas in which there are a great number of tourist attractions, such as cinemas and theatres, and people want to go to a pub and enjoy a drink 65 and perhaps have some food before they go home—extra time would allow that to take place in a civilised and reasonable way. It would also have the effect of reducing the snap drink-up time, which happens at the moment when people go to a pub a little later in the evening. It would also he of general benefit to the police. They will find that it is easier to police pubs that close at different times rather than try to police all the pubs that close at the same time every night.
The survey of licensed premises that the Government commissioned showed that a significant reduction in the pattern of acceleration of drinking towards the end of the evening had not disappeared in Scotland but had diminished. Senior police officers much prefer the situation, but the decline in the proportion of drinkers on licensed premises at closing time who had either bought a drink for themselves or were bought one in the last 10 minutes has gone down from 51 per cent. in Scotland in 1976 to 42 per cent. in 1984. We need to take that argument on board.
One point that has emerged in this debate and that will emerge in all other debates on licensing reform relates to the drunken driver and drunkenness. I shall continue to advocate that we should have personal breathalysers. They should be freely available on the market at reasonable prices, so that, if somebody feels that he may be over the limit, he can at least test himself. If he is over the limit, he can wait until he is under the limit or he does not drive. It is extraordinary that we do not take action to try to propel the matter forward and give drivers an opportunity to test themselves in their cars, or before they get into their cars, to see whether they are over the limit. Certainly, insurance companies have a role to play in abdicating insurance if a drunken driver is found guilty of an offence. Nobody should be able to drive a car if he is in a condition which could cause grave harm to someone else.
§ Mr. Colvin
I go further and ask my hon. Friend to reconsider what he said. There is a good case for a driver who goes to a pub not to have any alcohol at all. The licensing trade may welcome, not resist, that suggestion.
§ Mr. Banks
I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend's point. We can debate it on other occasions. It is reasonable to have one or two dinks. As Members of Parliament we may often go to functions. It is normal to take a glass of wine and then go to another function. We can drive quite safely on that basis.
Experience in Scotland has shown that the number of drivers who have been convicted of offences arising out of being drunk in control of a vehicle has declined in relation to the number in England and Wales, which has increased.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) referred to problems associated with under-age drinkers. His speeches on such matters are always listened to with great interest. Under-age drinkers are undoubtedly a major problem for the publican who cannot determine the age of some of the people whom he serves. It is a major problem when young people, who should not drink, do so wildly and to excess. It is up to the publican to say to somebody about whom he has any slight hesitation in serving because he believes that they may be under 18 years of age, "I shall serve you with a drink if you can prove to me that you are over 18." That is another way of saying that we should have identity cards. It would make it simple and easy for anybody to make a straightforward challenge of that sort.
66 I welcome the work that brewers and the Brewers Society have done in bringing forward alcohol-free beers. I have sampled some of them, and they are good. People can enjoy the conviviality of drinking in a pub with friends without the risk of going over the limit. An enormous amount of work must be done to deal with the problem of alcohol misuse. I warmly welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to co-ordinate the activities of the various Departments. That is a major step forward. In time, I am sure, we shall see the action that many of us believe is necessary to educate young people about drinking sensibly and the problems that emanate from too much alcohol consumption.
At the end of the day, the Bill will be of benefit. It will not exacerbate the problem of alcohol abuse, but it will make us a much more civilised nation. I support the Bill.
§ Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington. North)
I want to make it clear that I am putting forward the views of the National Association of Licensed House Managers. Whatever is said by Front Bench spokesmen and whatever is decided upon, the licensed house managers will have to deal with the problems created by the Bill.
Of course, those managers are prepared to go part of the way to assist the implementation of the Bill. They would not, for example, oppose the extension of licensing hours from 11 am to 11 pm; they are quite agreeable to that, although it goes further than they would have wanted. However, they would oppose any interference with or extension of Sunday or bank holiday opening hours, such as those for Good Friday or at Christmas.
Licensed house managers want to retain some control over the operation of licensed premises. They would especially like to retain the law that provides specifically that licensees are not obliged to open for all the permitted hours. They feel that if all the other pubs in a town or village opened, the pressure on them to do likewise would become intolerable unless some provision enabling them to avoid having to do so were written into the Bill.
I know that I shall elicit a response from the Minister by saying that licensed house managers would like removed from their contracts the clause that obliges a licensee to open his licensed premises during the whole of the available permitted hours. It is no good saying one thing if licensed house managers are obliged to do the opposite because the brewers insist on keeping the premises open. That is a most important point.
Another important argument relates to flexibility. The licensed house managers understand local conditions. I do not think that there will be any extension of licensing hours in many areas. In many residential and industrial areas the local need can be met under existing licensing arrangements. Indeed, I do not think there will be the demand that the brewers think. However, in many other areas the position many be different. One example is the City, where people appear to have nothing better to do than to drink in the afternoon — indeed it might be better for them to drink in the afternoon than to make the mess that they have made recently of stock market prices.
Another such instance of need would be in seaside resorts. In the holiday trade there is need to maximise the hours available. Similarly, holiday resorts need to be flexible in winter. Surely it is best to leave it to the manager or to the licensee to know his own area and, in knowing his locality, to reach the decision, rather than having 67 pressure placed on him by the brewer who might say, "This is now the law and we expect you all to be open." We know that that pressure could arise if the Bill is left as it is. We should take account of local conditions and meet the need rather than create one. I am sure that that is the way in which licensed house managers would look at the matter.
Hon. Members of all parties have said that the Bill aims to enable people to use licensed premises rather than to encourage them to drink more. We should examine that matter in relation to the problems that face us. Licensed house managers are especially concerned that the extended hours provision must not provide a basis for a later terminal hour on a regular basis, as occurs now, for example, in some pubs on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Hon. Members have also touched on the fact that alcohol is available from sources other than public houses and restaurants. Much of the increase in drinking habits has occurred because of off-licences and supermarkets. Many statistics have been given on under-age and children's drinking and on the fact that more women are drinking. It is far easier for an under-age person to go into a supermarket to obtain drinks than it is for him to do so on licensed premises. It is also far easier for women or other members of the family, when shopping, to put drinks in the supermarket trolley. I am sure that that is why an increase in drinking has occurred and we should pay more attention to it.
At football matches, the closing of pubs around football grounds has not stopped people who are drunk entering the ground. Indeed, some people try to take drink into the ground. That happens because they have been able to obtain the alcohol from surrounding supermarkets. I should like to see, as would many licensed house managers, supermarkets having their licences revoked when such things happen. They should be responsible for the disorderly conduct that can occur.
The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) referred to the non-alcoholic beverages that taste like beer. They are not perfect, but they are still being worked on and I welcome them. However, one of the difficulties at the moment is that they cost more than ordinary beers. If we want to promote them, surely the price should be less than that of beer. Perhaps the Government could do something about that: possibly the Chancellor could seek to extend their sales and divert people from alcohol.
There is nothing wrong with going into a pub. Indeed, pubs are the central feature of many villages, because they are the places where people gather. That is not a bad thing, and I should like to see all the family going in. It does not necessarily follow that that would lead to more drinking. If a pub is well run — many licensees are responsible people—that need not happen and licensees often kick out people who are nuisances.
I do not want extended licensing hours to be imposed on areas where it need not happen. I do not want to see the pressure to be open being put on licensed house managers by brewers. Where there is a need for an extension of the licensing hours or at bank holidays such as Christmas, it should be the individual licensee who makes an application rather than the area manager or the brewery.
I shall probably support the Bill. However, I give fair warning that I shall watch what happens. I should like to see some of the conditions and ideas that I have put 68 forward incorporated in the Bill. I shall certainly consider the Bill most carefully on Third Reading to decide whether I shall continue to support it. However, for the moment I wish it not a fair wind, but a little wind. I shall probably continue to support it, but only on the understanding that flexibility must remain with the licensee and especially with the house manager. We must protect them against the undue pressure that could come from breweries.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
Mr. Deputy Speaker made a plea for brief speeches and I shall attempt to follow that advice.
We live in an enlightened age — the age of the microchip, of man in space and of nuclear power—yet in England and Wales it is still not possible to get a drink in a public house during the afternoon or after 11 pm. The truth is that our licensing laws are not relevant to today. They are restrictive and inconvenient to everybody. I applaud the Government for seeking to bring about a modest change through this Bill.
The arguments put forward by critics of the measure are that the Government should leave the law as it is because of the problem that, regrettably, a minority of people have with alcohol. I have never understood why the majority should face the inconvenience of severe restrictions on pub licensing hours because of the unfortunate minority. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) made several good points, but he omitted to mention that public houses are controlled drinking environments. The licensee is in charge of what happens on his premises and has a duty to keep an orderly house. There are certain ways in which one cannot conduct oneself in a public house; for example, one cannot behave in a threatening or abusive way to other customers and one cannot be served if one is intoxicated or if one is under age.
The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) gave a graphic description of several drunken youths collapsing and milling about outside his house. I, like the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) must ask him where those youths bought that drink. The chances are that they bought it, not in a public house, but in a nearby supermarket. If there is a case for the Government strengthening the law, it is in relation not to public houses but to supermarkets.
Often, the licensee in a supermarket is not in charge of alcohol sales. He may visit the licensing area of his store only once a day, and invariably it is under the control of a fairly junior shop assistant. Many hon. Members will have seen a shop assistant serving a customer with drink who is obviously under age, and on two recent occasions I saw an assistant selling alcohol to a customer who was clearly intoxicated.
§ Mr. Knight
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The consequences are often scenes of drunken behaviour on the streets, such as the hon. Member for Wentworth described.
Other critics outside the House say that the measure does not go far enough, and I have some sympathy with them. Obviously clauses 2 and 4 are right, but the licensee 69 of a public house is adjudged by a magistrates court to be a fit and proper person. He must provide references; he knows that his behaviour is under continual police scrutiny and that he must run an orderly house. I wonder why in 1987 we cannot therefore allow a publican to open at his discretion within a maximum number of hours each day. That is the nettle that we should grasp tonight.
Even the Erroll report of 1972 recommended that pubs should be able to open between 10 am and midnight, yet 15 years on we are being asked to consider only a minor relaxation. Even if the Bill is passed, most of Europe and the United States will still have more liberal licensing laws.
Some opponents of the Bill have provided statistics. I will do the same. United States law varies from state to state. In Alabama, the closing hour for bars is 2 am, in Arizona I am, in California 2 am, in Florida midnight, in Indiana 3 am and in Nevada the bars are open 24 hours a day. It is disappointing that the Government have not seen fit to include measures to postpone the terminal hour here.
As the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) said, it is disappointing that the Bill does not include measures to allow greater flexibility on Sundays. As he pointed out, it is ironic that the day of the week when most members of the public have most leisure is the one day when we shall not allow them to choose how they use that time.
My hon. Friend the Minister will be pleased to know that Derby and District Licensed Victuallers Association is wholeheartedly behind the measure. However, it has expressed some anxiety about the operation of the drinking-up rule and I hope that my hon. Friend will consider this in Committee. The association feels that the allocation of 10 minutes which is given to licensees to collect alcohol from tables and to persuade customers to leave is a narrow period in which to operate. It would welcome the Government reconsidering this point and, hopefully, relaxing it somewhat.
The Bill is not a drunks' charter; it is a modest measure. In my view, it is rather too modest, but in politics one soon learns to grasp what one can while one can. On that basis, I shall support the measure tonight.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
At least the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) had the honesty to say that he was grabbing what he could and wanted the measure to go even further. Both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) were throwing dust in our eyes in trying to turn our attention to the off-licenses and supermarkets. Naturally, one must consider all the outlets available to the public. Both tried to exonerate public houses by describing them as "controlled environments", but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said—in this matter he is my right hon. Friend — the recent Health Education Authority survey stated that 49 per cent. of 14 to 15-year-olds visited a pub or bar in the two weeks before the survey was carried out. That hardly supports the argument of a closely controlled environment, nor the argument that one need simply look into supermarkets and off-licences.
This is pre-eminently a matter on which we should all declare our interests, so in all honesty I shall declare mine. Together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, I am a patron of the Alcohol Safeguards Campaign 70 and Familybase, and I am president of the West Glamorgan council group on alcohol and drug abuse. I hope that all Conservative Members will declare their personal interests in that same spirit and that the Government will lay on the table their close personal and financial links with the drinks trade, which have existed ever since William Ewart Gladstone lost the 1874 election, having been drowned by torrents of gin and beer following the Licensing Act 1872. It was introduced by Henry Bruce. who, like me, was not only a member of the Bar, but the only other Member who attended Swansea grammar school. Clearly, there have since been substantial links between the drinks industry and the Conservative party.
The Minister will not be surprised that the bodies with which I am closely linked are opposed to the Bill. We have several questions. Who wants the change? Where is the pressure for this change coming from? Certainly pressure has come partly from the tourist industry. Since the Scottish precedent is quoted with such relish by Conservative Members, I note that in Scotland tourism increased by only 8 per cent. between 1979 and 1985, compared with 24 per cent. in England and Wales. That hardly argues eloquently for a direct correlation between the accessibility to drink following the 1976 change in Scotland and benefits to the tourist industry and brewers.
Following the excursion through history of my right hon. Friend, we recall that Bishop Magee of Peterborough said during the debate on the 1972 Act that he would like to see''England free better than England sober.I recall that Peterborough is not too far from Grantham or rural Oxfordshire, and I wonder whether there is an echo today of "rather England free than England sober" in speeches from the Government Front Bench.
