The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, one thing that one learns about your Lordships' House is that nothing is predictable—either the results of votes on amendments or the rate at which amendments are dealt with. I apologise for the fact that I was not in my place at the time that I should have been. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
Perhaps I could explain to your Lordships the context in which the provisions of the Bill are framed. Three considerations lie behind the Bill. The first is that the habits, conventions and customs of society change with time, and it is only right and proper that Parliament should periodically up-date statutes in order to conform with such changes.
Licensing hours are overdue for reform. The enforced closing of pubs in the afternoon dates back to the First World War when it was introduced in order to prevent munitions workers getting drunk and thereby jeopardising the war effort. But this is an explanation which, frankly, does not wash today. It is neither convincing nor satisfying for a group of frustrated tourists to be told that they cannot get a glass of beer at 3.15 in the afternoon, because 70 years ago some munitions workers might have got tight, and we might have lost the war. It makes us all look rather stupid.
Pubs are a great British tradition. They are not merely places to drink. They are meeting places for friends. They are debating chambers for rich and poor alike. They are social centres for small communities and they are refuges for weary travellers and tourists who seek refreshment.
Dr. Johnson once said:There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so well as in a capital tavern".I doubt that he would recognise many of today's taverns but that is largely because they have evolved to meet the changing demands of society whilst maintaining the social atmosphere to which Dr. Johnson was doubtless alluding.
798 Pubs today are used by businessmen who seek a sandwich and a beer for lunch. One wonders why they should not be able to lunch at 3.30 in the same way that they can at 1.30. In the "olden days", only women of somewhat questionable virtue were to be found in pubs. But today respectable women all over the country are to be found in pubs. They visit them to relax in the middle of their day's shopping. And, why should that not be in the afternoon? The British pub is a great tourist attraction. One can even find them on the Costa Brava—if one goes to that sort of place—attracting the British tourists to Spain. Pubs have become a familiar, welcome, and peculiarly British part of life, renowned and remembered for what they are and for what they do when the doors are open and not when the doors are shut.
The second consideration, though, is the recognition that the misuse of alcohol is a serious problem with long-term consequences for individuals and society. Excessive drinking has always been regarded as a problem, but it is only in recent years that the addictive nature of alcohol and the longer term consequences of alcohol misuse have been widely appreciated.
It is also only in recent years that governments themselves have accepted a responsibility for preventing the effects of misuse, other than avoiding drunkenness as such. We have laws governing drinking and driving and we accept a proper—though I hope not a too paternalistic— duty to help to protect people from themselves.
The main question that we have to ask ourselves is whether the changes in the licensing hours which are proposed in this Bill will have any significant effect on alcohol misuse. Our conclusions are that they will not.
Since 1976 pubs in Scotland have been able to apply to open 24 hours a day. There has been no evidence to indicate that there are, as a result, more problems for society or increased health problems. It is difficult to believe that a person who wishes or needs to drink in the afternoons will be seriously deterred by the licensing hours at present. If he is so inclined, he can happily go down to the off-licence and indulge himself at home to his heart's content—or to its distress. If we wish to prevent or cure misuse, the use of the licensing hours is not the answer.
The third consideration that we have in mind is that we believe that people should have freedom of choice, unless there are over-riding reasons to prevent it for the benefit of society at large. In the early 1970s a committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale recommended far more sweeping proposals for reform, including opening hours of 10 a.m. to 12 midnight. That was 18 years ago. This Bill is a tortoise by comparison.
We believe that there are no over-riding reasons to prevent someone having a drink at 4 p.m. if he or she so wishes. Some will prefer to drink at 1 p.m. or at 7 p.m. But there are perhaps few of us who have not sought a drink at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on holiday or on a hot day. Why should the law not allow that?
I have taken the liberty of dwelling at some length on the context in which the Bill has been framed, because it is a Bill which needs to be seen in the light of the changed circumstances of today. Its main 799 provision will be to allow licensed premises to open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., thereby removing the present restriction on afternoon opening.
This relaxation in Clause 1 will apply to public houses, hotels, wine bars and other licensed premises (such as theatres), as well as to registered private members' clubs. There is no requirement to open for longer hours if the landlord or owner does not so wish. The provision merely removes the obligation to close. The relaxation will not apply on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday. The hours of opening on those days will remain the same as at present.
We recognise that there are many people who would like to see the restrictions on Sunday opening removed; but we think, on balance, that would not find favour. People who wish to eat out in a restaurant, may also drink there on Sunday afternoons. For those who wish only a drink, I doubt if 2 p.m. closing is so great a restriction. The new provisions will not affect the existing provisions for extensions of hours on a regular or occasional basis but the opportunity has been taken to correct some anomalies. I believe that 11 p.m. is a reasonable compromise on weekdays between the views of those who wish to drink late in the evenings and those who fear disturbance of their rest as a result.