Who is concerned about the Bill? Medical experts on the subject and the general public certainly are. There is no evidence of any support for the Bill from the general public—on the contrary. Why the hurry? What is it that impels the Government to press forward with this so-called modest change, when we hear that the Government's legislative programme is overloaded and their business managers are seeking opportunities of jettisoning parts of it? I commend this Bill for that purpose straight away. It is a poor measure and the Wakeharn committee gives the Government an opportunity to examine the whole issue of alcoholism in the round, rather than going ahead wilfully with only part of this area.
How far do the Government really want to go? Some Conservative Members have let the cat out of the bag: they have an incremental view of the Bill As the Home Secretary was honest enough to admit, it is as far as he can go now. He knows that if he put forward the package that he and his hon. Friends wanted, it would include Sunday, too. Having sustained a bloody nose over the Shops Bill in the last Session, he is not prepared to go ahead with that aspect now.
The Government like to portray the Bill as a modest, tidying-up measure, to get rid of what the Home Secretary called the dead afternoon. If so, are they prepared to give an undertaking to the House that in no circumstances will they support any further liberalisation for, say, the next five years? Or do the Government see the Bill purely on an incremental basis—something that they can get away with now in the hope that they can build on it by salami tactics, bit by bit, supporting their friends in the brewing 71 industry? Of course the brewers will come back asking for more, and the Government, on present form, will give it to them.
The key question surely is whether consumption will increase as a result of the measure. We know that the Scottish evidence is contradictory and inconclusive. Why do the Government not promote research that can give us a clearer idea of what has happend in Scotland? For example, the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys survey, prepared for the Scottish Home and Health Department, has produced figures that must be viewed with considerable caution. They are based on people's opinions of what happened rather than on what actually happened.
It is clear that increased road traffic offences due to drunken driving have continued to be higher in Scotland than in England. There has certainly been an increase in consumption among those in work, particularly among women. The only group among which there has been a reduction in consumption has been the unemployed—for obvious reasons. If the brewers are really saying that they do not expect an increase in consumption—we hear that the Government have promised them the Bill by February—why are they investing more——
§ Mr. Anderson
That is some small mercy.
Why do the brewers intend to invest more if they do not expect higher profits? The Home Secretary contradicted himself by quoting with approval suggestions by the tourist industry that 50,000 jobs—albeit part-time jobs—would be created. If those 50,000 jobs were created within the public house system as a result of the Bill—the Home Secretary seemed to adopt that figure—who will pay their wages? Surely they can only come from increased consumption—from projected increased consumption — by the public. Who else would pay? The money will not come out of the brewers' pockets.
I made the concession that the Scottish evidence is inconclusive, but the reaction of the brewers and the evidence from other countries suggest that there is a direct correlation between availability and consumption, and between consumption and the range of social problems that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point described. I do not propose to go over all the social consequences for the family, industry and personal relationships, but hon. Members who are concerned about the effects of alcohol know about them.
I want to inject one other matter that has not yet been discussed in the debate — the Welsh dimension. The Home Secretary talked about "England and Wales" as against Scotland. I submit that there is a special Welsh dimension to the debate. The Home Secretary is well aware of that because of a letter, dated 25 September, that was sent to him by the Welsh Health Promotion Authority. It charted a growing problem of alcoholism in Wales. It described it as being of epidemic proportions, with enormous costs to industry and the family. For example, alcohol consumption in Wales is 25 per cent. higher than in England. Average expenditure on alcohol, in spite of our lower per capita income, is 15 per cent. greater. Alcohol is much cheaper in Wales—20 per cent. less 72 expensive than in London. There are 25 per cent. more licensees per hundred thousand of the population in Wales.
So we are bound to reflect on whether this modest change is likely to exacerbate or help the problem. We are going ahead with this corner of the matter without looking at the whole range of problems that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) mentioned: the effects of advertising and the commercialism that encourage people to drink: taxation policy and its effect on consumption: and other areas that we know can affect the total picture of alcoholism in this country.
The Government press ahead as a result of pressure from known quarters in this one area, yet public opinion polls among the Welsh people have decisively rejected this liberalisation measure. Heartbeat Wales carried out a special survey in September. It showed that 54 per cent. of people in Wales were opposed to change or wanted even tighter controls on opening hours. So there is clearly no mandate for the change in Wales. The Home Secretary may insist on a merrier England, but it is clear that the people of Wales do not want a merrier Wales, with all its social consequences. If the Government were at all sensitive to Welsh public opinion—they have and had no mandate from Welsh opinion from the last election—they would allow us to opt out.
Bills normally have a clause with estimates of Civil Services manpower and Exchequer costs that are likely to result from their implementation. With a Bill of this sort, we need a rather broader social audit. For example, if, as some suggest, there is likely to be a 15 per cent. increase in consumption, and as the brewers prepare to invest more money and produce those extra part-time jobs, it is estimated that such an increase would result in 9,000 more violent crimes, 1.2 million more working days lost, 350 more deaths a year from cirrhosis of the liver, and 50 to 100 extra deaths and up to 2,000 injuries on our roads—all as a result of the increase in alcoholism and alcohol-related effects.
The Bill is not part of a comprehensive strategy to combat alcoholism, but a shameless concession to an interest group and a reckless gamble that ignores the social costs to the country.
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)
I shall start by affirming that alcohol misuse is undoubtedly one of the greatest causes of human misery today, not only among those that it affects directly but also among their relatives and those who are close to them. If a continuation of the existing licensing controls could help in some way to reduce the scale of the problem or to prevent it increasing, then I would be among the first to argue against the change that is proposed in the Bill. However, the existing laws are illogical and arbitrary. Whether they ever did any good must be in some doubt. It is certainly difficult to argue that they do any good today.
At the beginning of this century total abstinence was very much the message that was preached by those who saw the effects of alcoholism in the home, in the street and in the workplace. The message was preached effectively because Lloyd George is quoted as saying in 1915:We are fighting Germany, Austria and the drink. And, as far as I can see, the greatest of these deadly foes is drink.73 King George V was responding to that mood when he pledged that drink would not be served in the royal household until the war was over. A law that restricted the times during which drink could be obtained over the bar thus appeared early in the century to be a step in the right direction.
There are still many things that we do not know and do not understand about why some people become victims of alcohol whereas the majority appear able to enjoy alcohol in moderation. However, there is one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: that simplistic solutions like those adopted in 1915 are not helpful. We require more subtle and more complex measures as part of a total strategy that recognises the realities of the situation that we face.
There is evidence that the present restrictions on afternoon opening hours only cause irritation to the tourist and to the moderate drinker. Anyone who is determined to drink—as is the problem drinker—will have no difficulty whatever in obtaining alcohol from one of very many retail outlets.
Let no one imagine that because we want the Bill to bring about a relaxation in these archaic restrictions that is in some way an indication that we believe there is not a problem. Clearly and sadly the problems are all too apparent. The costs of alcohol abuse in the workplace have been estimated to range up to £1.5 billion in terms of absenteeism, lost production and accidents. Heavy alcohol consumption accounts for, perhaps, 15,000 premature deaths every year. As many as one third of all patients in general medical wards appear to have an underlying problem that is in some way related to alcohol. It is a problem that may immediately affect 1 million people in the United Kingdom. Few people do not know of somebody who is affected in some way by the problem of alcoholism or of alcohol abuse.
The social ills associated with alcohol are greater than the ones relating to alcoholism alone. While 14 per cent. of men and 3 per cent. of women are thought regularly to drink more than the amounts which require that they be described as problem drinkers, according to recent assumed criteria, many tragedies are caused by people who may drink to excess only occasionally. The drunk driver who kills may never before have driven when over the limit, but his action on just one occasion may have disastrous consequences, as many of us know from the sad constituency cases with which we have to deal. One in three drivers killed on our roads had excess alcohol in the blood.
It is easy to understand why many well-meaning people come to the conclusion that restriction is the only means of averting such tragedies. However, history surely shows us that restriction may sometimes make the situation worse rather than better. In the United States, prohibition, which was introduced in 1919, glamorised law-breaking and ushered in a period when violent crime escalated alarmingly and underground drinking prospered until, eventually, those who made the laws in the United States saw the error of their ways.
Those who argue against the Bill do so because alcohol misuse can be and often is a serious threat to the individual and to society. There can be no doubt whatever about that. The only question to ask is what we can do about it. The Government can play an important part in answering the challenge. Only the Government can initiate the better designed and better targeted campaigns that are needed to 74 influence the young. We hear much about drugs, but alcohol kills 10 times as many teenagers as heroin and two thirds of drug-related deaths also involve alcohol.
For many young people alcohol is the cheapest and most fashionable drug available, and the research into drinking shows that the young are the most frequent drinkers. More money should be provided to the Health Education Authority specifically to fight alcohol misuse among the young. It cannot be right that, when £17 million has been spent fighting heroin and cocaine abuse, less than £1 million has been spent on the campaigns against alcohol.
The education message for young people is a difficult one to put across, because the message cannot just be, "Don't drink" in the same way as we would say, "Don't take drugs". Not only is it clear that drinking moderately will do no harm, but many cardiac specialists believe that moderate drinking may have some modest medical benefits. No doubt the argument about that will continue. The Bill has encouraged its proponents and, indeed, its opponents to produce figures that only go to show that one can prove anything with statistics. This applies riot only to the situation in Scotland, which many hon. Members have said is inconclusive, but to opinion surveys, the responses to which vary as much as the questions that are asked in the surveys.
I hope that the interdepartmental committee that has been set up under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will not hesitate to press forward with initiatives designed to improve the situation, even if they are costly or difficult. It may he asked, for instance, whether we should not give legislative teeth to codes against advertisements that portray alcohol as attractive to under-18-year-olds if the existing voluntary code is not seen to be working effectively.
Most of the changes that one could envisage do not fall within the ambit of the licensing law. Issues that do, and which might be considered in Standing Committee, relate to the fact that publicans are hardly ever charged with the offence of selling alcohol to a person who is clearly already intoxicated, even though there must often be justification for such a charge. The majority of publicans do their best to control their saloon bars and to prevent people from drinking too much. However, of the many tens of thousands of people found drunk in the streets, surely some could have been seen by more than three licensees—which I think was the figure for a recent year—to be already far too intoxicated to be served with more alcohol. We could also consider whether there are adequate deterrents against selling alcohol to those who are under age. As I have said, the difficulties that licensees face should not be underestimated. Equally, they have a vital role to play in the front line against irresponsible and anti-social behaviour.
It is a frightening fact that 29 per cent. of 13-year-old boys and 11 per cent. of 13-year-old girls said in a recent survey carried out by, I think, the Department of Health and Social Security that they drank at least once a week. I would think that relatively few of them obtain their drink in public houses. This shows only that our major thrust must point in other directions.
There is plenty to be done in areas where legislation is only one of several options open to us. There has been plenty of debate over many years, if not decades, about these modest changes. We should not allow the broad 75 nature of the problems to which I have referred to stop us making progress in this field. That is why I welcome the Bill.
§ Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), I shall support the Bill. Traditionally, the licensing laws have been concerned with the social consequences of the use and abuse of alcohol, but change must come. We must acknowledge that we live in an alcohol-using society.
As we all know, the present pattern of licensing hours stems from the first world war. Strict controls were introduced to curb drunkenness among munition workers. Surely today one cannot sensibly argue a case for controlling the sale and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises on the basis of what happened 70 years ago. It is generally agreed that there is a need for some control over licensing hours, but the reasons are very varied. Relying on the control of licensing hours as the principal means of preventing alcohol misuse seems to be inappropriate and ineffective. It prevents a person from enjoying a social drink in the afternoon, after, say, 3 pm. On the other hand, it simply makes it awkward for the determined drinker who can always purchase a drink at the local supermarket.
The present licensing hours do not prevent the hardened drinker from obtaining a drink. One need only look around my constituency to see young people, well below the legal age for consuming alcohol, drinking cider and cans of beer purchased from supermarkets and off-licences. I do not suppose that my constituency is out of the ordinary. No doubt a similar state of affairs exists throughout the country. Only last Saturday morning, constituents came to see me at my surgery complaining that the off-licence near their home was selling cans of beer to under-age youths who were then causing a disturbance.
We should address the real problem, which is not so much a fear of increased alcoholism and alcohol-related diseases—which some people see as an obvious spin-off from extending licensing hours—as the danger of the increased availability of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences. Both young people and hardened drinkers may purchase alcohol virtually from Monday to Saturday, from about 9 am to 10 pm. They are not dependent on the opening of licensed premises. That is the real cause for concern.
Our present licensing hours prevent shift workers, at the end of their working day, be it early afternoon or late evening, from having a social drink. It prevents the frustrated tourist and the moderate drinker from obtaining and enjoying a drink after 3 pm. It makes little sense to allow a customer to buy a drink at 2 pm but not at 4 pm. It restricts freedom of choice. Is there any reasonable explanation for distinguishing between one part of the afternoon and another? The main argument for retaining the present licensing laws is that their removal will encourage increased alcohol consumption and widespread misuse, but that is not so.
The main conclusion to be drawn is that the liberal reforms in the Scottish licensing laws have not had a dramatic effect, so it would be unwise to base the possible results of licensing changes in England and Wales on the Scottish experience. The evidence suggests that neither 76 benefit nor harm would result from licensing changes. Indeed, they would create more jobs. It is estimated that more than 20,000 jobs would be created in public houses alone; indeed, I have heard mentioned the figures of 30,000 and 50,000. However, I must stress the need for safeguards for staff if that happens. Most of those jobs would stem from the supply of food rather than the sale of alcohol.
Since the introduction of more liberal licensing laws in Scotland, about one third of public houses have taken on more staff, mostly on the catering side. Pubs will be able to expand to provide more services and meals, snacks and refreshments will be available all day long. Such expansion would appear reasonable and is supported by the family expenditure survey which states that going out for a drink accounts for the largest single item of leisure expenditure for the average family and is greater than the amount spent on holidays. It seems logical that people should be able to enjoy a drink where they want and when they want.
It is regrettable that a small minority of people unable to cope with alcohol have been used as the reason for restricting the choice for the vast majority of moderate, sensible and sociable drinkers. There is insufficient evidence to establish a causal link between alcohol availability on licensed premises and drink-related problems. Scotland has proved the case—less control has led to less trouble.
The problem to which we must address ourselves is the increased availability of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences. Over the past few years the number of off-licences has grown considerably faster than the number of public houses. However, relaxing the restrictions on licensing hours does not carry any obligation for premises to open. Licensees will not be obliged to open for the available permitted hours. The Bill includes a clause that gives the licensee the choice of opening for any hours within the 12 hours permitted. Effectively, that choice establishes flexibility in opening hours to meet customer demand, which is good. Often premises have been forced to open when there is no custom, which is silly. Licensees know their areas and they know the needs of their customers.
The existing law on the 10-minute drinking-up time is ludicrous and should be abolished, as it causes nothing but trouble and problems. Customers rush to get the last drink and that causes conflict and confrontation between the licensee and the customer. At the moment, there is great difficulty in keeping within the law on drinking-up time and in some cases it is an almost impossible task.
The whole objective must be a society in which the majority who wish to drink peaceably and sociably can do so at a time when they wish. The minority who abuse alcohol must not be allowed to influence the licensing hours for the majority. Although I do not believe that stringent licensing laws have a significant part to play in preventing alcohol abuse, I should like to see safeguards in the new law to enable licensing justices to ensure that the public are protected from any nuisance that may arise as a result of extended licensing hours. However, the liberal reform of the Scottish licensing laws has proved that there is no cause for concern in Scotland.
The present licensing laws are complex and varied. They date back to the Licensing Act 1921, which provided a similar timetable to that in operation today. That Act followed the stricter regulations that were introduced as a result of the first world war. Those regulations originate from a different era and, although they were effective at 77 the time, there is little reasonable justification for retaining them. Although the dangers of alcohol abuse have become apparent over the years, I do not believe that restricted licensing hours are appropriate or effective in controlling alcohol misuse. The Bill will give the customer freedom to enjoy a drink in the afternoon. I do not believe that the legislation will have any significant effect on the overall consumption of alcohol. However, I believe that the Government must urgently address themselves to the availability of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences, which are particularly attractive to under-age people.
Restricted licensing hours do little to prevent the problem drinker from getting a drink but they restrict the freedom of choice for the moderate drinker who may wish to purchase a drink after 3 o'clock. If heed is taken of the issues that I have raised and, in particular, if safeguards for staff are included, I shall welcome the Bill. Quite honestly, I am dying for a drink now.
§ Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)
First, may I say how delighted I am to have caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, this evening.
May I congratulate the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg)—a great deal of good sense came from the Opposition side of the Chamber, for a change.
To prevent any misunderstanding, may I once again declare my financial and vested interest in the licensed trade and hence the reform of the licensing laws. I am a managing director of a small family company, of which I own 75 per cent. of the shares, which operates, under tenancy from three different breweries, five public houses in the London area. Together with my managers, I am licensee of those five pubs and I am registered as a multiple licence holder with the Metropolitan police.
For the past 17 years, my wife and I have earned a substantial proportion of our income from the licensed trade. For four years we ran an extremely busy south London pub with a ballroom. I followed my father and grandfather into the trade, and I believe that I am the hon. Member most closely involved with the operation of public houses. I am not a brewer, nor a freeholder—I am a tenant licensee. Although the brewers and myself have much in common concerning the Bill, there are certain areas on which we will probably find ourselves in dispute.
I believe that this is the seventh occasion on which I have addressed the House on the subject of licensing reform. I should like to think that the Consolidated Fund debate that I initiated in 1983, soon after I was elected to the House, played some small part in spurring the Government to undertake, at last, this long overdue reform. It is unnecessary for me to rehearse the history of restrictions and regulations on the sale of alcoholic drinks. It is sufficient to say that, during most of our 80 years as publicans in Pimlico, my forebears and myself have enjoyed a somewhat uneasy love-hate relationship with that old harridan the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act 1916. We shall shed no tears if DORA finally succumbs this year. The 1916 Act may have had some relevance during the first world war, but it has none today.
I shall illustrate just a few of the ways in which the present laws relating to licensing have become anachronistic. In 1916 Britain was at war and it was essential that the war effort should be maximised. However, even if we had 78 not been fighting a desperate war, the lifestyle of our people was very different. Far more people worked at hard manual jobs for long hours each day on low wages. Many homes were less than comfortable and the installation of electricity was far from common. Television was a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, of the future. I guess that people went to bed early to save on the gas lamps and because it was cold indoors. Amusement was man-made. Few people had paid holidays, and, even if there had been no war, only the wealthy travelled abroad.
Let us contrast that with our lives today. The inward and outward tourist industry ensures that many foreign visitors are able to witness, at first hand, our antiquated drinking laws, while many of our people are able to experience the more relaxed hours on the Continent. It is an eye-opener to all.
The greatest difference is the greater flexibility in our working hours. The hon. Member for City of Durham talked of shift work. Many people start work early in the morning and finish early in the afternoon, for example, milkmen, postmen, policemen, delivery men and nurses. Indeed, even people working in the much abused City tailor their hours to the 24-hour markets throughout the world. Those people's working day ends as the pubs close for the mandatory afternoon break. There is no after-work pint for them.
It would be very ungracious of me not to welcome the Government's willingness to introduce the Bill. It is 15 years since the Erroll committee reported, and 10 years since the Clayson reforms were implemented in Scotland. Previous Governments have been unwilling to confront the issue, preferring to sit on the fence while allowing hon. Members successful in the Private Members' Bills' ballot to fall victim to the anti-alcohol tendency. I have criticisms of the Bill as presented today, and I hope that the reports that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will listen with an open mind to arguments deployed to amend the Bill are true.
The two major criticisms that I have concern the terminal hour, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the hours permitted for opening on Sundays. With regard to the terminal hour on Friday and Saturday, many houses with a supper hour certificate, or an extended hours certificate—often granted to disco houses, which are more rather than less likely to cause annoyance to neighbours than ordinary pubs — already offer an opportunity for legal late drinking. The option of staying open to midnight on Friday and Saturday evenings would allow licensees to offer an opportunity to customers, which undoubtedly they would welcome. If disco houses and restaurants are deemed responsible enough to open until midnight, why not the best-controlled outlet of all, the traditional British pub?
My second point of difference with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State concerns opening hours on Sundays. Let me say straight away that I do not want to see all-day opening on Sundays. My staff value their long Sunday afternoon break. However, the two-hour Sunday lunchtime session is popular with staff and customers alike. From my experience as a resident manager, I can vouch for the fact that it is the most pleasant session of the week to work behind the bar. There is no difficulty in getting staff to work on a Sunday. So popular is that short session that, increasingly, licensees are applying a Nelson eye to the clock, either before midday or after 2 pm. That is now happening in many parts of London. If customers 79 know of one pub where the doors open a few minutes early, they go there. In defence, other publicans tend to follow suit to defend their trade.
That brings the law into disrepute. On previous occasions I have spoken of the law being brought into disrepute, and I do not propose to repeat myself. Suffice it to say that I recognise that a law in disrepute is not a reason to change the law. However, perhaps it is a reason to look at it.
Sunday is a day when many people, whether relaxing locally or out for the day with their families, would welcome the opportunity of a more leisurely drink than the short midday to 2 pm session allows. The Licensing (Restaurant Meals) Act 1987 allows restaurants and pubs with separate rooms used as restaurants the opportunity to serve their customers with drink accompanying a meal for much longer hours on a Sunday, but that is an inequitable situation for pubs serving bar meals or just serving a cool pint of beer to their customers on a hot afternoon. There is a strong case for extending the Sunday lunchtime session to a maximum of four hours between 11 am and 3 pm. That would bring more benefit to customers and licensees alike than opening the mandatory break on, say, a Monday or Tuesday afternoon.
Much has been written of the clause in tenancy agreements, which brewers impose on their tenants, insisting that the latter must open for all the hours permitted by the law and licensing justices. This very day I signed such a tenancy agreement with that clause in it. I did so on trust that the brewers will take a sensible and responsible attitude if the Bill becomes an act.
The Brewers Society issued a statement in September this year to the National Licensed Victuallers Association, of which I am a member, stating that such clauses would be deleted from tenancy agreements and that a new clause would be inserted, the effect of which would require the hours during which the premises would open to be such as would be mutually agreed by the landlord and tenant, having regard to the needs of their customers. In the event of a dispute, there would be an arbitral procedure.
There is still suspicion among tenants fearful that the extended hours allowed under the Bill might be used as a stick by the brewers intent on dispossessing the tenant of his house by making it unviable for him. Clearly the owners of a commercial property are entitled to an input in to its use. I should prefer licensees and licensing justices to have a predominant position in deciding the appropriate hours for any house, but at the least I am convinced that it behoves each and every brewery to send out to each and every one of its tenants a letter implementing the terms of the Brewers Society's commitment for his or her house in respect of his or her current agreement. That should be done before any changes under the Bill are implemented. I recognise the position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that that must be a point of negotiation between the parties.
I should like to refer to the abuse of alcohol and the possibility that the Bill will exacerbate the state of affairs in the United Kingdom. The National Licensed Victuallers Association, the Brewers Society and the Wine and Spirit Association are as aware as are individual licensees of the perils of drink. Indeed, trade interests give large sums each year in grants and donations for work associated with 80 alcohol misuse to organisations concerned with alcohol and research bodies. Britain has a low percentage of people who seriously abuse alcohol and low levels of liver cirrhosis due to alcohol. As has been said, the people who abuse it seriously almost certainly obtain the bulk of their supply from the off-licence trade because of price advantage. In any case, no publican wants a drunk on his premises, for such people disrupt other customers and put the licence at risk. The same applies to the young, for we, as licensees, are very concerned to ensure that the young do not come into licensed premises—public houses—and drink. It is disruptive and they are a nuisance.
It is generally held that moderate drinking can be beneficial to health. It would be iniquitous if the 98 per cent. of people who drink sensibly were to be penalised to try to influence the 2 per cent. who regularly abuse and who do not, in all probability, frequent that most controlled of retail outlets, the pub.
In recognising the problem of alcohol abuse, one must also recognise that anti-alcohol organisations have been guilty of peddling some misleading and, in some cases, downright untrue figures and statistics, particularly the 1986 Action on Alcohol Abuse figures, which multiplied by 200 a small sample in Malmö in Sweden, to obtain the number of deaths through drink in the United Kingdom. Even the authors of the Malmö research cautioned against such extrapolation. The circulation of misleading scare figures is profoundly unhelpful to the cause of sensible drinking. Having said that, I, too, welcome the setting up of the committee under my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to examine the many and complex factors involved in alcohol abuse.
I operate five London pubs under tenancy. Their locations differ markedly. Some do the bulk of their trade at weekday lunchtimes, and others are busy in the evenings and at weekends. The flexibility of permitted hours offered by the Bill, particularly if amended in the two respects that I have suggested, and if applied sensibly after discussion between brewer landlord, the licensing justices and tenant licensee, will represent a major step forward to a more sensible and relaxed way of drinking in our traditional British pubs.
I for one do not believe that all pubs will use the 12 hours that will become available to them. I know for certain that mine will not, and I believe that the bulk of pubs throughout the country will not open 12 hours a day. They may tailor their present hours to more sensible and viable hours than those which, at present, they are forced to operate, as laid down by the justices and the present law.
I congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill. I, for one, support it with no equivocation and with considerable enthusiasm.
§ Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)
I thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I support the principle of the Bill, but not without important reservations. I firmly believe that the impact of off-sales outlets and supermarkets has changed our drinking habits dramatically, especially in two sorts of community. The first is where there is high unemployment and people find it cheaper to buy alcohol in supermarkets and off-sales outlets. The second is where there is probably much less unemployment and more wealth. There is much evidence that the yuppie drinkers who consume more wine tend to purchase it in supermarkets and off-sales outlets.
81 If I could he shown conclusively that extending our licensing hours leads to an increase in alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse, and if I could also be shown conclusively that that increase in abuse leads to an increase in the damage to the health of a considerable number of people, that would heavily influence my assessment of the case for extending the licensing laws. However, having heard the evidence so far in the debate—I know that there are a number of important speeches to come—I am not convinced that the link is proven. Recent Scottish experience shows that economic and social factors have far more influence on alcohol consumption than do opening hours.
In the area of Newcastle that I represent, public opinion supports the extension of licensing hours for reasons of leisure and recreation. If a publican wishes to open in the afternoon or later at night, and if the public wish to give him that trade, the licensing laws should allow that to take place. Indeed, the reforms will be widely welcomed in the social clubs which are major social centres in my constituency. They provide an invaluable community service and always ensure strict rules of conduct. Reference has been made to Conservative clubs. If anyone is in doubt whether the same strict rules apply in working men's clubs in the north of England, they should ask anyone who has fallen foul of the club secretary or steward, or perhaps more intimidatingly, the doorman. They will find that good order is kept in our clubs throughout the country.
I do not know whether there is such a thing as civilised drinking. My mother would certainly say that there is not. But I am not sure that her view is wholly representative of the public. I have always felt, from my experience north of the border, that long hours slow the pace of drinking. If I can describe its effect in the parlance of a Scottish public bar where I confess to have spent part of my youth — and I have to say that not all of my youth was misspent—longer hours "slows the swallae and reduces the par". The slowing of pace is something of a civilising influence.
My major reservation is that the Government make no provision for the protection of workers in the industry. That reservation is a sticking point. The brewers undoubtedly think that they will make bigger profits from extended hours or they would not have made such a massive investment in lobbying and advertising in recent weeks, but I want to know what the workpeople will get. If there is no protection, they will get more low pay, longer hours, more split shifts, more part-time working and fewer breaks. The pay is low enough now, as I shall show the House.
The average earnings for a barmaid, according to the 1987 new earnings survey, is £93.80 for an average 40-hour week, which is £54.30 below the average earnings for a woman. Average earnings for a barman are £133.70 for an average 46-hour week. That is £90.30 per week below the average earnings for men. Before 1986, people who worked in the industry had some protection under the rules of then governing wages councils, but, as the House knows, the wages Act 1986 stripped the councils of many of their powers. In the case of the licensed non-residential establishment Wages council, rest day protection, public holiday payment guarantees, and annual holiday entitlement were ended.
As for the licensed residential establishment wages council, spread-over payments were ended — that is 82 particularly important in regard to this legislation—statutory protection for intervals for rest, again a crucial issue, was stopped and holiday provisions were withdrawn. Crucially, all the wages councils — several cover this industry—lost their power to protect workers under the age of 21.
Many hon. Members regularly visit public houses and clubs, although, in case the public get the wrong idea, I should say that we do not always go there to consume alcohol. In the north of England, we often visit our constituents in such places. An hon. Member who visited a public house would notice that many of the staff are aged between 18 and 21. If the Bill is not amended, they will have little protection at their workplace. He would also notice that many of the staff were women. Two thirds of the 1 million people who work in the industry are women, and three quarters of them work part time. If the Bill is not amended, it will become a brewers' charter for bashing, our barmaids.
Defending the need for strong wages councils, Winston Churchill identified the fact that they prevent the good employer from beingundercut by the bad, and the bad employer … undercut by the worst."—[Official Report, 28 April 1909; Vol. 4, c. 388.]I agree with that. The proper way to protect employees would be to strengthen our wages councils, which were undermined in 1986, but I am not so gullible as to believe that the Government will introduce accompanying legislation to achieve that.
Therefore, I propose that protection should be written into the Bill. The Shops Act 1950 had built-in statutory protection for employees, and is a clear precedent for dealing with young people, shift arrangements and meal breaks. I challenge the Government to include similar protection in this Bill for shifts which last longer than eight hours, shifts which finish late at night, split-shift working, rest-day working, the minimum rights of young people aged between 18 and 21, the taking of meal breaks and holiday entitlement and payment. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), who is an employer in the industry, mentioned the importance of shift working. I hope that he will urge on the Government the need to include protection for his staff.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer can write in protection for the BP underwriters, the Home Secretary must be able to write in protection for workers in hotels, bars and clubs. The Government cannot resist that proposal on the ideological grounds of non-intervention, because the idea of licensing laws is itself interventionist.
Despite my reservations, I shall support the Second Reading, but if the Government do not accept amendments to include protection for staff, I will no longer support it.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)
It is with some regret that, in only my second speech in the House, I must express grave reservations about the Bill. I welcomed many of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), not least his Pauline conversion to the rights of the individual over the incursion of the state. I look forward to Labour Front-Bench spokesmen having an illustrious champion of the individual's rights to private education and private medicine and of denationalisation.
83 I speak, not from the point of view of the temperance lobby, but as what the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook called a dangerous animal—a sensible drinker. However, perspectives on that may differ, and I suspect that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) does not believe that someone who likes one, or preferably two, drinks is a sensible drinker. The fact that one enjoys a drink, or even two, is not to say that one would welcome a society in which the sun was perpetually over the yardarm — in which there were only a few hours of daylight and a great deal of twilight.
The objective of the Bill is to introduce afternoon drinking. I ask myself — it is one way of getting a sensible answer—who is likely to benefit from afternoon drinking? My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) made a persuasive and eloquent speech, saying that the Bill would benefit shift workers. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) made a similar careful argument. But one immediately asks where it will stop. Some people come off shift at 7 am. Should pubs be open for them? Hon. Members sometimes serve a 24-hour shift and then stagger out, if only through fatigue. Should the pubs be open for us? Why select shift workers and say that those who leave their place of work at 3 pm must be allowed the right to an after-work drink?
Those who will take advantage of afternoon drinking fall largely into two categories: first, tourists and those on holiday. Were they the only people who would avail themselves of afternoon drinking, no one would have much objection to it. Those who will not be drinking in the afternoon are those who are gainfully employed and at their places of work and those who, over a lifetime, have gained the habit of drinking only at certain hours. That leaves the young and the unemployed. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was right to draw special attention to those two groups, especially to where they merge. A combination of youth, unemployment, inner-city conditions and the pubs being open all day could be extremely dangerous and will need careful thought before we allow the Bill to go through.
I do not wish to exaggerate the position, but many studies have shown a large increase in under-age drinking. I do not wish to paint a picture of schoolboys dropping in at the pub on the way home from a rugger match before they do their homework, but there is increased drinking among the young, especially the young who, by chance or by choice, are idle and have time on their hands.
I appreciate the argument that abuse does not abrogate the lawful use of alcohol, but there were advantages in the old system. It forced a break at 3 pm, so that someone who was considering drinking unwisely for the rest of the afternoon had to be determined to wait for the pub to reopen, or visit the supermarket. If he made a casual decision, the break helped him to make the right decision.
The break also creates social acceptance of certain hours of drinking. Essentially, the old law said that when someone was not supposed to be working—at lunch time and in the evenings after work—it was all right to drink. I do not know why it is that I regard with pleasure a gin and tonic at 7 o'clock in the evening but regard with revulsion a gin and tonic at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I suspect that it lies in the habits of a lifetime and the social rule that drinking at certain hours is taboo. Unless I see evidence that alcohol consumption will not go up as a 84 result of the Bill, it is essential that we have those sort of taboos to encourage people voluntarily to control their drinking.
In the eloquent speeches of hon. Members we have heard that supermarkets are somehow at the root of the excesses of alcoholics. If supermarkets bear the sole blame for the alcohol problem, why is it that in a Bill that controls licensing laws we do not seize the opportunity to control the sale of alcohol in supermarkets? If the Government had done that I could look more sympathetically at the argument that the Bill will not increase alcohol consumption.
The only thing that makes me hesitate before absolutely opposing the Bill, or abstaining from voting on it, is the possibility that something will come out of the ministerial group that has been set up to achieve interdepartmental co-operation on the problems of alcoholism. However, I believe that we are putting the cart before the horse. We should have had that group, had some recommendations and had some action before we had the Bill. At least the group is there. However, my principal concern is about what we can expect to come out of a combination of departmental examinations of the problems of crime, health and social services and their relationship to alcohol.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House and from both sides of the argument have quoted many statistics, which I do not intend to repeat. However, there is one chilling statistic that has not been mentioned, although I was temporarily out of the House and it may have been quoted then. Published figures reveal that in one third of cases of child abuse there is an alcohol-related factor. At a time when child abuse is a major concern, we need to think carefully before promoting the consumption of a substance that causes or contributes to such crimes.
In the discussion of the Scottish statistics we did not hear that, in the period following liberalisation of licensing laws, cirrhosis of the liver went up by 45 per cent. in Scotland, while it went up by only 17 per cent. in England and Wales. It is an uncomfortable statistic, but it still needs to be considered.
§ Miss Widdecombe
I am sorry, no. My hon. Friend suggests that I am wrong. If I am wrong, the Government's published statistics are wrong. My hon. Friend should write to the Minister and ask for a correction. Statistics are cold figures. Behind every statistic on alcohol lie devastated families, ruined health and wasted lives. Above all, alcohol abuse affects the innocent, the victims of drink-driving accidents, the victims of assault and the families who have to suffer the effects of its abuse on a loved one.
The ministerial group that has been set up has in its terms of reference the phrase "It will make such recommendations as from time to time it may seem fit." That is wonderful. Anybody with elementary logic could work out that that could also read, "If from time to time no recommendations seem fit, they need not be made." I want some reassurance that there is a timetable, some definite aim, or something concrete expected from that ministerial group that will so far combat the effects of alcoholism that it will overshadow any effects of rising alcoholism that might result from the Bill. If I can have that assurance from the Dispatch Box, I shall be delighted 85 to vote at least in favour of referring the Bill to Committee. I hope that in Committee some of those aspects will be addressed rather more assiduously than they have been tonight.
I am not opposed in principle to making life easier for publicans or for those who want a drink during the afternoon, but the adverse social effects need to be more carefully looked at. They need more than the cursory acknowledgements that hon. Members on both sides of the House have given them. They need to be addressed in detail. I should like that assurance before I can support the Bill.
§ Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy)
I feel a certain sense of déjà vu, as most arguments have already been gone over at some length. I am also reminded of the old saying that there are none so deaf as those who will not hear, because when hon. Members hear statistics they automatically say that they are not true. The statistics are true.
The Bill purports to make relatively minor changes in the hours within which licensed premises in England and Wales are permitted to sell alcohol. The changes are being enthusiastically supported by the major drinks manufacturers and distributors and, sad to say, are being rushed through in indecent haste so that they may be implemented early in 1988, at, we are led to believe, the behest of the brewers. Why are the Government in such a hurry? Are Ministers blissfully unaware of the potential consequences of their actions, or are they, because of outside pressure, reprehensibly pushing through as fast as possible a measure which will damage people's health? I should like to know. Moreover, the Bill is not supported by the majority of people in England and Wales, according to recent surveys, so it makes no sense to me to proceed with such haste.
Alcohol consumption in England and Wales, as in Scotland, has risen over the decades as the price of alcohol has fallen in real terms. The damage that has risen in parallel with that increase is well documented and has been gone over today in some depth. To summarise, drinking and driving, accidents, assaults, ill treatment and deprivation of families, ill health and death have risen year after year. However, the Government propose to increase the availability of the most socially damaging substance, without any effective action to attempt to tackle the problems associated with its consumption and abuse.
I shall vote against the Bill. I am not opposed to the consumption of alcohol. I consume it myself, occasionally in some quantity, but within the security of my own home. I enjoy it in moderation. I recognise that there is a happy medium to be struck and that, given that other circumstances were tackled, there might be a case for revising the licensing laws, but surely not in the absence of action on the other problems that have been mentioned.
I do not believe that extending by one third the hours which public houses may open is a minor cosmetic change. Like other hon. Members, I do not believe that there will be no change in the level of alcohol consumed. It defies belief that the brewers and licensees, out of the goodness of their hearts, will open public houses for one third longer merely to gratify the interests of a few tourists. That is not the object. The object is to increase the sale and consumption of alcohol. There can be no other reason for the drinks industry to be pushing for the Bill to go through.
86 There is evidence that the relaxing of licensing laws increases consumption and, conversely, that tightening those laws reduces it. That has been the position whenever licensing laws have been changed. For example, when the licensing laws were relaxed in Finland, consumption increased dramatically. When the Finns became alarmed about the rise and licensing laws were made more restrictive 10 years later, consumption fell. In the three years following the implementation of the Clayson proposals in Scotland, the consumption of alcohol rose. The fact that it fell between 1980–82 cannot be attributed, in the opinion of the experts, to the Clayson report. The fall in consumption is thought to be due to the recession and the massive increase in taxation that took place in 1981.
There has been a fall in the number of convictions for drunkenness because the police no longer charge people with being drunk and disorderly. That offence used to he common, but I cannot remember the last occasion when I became aware of it being dealt with by the magistrates. It seems that the police no longer deal in that way with those who are drunk and disorderly. The evidence on which the Clayson committee based its claim and on which the Government now base their case — that the implementation of the Clayson proposals in Scotland has been successful—is spurious.
I believe that the relaxation of licensing laws in Scotland over the past 10 years has produced no beneficial effect on Scottish society. In the Clayson report we read about the family pubs that would serve soft drinks and tea and coffee. We were told that these would be cosy, social places in which the public would congregate. There have not been many pubs of that sort appearing in my neck of the woods over the past 10 years, and I do not think that many have appeared in other parts of Scotland.
The result of the Bill will be more physical and mental damage. We shall see more under-age drinking, more problems for women and more drunken driving, leading to more road accidents and more deaths. There is a clear difference between England and Scotland in the incidence of accidents involving drunken driving. When I intervened in the speech of the Home Secretary on this issue, the right hon. Gentleman refused to answer me. In Scotland, the peak time for such accidents begins at 4 pm, whereas it begins at 10 pm in England. At 4 pm, my children and the children of others are returning home from school, and it is they who will be so much at risk from afternoon drinkers.
We know that some applications for licences for premises on which alcohol may be served and consumed are refused. One such application was recently refused in my home town. Why was that? The application was rejected because there would be inadequate parking facilities. What sort of reason is that for a magistrates court to reject the application of a licensee? The provision of "adequate" parking facilities increases the likelihood of people drinking and driving. That is symptomatic of our attitude to alcohol. There is the casual attitude that we can introduce a small measure such as the Bill without doing harm to anyone, and in doing so we ignore all the problems that alcohol produces for the people.
We must not ignore the problems that are caused by the consumption of alcohol. Indeed, the Government are establishing a committee to investigate the issue, which will be the first of its sort to be formed. I understand that all Departments that have any link with the provision and 87 sale of alcohol will be involved. Against that background we are galloping to enact the Bill before the committee has a chance to report its findings and perhaps to produce some inconvenient conclusions for Ministers to digest.
I worked for many years in psychiatry and preventive medicine and I, like many others, have seen the damage and suffering that have arisen from the increased consumption of alcohol. Psychiatrists, general practitioners and those in the medical profession working in general wards with beds taken up by those suffering from the late effects of liver failure—cirrhosis—along with social workers, policemen and the representatives of many volunteer agencies, have provided us with a great deal of information over the past week or so. They all point to a massive amount of evidence that an increase in the availability of alcohol increases the consumption of it. The workers in the field, as it were, are opposed to the change because they know what the result will be.
The problem of alcohol in our society must be faced honestly and constructively. It must be addressed in the House by co-ordinated action that crosses departmental boundaries. Every Minister is involved in some way. When a strategy has been developed, and not before, let the Government bring forward a reform of the licensing laws, if that is seen as a reasonable and constructive part of the plan. Let us have no truck with this shabby attempt to preempt effective action and let us not pretend that licensing has nothing to do with the real problems of alcohol abuse. I urge hon. Members on both side of the House to join me in opposing this ill-considered piece of proposed legislation. Let use send the Minister away to think seriously about the problems that it will cause.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
I am glad to have the opportunity to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie). I have a properly declared interest — it appears in the Members' Register — in Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. I spent some time with the company and had the opportunity to study the position north of the border. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) have graphically described the situation as they see it, and I would not presume to improve upon their special and local knowledge. However, I shall offer the House some comparisons and personal observations.
First, I challenge the assertion that there has been an increase in consumption north of the border related to the change in the law. I endeavoured to intervene in the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on this issue, but the right hon. Gentleman declined to give way to allow me to do so. I suspect that he did so because he knows that there is no fact or statistic to substantiate the claim that there has been an increase in the consumption of alcohol in Scotland in the 10 years since the law was changed and that that is related to the change in the law. It is correct that there has been a small increase in overall consumption, and it is correct also that that is attributable to an increase in the number of female drinkers. That is the direct result of a social change and has nothing to do with the change in the law. It stems from the fact that the premises provided for the consumption of alcohol have improved.
88 I spent some time on Tyneside 25 years ago, and at that time it was a symbol of a boy's virility that on his 18th birthday he was given membership of the local social club by his father, uncle or the family generally. He then became a man and went to drink beer with men. Twenty-five years have passed and the days of the big swill on Tyneside are over. Social clubs of the sort to which I have referred are in decline. That is due partly to the decline of the smoke-stack industries and the rise of employment in high-tech industries. The after-work thirst is no longer as great. It is due also to a desire, especially on the part of the young, for improved surroundings and circumstances in which young men and their girl friends can drink and eat.
The company to which I was attached and its major competitor north of the border have made a major investment in modern premises of good design and with good decor. In some instances family rooms were provided. The company has ensured that it provides excellent facilities for its customers. It seeks to provide a relaxed atmosphere and what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to as "a more cheerful and welcoming pub." There was no comparison between what I found last year north of the border — I spent a considerable amount of time there — and what I experienced over 20 years ago in Sauchiehall street on a Saturday night. It was not possible to make a relevant comparison. In hard, statistical terms there has probably been little change in alcohol consumption, but I believe from what I have seen that socially there has been an immeasurable improvement.
This must be contrasted with what has been found by myself and my colleagues who represent seaside constituencies in the north-east, the north-west and the south coast of England. On many Saturdays in the summer we experience what is known as the beano party. A coachload of day trippers empties a crate of brown ale kept in the back of the coach before arriving. They tip out of the coach and into the pub and are hell-bent on getting drunk. At 2.30 on a Saturday afternoon the day visitors, undeniably having had far too much to drink, empty themselves en masse—or are emptied by the police—on to the sea front. The reason why they drink so fast is that they say, "We've got 10 or 15 minutes, lads, to get another five pints in before we're chucked out." Not surprisingly, that creates problems of crowd control.
The same people who are thrown out of the public houses go on to supermarkets or off-licences in my constituency and others and clear the shelves. They take canned beer to the sea front and drink it there, with no control whatever. It is nonsense that a landlord is required to empty his pub at 2.30 on a hot summer's afternoon so that his customers can go across the road to the off-licence and take iced cans of lager or beer from the fridge only to go back to the pub where they will sit and drink on the doorstep, leaving the cans for the landlord to clear up. It is nonsense, too, that one can buy alcohol in an off-licence from 8.30 am until 10.30 pm without a break, while one is not allowed sensibly and responsibly to consume alcohol in a pub, where one is under supervision.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook referred to those "dangerous animals", the "responsible drinkers". I should like to think that I could class myself as one of them. The right hon. Gentleman said that we did not understand the problems. However, I spent some time training in the counselling of those with alcohol-related 89 problems. I have worked with problem teenagers and made television programmes for them, and I think that I am aware of the problems. I have also been involved personally in the treatment of alcoholics. I know that there is a dark side. Anyone who has had to search a home to find half a bottle of whisky hidden in the stuffing of an armchair or the cistern of a lavatory knows that. Anyone who has seen the dog being taken for a walk too frequently and who knows that somewhere out there in the hedgerows is hidden a half bottle of spirits knows that. Anybody who has had to strip someone off and remove urine-soaked underwear and vomit knows that. Anyone who has experienced the knock at midnight and the request, "Please come and identify the bodies; there's been a crash," knows that there is a problem.
However, that problem would not be exacerbated by reforms such as that before the House. The problem is caused by the solitary abuse of alcohol bought cheaply from off-licences and supermarkets. The problem of under-age drinking will be solved, I believe, by education — by the teaching of what are known as "sensible drinking skills". The brewers and the drink trade probably contribute more than any other sector to education programmes for young people. I have a daughter of 15. She is bright, responsible and attractive, and I hope that I am justifiably proud of her. She has attractive male and female friends, many of whom look older than 18, and it would be naive of me to think that some of them do not sometimes go into public houses. I would not wish to encourage young people to break the law. However, I would sooner the young drank in the controlled atmosphere of a public house, under the watchful eye of a good landlord, than that they cleared the supermarket shelves, then had a wild party and got drunk at home.
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) cast a slur on the brewers—I think inadvertently—because I do not believe that the Bill is driven by the profit motive or that it would cause a massive increase in the consumption of alcohol. I believe that the Bill paves the way for the better use, and probably the better management, of public houses. Many brewers, landlords and tenants are seeking to diversify into soft drinks, tea, coffee and food. The Bill will result in an increase in employment. I hope that there will be an increase in profits, too. But I do not believe that that profit or the increase in jobs will be related solely to an increase in the consumption of alcohol.
The Bill has been described as a measure introduced with indecent haste. The Erroll committee reported 15 years ago and the Clayson reforms were introduced 10 years ago. If 10 to 15 years of consideration represents indecent haste, I shudder to think what real speed might look like. The effects of such a measure have been tried and proven in Scotland over a period of 10 years. Those effects are socially acceptable and they will be good for the tourist industry. Safeguards are built into the Bill to prevent nuisance and abuse. The Bill is a modest measure on which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should be congratulated, and I hope that it receives wide support throughout the House.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that the Register of Members' Interests is not yet available? According to a resolution passed by the House on 12 June 1975 90any interest disclosed in a copy of the Register of Members' Interests shall be regarded as sufficient disclosure for the purpose of taking part in any Division in the House or in any of its Committees.The hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) properly disclosed an interest. However, I am concerned that many hon. Members who have not taken part in the debate have not been able to disclose their interest. When similar circumstances arose in 1981 in connection with the Lloyds Bank Bill, Mr. Speaker felt it necessary to issue guidance on the matter. He said that it would help if hon. Members with financial interests did not vote. I wonder whether you, Sir, could consider the matter before the vote so that hon. Members representing the brewers' interests who have not been able to declare a financial interest may receive guidance that they should not take part in the vote. I understand that the brewers are fairly well represented on the Tory Benches.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sure that every right hon. and hon. Member will vote in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House.
§ Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)
I have two difficulties. First, as a new Member I am faced with my first free vote. I therefore have the serious problem of having to analyse the debate and listen to the contributions rather than simply turning up and voting on request. I am trying very hard to overcome that handicap and I have been in the Chamber as much as possible.
Secondly, this is a difficult debate because it involves complex issues. I have listened to the arguments in all conscience and tried to reach a decision. I have found that some facts support one side of the arguments while other statistics support the other side of the argument. All hon. Members have called in aid medical authority and some hon. Members have called in aid the great and eminent authorities of other professions.
We should also consider the civil liberties not just of those who wish to drink at the time and place they feel are appropriate but of those who suffer—the people injured in car accidents, the children injured on the way home by an afternoon drinker and the children abused by parents who come home drunk during the day or night.
I was disturbed by the Home Secretary's remarks about the possibility of amending the Bill in Committee. His almost throwaway line about also extending drinking hours on Sunday frightened many of those who entered the debate with an open mind. Many people, including me, will wonder what other secrets may emerge in Committee.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
Plainly, hon. Members can table any amendments they choose in Committee, but the Government will oppose any relaxation of Sunday licensing hours. We will try to persuade our friends to support us.
§ Mr. Allen
I am grateful for that reassurance. But the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when the Home Secretary gave his reasoning. The right hon. Gentleman felt that he could not get away with it this time and that such a proposal would compromise the rest of the Bill. If Conservative Members have a different interpretation of his comments, I shall gladly give way to allow them to make their view plain.
I regret the fact that Conservative Members have not been given the same liberty as Labour Members and been 91 given a free vote. Because we have a free vote, democratic decision-making processes can be brought to bear, which perhaps does not happen in other circumstances, and the facts can be considered. I suggest that we take that process a stage further, so that the Bill's broader effects—not just its effects on hours and licences—such as health, social and economic implications, are reviewed and better understood than they would be under normal procedures in the House. I suggest that we create either a Select Committee or a Special Standing Committee to examine in detail for a few weeks or perhaps a month or two—I am not familiar with these operations — the various facets of the legislation and their possible effects.
A Special Standing Committee could call as witnesses representatives of landlords and their various associations, brewers' representatives, representatives of the trade unions of the full-time and part-time workers in the industry and the medical and professional experts to whom reference has been made. That Committee would take evidence, including that being considered by the Wakeham review. Its members would have the benefit, when they become members of the Standing Committee, of having heard for six, eight or even 10 weeks solid evidence from all parts of the political spectrum and all the interested groups which wish to contribute.
With that in mind, after the Second Reading vote, a motion will be moved calling for the question of a Special Standing Committee to examine the Bill.
§ Mr. Allen
As my hon. Friend reminds me, that will happen only if the Government win. My mathematics may be a little awry, but I would not put a drink on the vote going the other way. I commend the proposal that a Special Standing Committee be constituted so that we can carry out our functions relating to the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
I have never failed to declare an interest in the House, no matter what it is. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) has never failed to remind me to declare an interest in any debate that may relate to the licensed trade. Therefore, I happily declare an interest on two counts. The first is as a parliamentary adviser to the National Licensed Victuallers Association. I say "adviser", and not "spokesman," because there are many occasions on which I do not agree with the association's view. An adviser would be useless if he did not occasionally disagree with those who appointed him to tender advice. Secondly, I declare an interest as a tenant licensee. I do not call myself a publican because the manager of my pub has a fit if I ever go behind the bar to pull a pint. He knows that on those occasions people usually get over the measure and are charged under the price. Nevertheless, I have some knowledge of the trade, and it is with that knowledge to assist me that I take part in the debate.
I pay tribute to the establishment during the last Parliament of the all-party group for the licensed trade under the joint chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins). That group assisted my hon. 92 Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) in promoting his private Member's Bill which, alas, was killed off—if that is not too strong a description—by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point and others who shared his view. I do not think it will be quite as easy to kill off this Bill, because it has Government backing. The Bill also enjoys a great measure of all-party support, which we all welcome. It has the benefit of a so-called "mandate", because the Conservative party was the only party to include in its general election manifesto a commitment to reform our outdated licensing laws.
I accept, to some extent, the suggestion of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) that this is the sort of measure that should be considered by a Special Standing Committee, but the hon. Gentleman has overlooked the fact that this issue has been debated ad nauseam for 15 years. I think that all the views that have to be expressed have already been expressed, to such an extent that many of us are sick and tired of hearing them and are profoundly relieved that the Government have decided at last to bring forward what many have described as a "modest" measure.
The Bill has been described by some hon. Members who seemed to be talking against it as a "step-by-step" measure. I welcome that. The Government would be wise not to proceed too far too quickly. We should get the Bill on the statute book and then consider in the light of experience where we should go next. That is what happened with Scotland, and it is on the grounds of the Scottish experience that the Bill will find its passage easier.
As so many people have said, the Bill is a long overdue reform. A. J. P. Taylor described our licensing laws asa lasting memento of the Great War".I believe that he was referring to the Defence of the Realm (Amendment) (No. 3) Act 1915, which related to the danger of munitions workers drinking in the afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood referred to the many places where tourists can obtain drinks in the middle of the afternoon, although he omitted to mention riverboats from Westminster pier. He was right to point out that there are many places where people can obtain a drink when it is not possible to do so in a traditional pub. That is the nub of the case for reform. The law is daft and needs reform.
The threat to the traditional British pub is another reason for reform. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point has often waxed eloquent in the House on the merits of the traditional English pub. I would argue that my right hon. Friend is himself a traditionalist. Yet when it comes to a measure of this kind he goes off at a tangent—some might say over the top—in arguing against a measure that would enhance the British pub and enable it to survive in the face of mounting and at times unfair competition. I shall give some figures to show the amount of competition that has arisen in recent years. In 1904 there were 6,600 clubs in the United Kingdom. There are more than 30,000 today. In 1904 there were 90,000 pubs. Today the total has declined to around 70,000. The trend for clubs is up, and the trend for pubs is down.
§ Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)
The hon. Gentleman talks of an unfair trading relationship between pubs and clubs, but clubs, whether political or otherwise, provide an outlet for the brewers where the on-costs are met by members of the club, so they are very profitable for the brewers. Moreover, landlords and brewers do not provide 93 the social aspects and the services that are found in clubs in communities. The Bill will not redress the balance. It will have the opposite effect and distort the trading relationship. As a supporter of clubs, I should be most disappointed if the measure was used to distort trading patterns to the disadvantage of clubs.
I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. At present, clubs have a somewhat unfair advantage over pubs. They benefit from measures such as those related to gambling and amusement machines with prizes. I take no brief from the brewers, but I imagine that they would he keen to see an increase in the number of clubs as well as in the number of pubs.
Another aspect of competition for the traditional English pub is the proliferation of outlets, a subject touched on by several of my hon. Friends. The way in which people can walk into off-licences, grocers' shops, supermarkets, wine shops and so on, and buy drink, often without any supervision from behind the counter, is most alarming. Indeed, I believe that it is perfectly legal for people under age to walk into a cash-and-carry warehouse and walk out with a case of wine, provided that they have the money to pay for it. If the Government wish to deal with under-age drinking and alcohol abuse, they should consider the proliferation of off-licences and the like. That was a point made by many hon. Members who referred to the dangers of under-age drinking.
§ Mr. Colvin
I do not support such a procedure in this case, as I believe that the issue has been debated quite enough, both in public and in private.
With regard to alcohol abuse and the dangers of underage drinking, some hon. Members suggested that the publican was at fault in permitting it. In fact, a publican who permits it puts his livelihood on the line. For that reason, the public house is probably the most controlled and socially acceptable place for drinking to take place. The hon. Member for Kirkaldy (Dr. Moonie), who is a doctor, referred to the dangers of drinking in isolation. That cannot happen in a pub, but it can happen at home if people stock up with alcohol from supermarkets.
On the question of under-age drinking, the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) that identity cards should be carried seemed a good idea and one that could perhaps be debated on another occasion.
I think it is generally accepted that there is public support for the measure. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) claimed that that was not so, but a survey published this month showed that there was substantial support in England and Wales, and that the measure was backed by a majority of pubgoers. The survey is entitledAttitudes to Longer Pub Hoursand was carried out by Public Attitude Surveys Research Limited on its own initiative, without any pressure group sponsorship. 'The survey found that just over half—51 per cent.—of all adults in England and Wales thought that pubs should be allowed to open for longer in the afternoons for at least some days of the week, whilst only 94 35 per cent. were against any afternoon opening. The survey also looked at the attitudes of regular pubgoers, whose support for the Bill was also clear. Among those who visit a pub or club for a drink at least once a week, 64 per cent. support afternoon opening on one or more days, and 55 per cent. specifically want Sunday afternoon opening. That is pretty strong support.
A number of hon. Members have referred to what they describe as the "drinking-up rule." Rather more crudely, I would call it the "10-minute swill." It is acknowledged by the trade and by customers that more flexible opening hours and longer opening at night would reduce that danger. As we see far too often, the so-called "one for the road" often becomes one for the morgue.
Several hon. Members have mentioned the possibility of additional jobs being created, and estimates have varied between 25,000 and 50,000. Christie's, the estate agents who specialise in the licensed trade, suggested that almost 100,000 jobs might be generated. I endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), that there should be proper negotiations between employers and employees about the rates of pay for an extremely arduous job. Perhaps that is why employees' organisations were not exactly quick to voice their support for the campaign for flexible hours. However, generally speaking, they now support the proposals.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) questioned increased consumption resulting from the proposed reforms. Everyone acknowledges that consumption might increase. However, although the evidence in Scotland shows increased consumption, it is not directly attributable to flexible hours. That could be the case in England and Wales as well. The important aspect of flexible hours is the increase in other forms of business in public houses—meals, snacks and coffee—and is one reason why additional employees will be required. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook did not believe that additional jobs would be created without a massive increase in alcohol consumption. However, people use pubs to eat and to drink beverages, and are not necessarily going to consume alcohol.
Many hon. Members have referred to the Scottish experience. When my right hon. Friend reviewed the liberalisation of licensing laws in Scotland, with the benefit of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, he concluded that the majority thought that extending licensing hours had resulted in a more sensible pattern of drinking. Certainly there has not been the explosion of lawlessness predicted by the doom merchants. The number of drink-related offences is down, and although the revised licensing laws cannot be the sole factor for that, there can be no doubt that reform has played its part.
My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Member for Kirkcalcly referred to the impact of drink on health. I rudely interrupted my hon. Friend and said that her facts were wrong. She suggested that there had been an increase in deaths from cirrhosis of the liver because of the more flexible drinking hours in Scotland. That is manifestly wrong. A detailed survey by the specialist alcohol unit at Edinburgh university, conducted by Dr. Martin Plant and Mr. John Duffy, show that health harm indicators were neutral — that licensing hour changes had neither improved nor worsened them. They also noted that public 95 order offences had shown a marked improvement. The figures are interesting. Cirrhosis takes several years to reach a terminal condition, so 1976 should not be taken as the base. Indeed, 1981 would be a fairer base, and between that year and 1986, deaths in Scotland from cirrhosis of the liver were down 16 per cent., while in England and Wales they had risen by 14 per cent. Those are the real facts.
I wish to refer to some of the shortcomings of the Bill. The right to open from 11 am to 11 pm is welcome, but surely it would be better if there was a right to open for any 12 hours between 10 am and midnight, with the licensee deciding what hours were best. For the majority of licensees, afternoon opening may not be worth while. The licensee understands the local trading conditions and, after all, if freedom of choice is an important principle, he should be allowed to choose.
Secondly, the right of the licensee to determine the hours that he will trade is important. Should the brewer insist on imposing the so-called permitted hours clause in licensees' agreements, it should be resisted. I doubt whether the Bill is the right vehicle for changing the law. Perhaps we can get support from the Opposition when it comes to re-examining the landlord and tenant legislation, which needs to be reformed to give licensees protection against brewers who, in some cases, can use the permitted hours clause to get rid of tenants.
There has been much debate about pubs opening on Sundays. Today the House has had a great deal to say about events at Enniskillen and has expressed outrage, anger, concern and sympathy for those in Northern Ireland. It is ironic that the last time the House debated licensing laws was to permit pubs to open on Sundays. I hope that the House will think again about the facility for England and Wales. If an amendment is brought forward in Committee, I ask my right hon. Friend to think carefully about it before being firmly against it.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the measure. Britain is still one of the most sober nations. The Bill will enable it stay sober.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
The debate has shown hon. Members' strong concern about problems related to the misuse of alcohol. That anxiety has led hon. Members on both sides of the House to declare their opposition to the Bill, and for many it overrides the acknowledgement that our existing licensing laws may not be perfect.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) pointed out that Opposition Members will have a free vote. In view of the speeches made by many Conservative Members, I wonder what the outlook would be if the Government had a free vote. I shall vote against the Bill, and I urge anyone who shares my concern about alcohol abuse to do the same.
Some hon. Members are opposed to alcohol as a matter of principle or on grounds of religion. I respect such views, although I do not share them. My opposition to the Bill is not based on any killjoy motive. I enjoy a social drink and, like many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I regard myself as a responsible drinker, but I am not convinced that we need to extend pub opening hours 96 to meet a need or demand for extra time for social drinking. The arguments against extra opening far outweigh any advantages to the social drinker.
Earlier today, the Home Secretary acknowledged that alcohol abuse is a significant problem in our society. The Government should tackle that problem before encouraging greater consumption of alcohol.
I remind the House of the size of the problem that we face. In the United Kingdom, we spend over £16,000 million a year on alcohol. The consumption of alcohol has more than doubled over the past 30 years—a staggering increase, which has largely been related to the cost of drink. The Home Secretary said that he did not know whether the Bill would lead to an increase in the consumption of alcohol. He acknowledged that it might do so, but he said also that, even if consumption increases, abuses may not increase. I ask the Under-Secretary of State to tell the House of the evidence for that suggestion. Every increase in alcohol consumption has led to increased problems of alcohol abuse. Why should it be different now? At present, alcohol abuse costs the country £2 billion each year. There is a vast cost to our Health Service and to industry. Even Government research shows that, through alcohol abuse, industry loses between 8 million and 14 million working days a year—far more than are lost through strikes.
Alcohol abuse costs the country over £5 million per day. That does not include the individual and family misery of those directly affected or the impact on those who are victims of the many who turn to crime. Alcohol is often a factor in criminal activity, including, most significantly, drinking and driving. One in five of all deaths on the road is the result of drinking and driving. Each year between 1,400 and 1,500 people die as a result of drinking and driving and 8,000 people are found guilty each month of driving when over the limit. Half of them have driven with twice the legal limit of alcohol in their blood. Since the introduction of the breathalyser, more than 1 million people have been found guilty of driving when over the limit. There is a dreadful picture of avoidable deaths.
The misuse of alcohol also does much damage in other ways. About 45 per cent. of violent crimes are committed by people who have been drinking—60,000 crimes per year. Alcohol misuse is involved in half of all crimes, in two thirds of suicides, in one third of all cases of child abuse, in many cases of domestic violence and in one third of all divorces.
Alcohol abuse leads to premature death and to avoidable health problems for many people. As the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) said, deaths from cirrhosis have increased during the past 15 years from 1,600 a year to more than 3,000, hospital admissions of people with alcohol-related mental disorders have increased in the same period from 8,000 to 15,000 and one in four hospital admissions are alcohol-related. About 36 per cent. of accidents involving pedestrians are alcohol-related, as are 33 per cent. of all domestic accidents. Many fires and many deaths in fires are also related to alcohol. Action on Alcohol Abuse put the figure at 52 per cent. The brewers say that we do not need to worry because the figure is only 36 per cent. About 45 per cent. of all fatal accidents involving young people are alcohol-related. Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that 20 per cent. of drownings occur after alcohol has been consumed.
97 While we must all be horrified that the misuse of drugs kills many young people in this country, 10 times as many youngsters are killed or seriously injured by the misuse of alcohol. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Royal College of General Practitioners has estimated that there are 40,000 preventable deaths each year in the United Kingdom. It is now generally accepted that alcohol is the third largest killer in this country after heart disease and cancer.
§ Mrs. Taylor
The Home Secretary says that the royal college supports the Bill. I shall come to that in a moment.
It is not surprising that representatives of all the medical royal colleges are against the Bill. At their meeting on Friday, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons of England — I believe that the Royal College of General Practitioners was represented — the Royal College of Occupational Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow announced their opposition to the Bill because they said that it would make alcohol more available, that there would be more drink-related problems and that it would cause more harm to our society. They accept, as do many Ministers, that the cost of alcohol misuse is £2 billion per year.
§ Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)
Is the hon. Lady therefore suggesting a reduction in the current licensing hours?
§ Mrs. Taylor
I am willing to discuss any details and perhaps we could discuss that in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman wants to put forward some positive suggestions for reducing alcohol abuse, some of us will be open-minded in Committee about any means of doing so.
The medical profession realises that alcohol is putting an extra strain on our doctors at the very time when the Health Service is crying out for resources. Yet against that background the Minister has chosen to introduce legislation to relax the licensing laws. Why? The cynics may say that it is because of pressure from the brewers—a simple reward for all the poster sites made available during the general election. I believe that the Home Office is far less willing to move against alcohol and more inclined to be swayed by the brewers than other Departments, although perhaps I am exaggerating the influence of those concerned about alcohol.
Earlier this year the Secretary of State for Social Services said:We have to go further in persuading people who are not anywhere near becoming dependent on alcohol that their consumption at the wrong time during the working day can be damaging.He also stated:Because it is so widely and pleasurably used, the general public is largely ignorant of the cost of alcoholic misuse to our society.The recognition of that problem is perhaps the reason why the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) was moved from the DHSS, just as previous Ministers who have been convinced about the dangers of alcohol or smoking have been moved.
The Opposition want to be positive and to help the Minister by suggesting some of the steps that he should take to deal with alcohol abuse before we legislate. The Minister should at least delay the Bill until he has received 98 the views of his interdepartmental committee which, as the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) suggested, could monitor the evidence in Scotland. Alternatively, the Home Secretary and the Minister could support the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) to send the Bill to a Special Standing Committee.
There are other steps which the Minister should take. Whether or not he proceeds with the legislation, he should tighten the law on drink-driving. As I have said, 1,400 to 1,500 lives are lost unnecessarily each year. More lives will be lost if the Bill is passed, especially if there is more late afternoon drinking which will endanger youngsters who come home from school and play outside. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) pointed out that the peak accident hour for drinking and driving has shifted to the late afternoon in Scotland. If the Scottish pattern is repeated, we shall, as Dr. James Dunbar, the Tayside police surgeon pointed out, have 50 to 100 more deaths a year at this critical playing time for children in England and Wales. Even supporters of the Bill can see a need for action on drink-driving.
We should have random breath tests and reduce the limit of alcohol allowed in the blood of a driver. The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) said that a little alcohol — a glass of wine or two — did not matter. Indeed, he implied that Members of Parliament are obliged to drink that much at receptions; only a man could have made that remark. Obviously, it matters how much people drink. It is a fact that at 60 mg per 100 ml a driver is twice as likely to have an accident as a non-drinker. At 80 mg, which is the present limit, a driver is four times more likely to have an accident. The limit should be reduced and we should consider a still lower rate for new drivers who are usually young. That could be helpful.
§ Mr. Robert Banks
Does the hon. Lady agree that it is reasonable to drink a glass of wine or two and to drive a car afterwards?
§ Mrs. Taylor
The Minister's advice is that if one is driving it is better to abstain completely. We should all do well to heed that advice.
The third thing that the Government should do—it might help the hon. Member for Harrogate in his predicament about what to do at receptions — is to encourage the drinking of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks. A whole range of those drinks is now available, and the Government could do simple things to help that part of the drinks industry. Although I am generally in favour of raising the tax on alcohol at least in line with inflation, I believe that there is one area on which the Government could act directly. It is wrong that lower-strength alcoholic beers and wines should be taxed at the same rate as their higher-strength counterparts. Simple measures such as correcting that defect would help to deter alcohol abuse.
The fourth thing that the Government should do before relaxing licensing laws is to deal with the advertising of alcohol. Several countries that treat that problem seriously have already banned advertising on television. I am not sure whether that is the answer, but it is in the Government's power to alter the balance of spending on the advertising of alcohol. Last year, £200 million was spent on advertising by the drinks industry. That is £60 a second. The Government's proportionate response to that £60, in terms of spending on alcohol education, is 10p.
99 In the single month of December, the drinks industry will spend more than £20 million encouraging us to drink more over Christmas. The total budget of the Department of Transport's campaign on safer driving for a full year is £2.5 million, and it is planning to reduce that next year. That is completely petty by comparison with what is spent on encouraging people to drink more.
I want to say a word about young people; hon. Members on both sides of the House have recognised this subject as a major problem. The Health Education Authority's survey, which showed that 65 per cent. of all 14 to 15-year-olds and 30 per cent. of all 11 to 12-year-olds have had a drink in the past seven days, is worrying for everyone. A person arrested for being drunk is more likely to be a 16-year-old boy than a middle-aged man. On Friday, we had a debate on crime prevention, during which the Minister of State, Home Office emphasised that the peak age group for crime is that of teenage youths, many of whom offend while under the influence of drink.
It is not easy to determine what could be done to stop that. Spending money on education about alcohol is obviously a factor; but much more important is the whole atmosphere and image of drinking. That atmosphere encourages young people to think that success, both economic and social, is linked with the advertisers' image of drinking. The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) emphasised that fact. He explained that alcohol is a much more serious problem than glue, drugs and all the other things, yet it does not have the priority that it should from the Government.
There is much that could and should be done before we legislate to change licensing laws. The Government may soon be advised by its own advisory body, which was set up, only recently, to take a different course from that which the Minister is proposing. The Home Secretary never answered the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook about why he has set up the interdepartmental committee under the Lord Privy Seal while pressing ahead with the Bill. Why legislate first and examine the evidence and obtain the advice second? Why is the Secretary of State doing things with this haste and in this order? Perhaps the explanation can be found in something that the Minister of State said on Friday; perhaps he was referring to the committee chaired by the Lord Privy Seal when he saidIt is sometimes said in Whitehall that setting up interministerial groups is a mark of complete despair and that they are unlikely to he effective." — [Official Report, 6 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 1177.]I do not believe that the Government want positive measures from that interdepartmental committee, because they have already prejudged the issue and that is why they are rushing the Bill through.
The Home Secretary said nothing that takes us any further in dealing with the problems of alcohol abuse. He did not announce one initiative and did not even try to reassure the House by telling it that new measures are on the way. His speech was a one-sided case for liberalising the licensing laws and he said little about action on the dangers and the damage caused by alcohol. He was asked by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) why he had not gone further and included Sunday opening hours in the Bill. With complete honesty, the Home Secretary admitted that that was for tactical 100 reasons. He said that he did not want to overload the Bill and endanger its success. When pressed, the Home Secretary refused to be drawn on whether he would support a Back-Bench amendment. That was later clarified in an intervention by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and that happened after obvious and hasty consultation outside the Chamber. I hope that the Home Secretary will stick to the assurances given by his junior Minister, because several of his hon. Friends have indicated their intention to press firmly for extending the Bill to Sunday opening.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us that not only will the Government vote against all attempts to extend the Bill to Sunday, but they will also vote against any attempt automatically to extend opening hours to midnight. If he will not give that assurance, it will be clear that the Bill is the thin end of the wedge and is not concerned with the problems caused by extra drinking. The Home Secretary implied that he would like further to extend opening hours and would like to extend the changes to Sundays, and that only tactics had stopped him.
§ Mrs. Taylor
That is another admission by the right hon. Gentleman that he would like to do that, but does not feel that he could get away with it at this time. If the Bill is accepted, there will be extra drinking. About 90 to 95 per cent. of adults in Britain already drink alcohol. Therefore, the emphasis of the Bill and the reason behind it cannot be to attract new drinkers. The emphasis will be to increase the consumption of those who already drink, but nothing will be done about drinking and driving, crime and alcohol, the problems of under-age drinking, the weight of advertising or the lack of education about alcohol.
The Bill will make changes, but will do nothing to improve the safeguards and reduce alcohol abuse. It cannot be supported. Every increase in alcohol consumption in Britain has led to an increase in alcohol-related problems. Simply to encourage more drinking, as this Bill does, without providing safeguards is irresponsible. I urge hon. Members to oppose the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)
The Bill is founded on a proposition with which I hope all hon. Members will agree, that restrictions that cannot be justified in terms of principle or of practical application should not remain part either of our law or of our national life. It is because there are elements in our licensing laws that are unduly restrictive and that cannot be justified that we are asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
That approach has been supported in express terms by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners. Both bodies wrote to us formally, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has read to the House what they said. They gave our measure express and clear support.
Before I respond to the arguments, it is right that I should remind the House of the main features of the Bill, the changes that it makes and those that it does not make. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir 101 B. Braine) said, it is a modest Bill, the main object of which is to do away with the compulsory afternoon closing period of two and a half hours on every day save Sunday. It is a reforming Bill, in that it improves procedures and removes unjustified features within existing practice. I was very glad that my right hon. Friend was able to support some of the measures in that regard.
It is a balanced Bill because it gives local residents, the police and justices a greater power to revoke licences than they previously enjoyed. Of course, it is a Bill that is associated with a reinforced commitment on the part of the Government to bring together, co-ordinate and give fresh impetus to those departmental policies that are designed to tackle the problems of alcohol abuse. That is the purpose, the justification and the long-term strategy of the ministerial group chaired by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I very much hope that this ministerial group will not disappoint my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe).
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor
I wish to ask the Minister a simple question. If this interdepartmental committee is so important, why is the Minister pushing forward this legislation before that committee reports?
§ Mr. Hogg
That is precisely the point to which I shall come very shortly, if the hon. Lady will be patient.
I wish to deal with several issues raised in the debate, including that mentioned by the hon. Lady. The first and principal question is whether the Bill, if passed, will lead to a significant increase in the consumption or misuse of alcohol. I want to make it plain that I do not accept that the Bill, if passed, will lead to a significant increase in the consumption or misuse of alcohol. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you known?"] I am trying to explain in some detail to Opposition Members the evidence that supports that conclusion.
There are a number of points on which we need to focus. First, the relaxation contemplated in the Bill is extremely modest. It does away with the compulsory closing time of two and a half hours and, in some places, extends evening opening hours by 30 minutes. This is far less than the 1977 extension in Scotland, which allowed pubs to he open on a Sunday when previously they were not, extended evening opening hours by one hour and permitted afternoon opening hours. It was significant that the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). who has personal experience of the working of the law in Scotland, supported the Government's proposals in this regard and said that the reform in Scotland was both desirable and long overdue.
The evidence from Scotland is plain. It shows that, among men, the relaxation in the licensing hours did not lead to a statistically significant increase in the consumption of alcohol. That evidence is spelt out in detail in this report, which I commend to Opposition Members for detailed study.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does the Minister accept that there is a major difference in the statistics for employed men and those for unemployed men, and that the rate of consumption among employed men increased substantially, whereas that among unemployed men, for obvious reasons decreased?
§ Mr. Hogg
It is remarkable how unwilling the Opposition Front Bench are to listen to a little fact, but unfortunately they must listen.
We will begin at page 43 of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys report, which states:Alcohol consumption among men as a whole was virtually the same in 1984 as it had been in 1976".The report goes on to detail that proposition. For example, page 7 of the report says that table 3.1, the relevant one,shows that for men as a whole consumption rose very slightly from 14.3 units a week in 1976 to 14.5 units in 1984. Neither this increase nor any change in a particular age group is statistically significant.The report also contains an examination of the detailed figures. For example, on page 12 we learn about the average consumption among drinkers in 1976 and the average consumption in 1984. In 1976 average consumption was 18.7 units; in 1984 it was 19.3 units. The point that hon. Members must grasp—a point that I have already made—is that the relaxation in Scotland was much more dramatic than the relaxation that we are contemplating in the Bill. There is no evidence whatever——
§ Mrs. Taylor
I should like to ask the Minister a simple question regarding the Scottish evidence that I believe will clarify the position. Is it not a fact that, for every single group, except unemployed males, consumption in Scotland has increased?
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Lady is wrong. There was a substantial increase in the case of women. That consumption has already been dealt with in previous speeches. The major and fundamental conclusion is that to which I have already referred the House at some length. It is a conclusion that is supported by consideration of the effects of the licensing law change on health and public order offences.
§ Mr. Hogg
No. I am going to continue for the moment.
103 We have had the advantage of reading an article written by Messrs Duffy and Plant in the British Medical Journal, published on 4 January 1986. That article contained a comprehensive review on the effect of alcohol on medical conditions. They examined, for example, mortality from liver cirrhosis, mortality due to alcohol dependency, total alcohol-related mortality and hospital admissions through alcohol dependence. They examined all those issues in considerable detail, and the conclusion to which they came was:In relation to health, the new Scottish licensing arrangements may be viewed neither as a cause of harm nor as a source of benefit. They have, in effect, been neutral.That conclusion is justified under each heading to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Hogg
I come now to the next point. I am not surprised that the Opposition do not like it, because I am giving the facts. They are never keen to listen to the facts. We are now coming to some more.
The point that I have been making is that the changes in Scotland have had no deleterious effect. We can establish that by looking at convictions for drunken driving, which is a persuasive guide. For the decade 1975–1985, in England and Wales convictions for drunken driving rose by 64.1 per cent. In Scotland over the same period, convictions rose by 4.99 per cent. Because in all three countries 1977 was a low year for convictions, I thought it proper to do another calculation—contrasting 1977, when the measures were introduced, and 1985. Between 1977 and 1985, in England and Wales drunken driving offences went up by 102 per cent. In Scotland, over the same period, they increased by 41 per cent.
There are several other relevant indicators, most notably the casualty rate in drunken driving road accidents among the most vulnerable groups — pedestrians, children and cyclists. This answers the point made by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie). Contrasting 1977 with 1985, between 3 pm and 6 pm and 10 pm and 3 am, there was a fall in the number of pedestrians involved in drink-driving accidents. A similar fall can be seen in child casualties in the period from 3 pm to 7 pm. In 1985, fewer child casualties were involved in drink-driving accidents than in 1977. If one applies the same test, the same conclusion is true of pedal cyclists involved in drink-driving accidents. The only conclusion to which one can properly come is that relaxation in the licensing laws has not had an adverse effect on road safety.
§ Mr. Allen
Will the Minister consider the point that I made earlier: that the evidence is not incontrovertible? There are different interpretations. Therefore, on that matter, along with drunken driving and abuse of children due to alchohol, is it not the ideal opportunity to refer the 104 Bill to a Special Standing Committee for eight or 10 weeks' consideration so that evidence can be drawn from all facets of the community and proper consideration given to the Bill?
§ Mr. Hogg
That is the sort of loose thinking which, over the years, I have come to associate with the Labour party. In the first place, there is nothing equivocal about the evidence. It is wholly plain. It may not be easy for Opposition Members to understand, but that it is plain is beyond dispute. Secondly, we published our proposals in full in August 1987. If hon. Members have not had time to study or consider them or to come to a sensible view, that is hardly our fault. It is the fault of the Opposition Members. The Bill is inappropriate for a Special Standing Committee.
I should now like to make a little progress——
§ Mr. Hogg
I shall give way to my hon. Friend later.
Several of my hon. Friends, notably my hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) and for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) asked us to make a substantial change in the licensing laws operating on a Sunday. My hon. Friends the Members for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) and for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) put it more modestly and suggested that we should make a small change. The Government's position is plain. It was explained candidly by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I shall be equally candid—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] It is nice to make such a well-received remark. I have no objection in principle to the proposals of my hon. Friends, but we want to get this Bill through—[Laughter.] We are pragmatists. Opposition Members may have a death wish—many of their policies display a death wish—but we do not. We do not wish to disturb the existing law on Sunday licensing because we wish to ensure the maximum possible support for the Bill.
The right hon.Member for Birmingham, Spark brook (Mr. Hattersley) mentioned amendments.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for kindly giving way. Since he intends to get the Bill through, since the Bill is about England and Wales and not about Scotland, since he is concerned about the evidence and the facts and since the Government have for two years sat on a report about under-age drinking in England and Wales, can he explain the Government's intentions in Committee, or later, to end the scandal of under-age drinking?
§ Mr. Hogg
My right hon. Friend has raised one of the most serious issues of this debate, both in his intervention and during his extremely passionate speech. He raised with my right hon. Friend the report of the working party and the committee dealing with young people and alcohol, which, as my right hon. Friend knows, will be published on 24 November, or thereabouts. On its publication, we propose to give those considerations extremely careful 105 thought, as will the ministerial group, and we have to decide how to meet any recommendations in that report. If we decide that the recommendations merit a substantial change to statute law, clearly this Bill is the proper and convenient vehicle.
§ Mr. Hogg
We have to consider the extent to which we need new laws and the extent to which existing laws need to be properly enforced. I have been reminded by my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) and for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin)—to whom I will give way—that in essence it is for licensees properly to enforce their responsibility and trust, and we intend to raise that matter with the police.
§ Mr. Colvin
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend on the extent to which we need new laws. It was set out in the Conservative party manifesto for the general election. I am pleased that the Government are honouring the commitment to reform the licensing laws. Why is there not the same determination to reform the law applying to Sunday trading, which was also a manifesto commitment?
§ Mr. Hogg
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We have listened to the points that he has made.
The right hon.Member for Sparkbrook and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) called for random breath tests. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that if we introduced random breath tests, he might support the Bill. I hope that on further reflection he will support the Bill. He should study in some detail the provisions of section 159 of the Road Traffic Act 1972. Under that section, the police have a right to stop vehicles at random with intent to determine whether a breath test should be administered. That is the law. Chief constables believe it to be sufficient, and the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook would have done better to have explained that to the House than to call for something which, in substance, already exists.
§ Mr. John Evans (St. Helens, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for St. Helens, North has been in the Chamber for only the past 10 minutes and has not attempted to intervene.
§ Mr. Hogg
I meant the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham). I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.
Several of my hon. Friends suggested that we should extend drinking-up time on Friday and Saturday. There is a variety of opinion on this. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham said in terms that we should extend closing time on Friday and Saturday. In a well-argued speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) said that we should extend drinking-up time. A similar view was expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, 106 North and for Romsey and Waterside. There are arguments in favour of that, but we regard the measures as a package, and we have decided that, if we agreed to such a change, the package would become unbalanced. The present drinking-up time of 10 minutes is frequently extended. If we allowed a further extension, it would become extremely late for local residents. I do not commend that suggestion to the House.
§ Mr. Hogg
No; I intend to proceed. I cannot be criticised for not giving way frequently. I now wish to get on. Several hon. Members have made good points which merit a considered reply.
The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East, who gave the Bill considerable support in the light of his experience in Scotland—for which the Government are extremely grateful—puggested that we should mount a survey to monitor the effect of the change in England and Wales. I wholly agree with him. The Home Office has commissioned the social services division of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys to undertake an up-todate survey of drinking habits in England and Wales so that we have data against which changes can be measured. Field work on the survey was completed in the last couple of weeks. In due course we will commission a further survey so that we can try to determine the extent of the change. I rather fancy that that will be welcomed by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East and by many other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Hogg
I will not give way at the moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and the hon. Members for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) and for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) referred to the position of tenants and managers. The statutory position is quite plain. The law does not oblige a licensee to remain open during all licensed hours, but it is undoubtedly true that the terms of a tenancy or management agreement can require a tenant or manager to keep open for the permitted hours. I am glad to say that there have been negotiations between the brewing industry and those who represent tenants and managers.
In the case of brewery-owned tenancy houses, the brewery companies have agreed to withdraw the clause in many tenancy agreements that requires pubs to open all the permitted hours and to replace it with an arrangement whereby the brewers and the tenants will discusss the hours requirements for public houses. There will be arbitration proceedings if there are disputes. Brewery companies will also discuss with their managers the hours arrangements for brewery-owned managed pubs, although the owning brewer will have ultimate responsibility for determining opening hours. That is the proper way to go forward. The House should be extremely slow to try to alter by statutory intervention the freely negotiated terms of a freely entered into contract. If it can be achieved by negotiation, that is the proper way forward.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) asked the Home Secretary whether we could reconsider costs. I put forward this consideration: the Bill provides for justices to award costs if they think it just and 107 reasonable. The Bill also provides a greatly extended ability to local residents and the police to apply to revoke a licence or to impose a restriction order. The ability to apply for a revocation order is far in excess of anything previously granted and can be made at any licensing session, other than the one at which the application is made. There is always a risk, however small, that the right to make such an application will be abused. Therefore, I suggest that it is right to give the justices a residual power to impose costs where the facts justify it.
The right hon.Member for Sparkbrook and the hon. Member for Dewsbury raised the status of the ministerial group and asked why the Government have decided to proceed with the Bill without awaiting a full report from that group. We did not introduce the Bill lightly. We considered the facts carefully, and we are confident that the Bill will not lead to an increase in alcohol misuse. The clear evidence of that is justification for the orderly introduction of the Bill. The ministerial group will try to identify those areas where we can best deal with the misuse of alcohol by the vulnerable and risk groups. That is clearly proper. Mr. Speaker, I fancy that shortly you will put the question.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman is now presuming. I must conclude. To those hon. Members to whom I have not responded in detail, I apologise. No discourtesy was intended.
I commend the Bill. I reject the argument that it will aggravate the problems associated with the misuse of alcohol. It is a balanced package, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 293, Noes, 87.110
|Division No. 41]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Boswell, Tim|
|Alexander, Richard||Bottomley, Peter|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Allason, Rupert||Bowis, John|
|Amos, Alan||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Arbuthnot, James||Brazier, Julian|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bright, Graham|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Brittan, Rt Hon Leon|
|Ashby, David||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)|
|Atkinson, David||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick|
|Baldry, Tony||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Burns, Simon|
|Batiste, Spencer||Burt, Alistair|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Butler, Chris|
|Bellingham, Henry||Caborn, Richard|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Benyon, W.||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Carrington, Matthew|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Carttiss, Michael|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Cartwright, John|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Heddle, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||Henderson, Douglas|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Clelland, David||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Colvin, Michael||Holt, Richard|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Cope, John||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Couchman, James||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Cran, James||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cummings, J.||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Curry, David||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Day, Stephen||Irvine, Michael|
|Devlin, Tim||Irving, Charles|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Janman, Timothy|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jessel, Toby|
|Dover, Den||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Dunn, Bob||Key, Robert|
|Durant, Tony||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Knapman, Roger|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Evennett, David||Knowles, Michael|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Knox, David|
|Fallon, Michael||Lang, Ian|
|Fatchett, Derek||Latham, Michael|
|Favell, Tony||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Fearn, Ronald||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Leighton, Ron|
|Flannery, Martin||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lightbown, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lilley, Peter|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Forth, Eric||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Foulkes, George||Lord, Michael|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||McCartney, Ian|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||McCrindle, Robert|
|Freeman, Roger||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|French, Douglas||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Fry, Peter||Maclean, David|
|Gale, Roger||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gardiner, George||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||McWilliam, John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Madel, David|
|Gill, Christopher||Malins, Humfrey|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mans, Keith|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maples, John|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marek, Dr John|
|Gow, Ian||Marland, Paul|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Marlow, Tony|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Greenway, John (Rydale)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gregory, Conal||Maxton, John|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Grist, Ian||Mellor, David|
|Grocott, Bruce||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Grylls, Michael||Miller, Hal|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Mills, Iain|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Harris, David||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie|
|Hayes, Jerry||Mudd, David|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hayward, Robert||Neubert, Michael|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|O'Brien, William||Sims, Roger|
|O'Neill, Martin||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Onslow, Cranley||Snape, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Page, Richard||Speed, Keith|
|Paice, James||Speller, Tony|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Patchett, Terry||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Patnick, Irvine||Steinberg, Gerald|
|Pendry, Tom||Stevens, Lewis|
|Pike, Peter||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Portillo, Michael||Summerson, Hugo|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Price, Sir David||Thomas, Dafydd Elis|
|Radice, Giles||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Raffan, Keith||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Redwood, John||Thorne, Neil|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn||Thurnham, Peter|
|Renton, Tim||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Trippier, David|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Trotter, Neville|
|Riddick, Graham||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Robertson, George||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Wall, Pat|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Waller, Gary|
|Rowe, Andrew||Walters, Dennis|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Ward, John|
|Ryder, Richard||Whitney, Ray|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Wilson, Brian|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sheerman, Barry||Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Mr. Stephen Dorrell.|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Anderson, Donald||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Hardy, Peter|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Battle, John||Holland, Stuart|
|Beggs, Roy||Hood, James|
|Beith, A. J.||Howells, Geraint|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Illsley, Eric|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Ingram, Adam|
|Boyes, Roland||Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Kilfedder, James|
|Buckley, George||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Lamond, James|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)|
|Clay, Bob||Livingstone, Ken|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cohen, Harry||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Corbett, Robin||Macdonald, Calum|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Cousins, Jim||Meacher, Michael|
|Cryer, Bob||Michael, Alun|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Dobson, Frank||Mullin, Chris|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Murphy, Paul|
|Eastham, Ken||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Prescott, John|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Primarolo, Ms Dawn|
|Flynn, Paul||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Randall, Stuart|
|Foster, Derek||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Fraser, John||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Fyfe, Mrs Maria||Rooker, Jeff|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Short, Clare||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Skinner, Dennis||Williams, Rt Hon A. J.|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Winnick, David|
|Soley, Clive||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Straw, Jack||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Dr. Lewis Moonie and|
|Vaz, Keith||Mr, Graham Allen.|
|Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill Read a Second time.
§ Motion made—[Mr. Allen]—and Question put, That the Bill be commited to a Special Standing Committee:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 74, Noes 247.112
|Division No. 42]||[10.45 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Kilfedder, James|
|Anderson, Donald||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||McCartney, Ian|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Battle, John||McWilliam, John|
|Beggs, Roy||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Beith, A. J.||Meacher, Michael|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Morley, Elliott|
|Boyes, Roland||Mullin, Chris|
|Buckley, George||O'Brien, William|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Patchett, Terry|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Pike, Peter|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Prescott, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Primarolo, Ms Dawn|
|Corbett, Robin||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Cousins, Jim||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Cryer, Bob||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Cummings, J.||Short, Clare|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Soley, Clive|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Foster, Derek||Steinberg, Gerald|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Straw, Jack|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Hardy, Peter||Vaz, Keith|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Henderson, Douglas||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Hinchliffe, David||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Hood, James||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Howells, Geraint||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Illsley, Eric||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ingram, Adam||Dr. Lewis Moonie, and|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Mr. Graham Allen.|
|Adley, Robert||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Alexander, Richard||Bellingham, Henry|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Allason, Rupert||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Amos, Alan||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Arbuthnot, James||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Boswell, Tim|
|Ashby, David||Bottomley, Peter|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Ashton, Joe||Bowis, John|
|Atkinson, David||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Brazier, Julian|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bright, Graham|
|Baldry, Tony||Brittan, Rt Hon Leon|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Gill, Christopher|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Gow, Ian|
|Burns, Simon||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Burt, Alistair||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Butler, Chris||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Greenway, John (Rydale)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Gregory, Conal|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Carrington, Matthew||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Grist, Ian|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Grylls, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Clelland, David||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Colvin, Michael||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Harris, David|
|Cope, John||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Couchman, James||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Cran, James||Hayes, Jerry|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Curry, David||Hayward, Robert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Heddle, John|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Day, Stephen||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Devlin, Tim||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Holt, Richard|
|Dover, Den||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Dunn, Bob||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Durant, Tony||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Evennett, David||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Fallon, Michael||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Favell, Tony||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Fearn, Ronald||Irvine, Michael|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Irving, Charles|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Janman, Timothy|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Jessel, Toby|
|Forman, Nigel||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Forth, Eric||Key, Robert|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Freeman, Roger||Knapman, Roger|
|French, Douglas||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Fry, Peter||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Gale, Roger||Knowles, Michael|
|Gardiner, George||Knox, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Lang, Ian|
|Latham, Michael||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Redwood, John|
|Lead bitter, Ted||Renton, Tim|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lightbown, David||Riddick, Graham|
|Lilley, Peter||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Lord, Michael||Rowe, Andrew|
|McCrindle, Robert||Ryder, Richard|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Maclean, David||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Madel, David||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Mans, Keith||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Maples, John||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Marland, Paul||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Marlow, Tony||Sims, Roger|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Speed, Keith|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mellor, David||Stevens, Lewis|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Miller, Hal||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Mills, lain||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Thorne, Neil|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Moss, Malcolm||Trippier, David|
|Neale, Gerrard||Trotter, Neville|
|Neubert, Michael||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Waller, Gary|
|Paice, James||Ward, John|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Patnick, Irvine||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Portillo, Michael||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and|
|Price, Sir David||Mr. Stephen Dorrell.|
§ Question accordingly negatived
§ Bill committed to a standing Committee pursuant to standing Order No. 61 (Committee of Bills).