The present law provides for a 10-minute drinking-up time at the end of any period of permitted hours. This period has proved difficult to enforce and it can give rise to some unseemly confrontations between licensees and customers who are unwilling to leave. Clause 2 of the Bill, which was added at Committee stage in another place, extends the drinking-up period in all premises to 20 minutes. By allowing customers to finish their drinks at a more leisurely pace, we hope landlords will find it easier to clear their premises in a relaxed and orderly fashion.
Clause 3 is a safety net provision. We hope that it will be unnecessary. It will enable the police and local residents to apply to the licensing justices, or to the magistrates' court in the case of a registered club, for what is termed a restriction order. The effect of such an order—which may be made if premises give rise to problems of annoyance, disturbance or disorderly conduct—is to require those premises to close for all or part of the afternoon break.
A number of the remaining clauses are concerned with the correction of anomalies and with some streamlining changes to the existing licensing law. They are essentially procedural changes and I hope not controversial. I thought that it might be convenient to your Lordships if I were not to weary the House with the details of them but I shall be happy to answer any points on those to which you may wish to refer.
I should though refer to Clauses 13, 14 and 15, which are relatively recent additions to the Bill and which relate specifically to the problems of under-age drinking. First, I should put them in context. There is increasing concern about young people's drinking habits, the part which alcohol plays in crime and the apparent ease with which under 18 year-olds are able to purchase alcohol. That is why a working group was established by the Home Office Standing Conference on Crime Prevention to look specifically at those issues. I should like to pay tribute to the 800 noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who as chairman of the working group so ably steered the group, which presented such a comprehensive report through its detailed considerations.
The report of the noble Baroness's working group was considered in detail at the recent meeting of the Interdepartmental Ministerial Group on Alcohol Misuse. This ministerial group, under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council, was established in order to review and develop the Government's strategy for combating the misuse of alcohol and to oversee its implementation.
The problems of alcohol needed a more specific approach than the pretty blunt tool of licensing hours. It is that approach to which the ministerial group is addressing itself. At its first meeting the group decided that young people and their use of alcohol should be the first priority of attention, and the programme of measures, which was agreed by the ministerial group, included amendments to the Licensing Bill which implement the recommendations of the noble Baroness's report relating to the laws on under-age drinking. Those are found in Clauses 13 to 15 of the Bill. Because they are relatively recent additions, it may be helpful if I offer some explanation of their purpose and effect.
Clause 13 amends the Licensing Act 1964 to make it an offence for a person to sell alcohol to a minor on on- or off-licensed premises. As the law now stands, the prosecution needs to prove that the licensee or his staff "knowingly" sold alcohol to a young person. That is a very difficult test to sustain and it is all too easy for a licensee to claim that he did not know the age of a customer. It may be very difficult for a responsible licensee, who is anxious to observe the law, to assess with any degree of accuracy a young person's age. One does not need to be a licensee to have the same difficulty. Many young people not only look much older than their years but they often dress and behave in a way which makes them appear to be older and sometimes this is done deliberately to deceive the licensee.
In view of that, we have provided a new defence, which is in the Scottish licensing law and which will allow the person charged to prove that he exercised all due diligence to discover this customer's age or that he had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18. I believe that this clause, together with an increase in the maximum penalty on conviction to a level 3 fine, which is £400, will help strengthen the law in that particular area. We hope too that it will instil a greater sense of responsibility and will highlight the widespread public concern about the harmful effects of under-age drinking.
Clause 14 introduces new controls over the sale of alcohol in wholesale quantities on wholesale premises. Because such transactions are not subject to the controls in the Licensing Act, it is not unlawful for sales to be made to customers under the age of 18. The Working Group on Young People and Alcohol highlighted that anomaly, which Clause 14 seeks to correct. It will make it an offence to sell alcohol to a person who is under 18, subject to the same defence available to a licensee provided in Clause 13, and to fail to supervise a sale by a person under 18. The 801 young person who is under age and who buys or attempts to buy alcohol will be committing an offence.
It was also a recommendation of the noble Baroness's working group that the law should stipulate that all sales of alcohol should be made by or should be effectively supervised by people who are over the age of 18. At present no one who is under the age of 18 may be employed in a bar or licensed premises. We are not persuaded that a similar prohibition should apply to all licensed premises since that could seriously affect job opportunities. We accept, however, the need for direct supervision of young people who sell alcohol from off-licensed outlets, whether supermarkets, corner shops or the self-contained off-licence. This will be achieved by Clause 15.
I hope that with that explanation your Lordships will agree to the Second Reading of this Bill, which seeks to reflect the changes in lifestyles, in social habits and conventions. For the majority of the population that means removing outdated and illogical restrictions on their freedom to choose when and where to drink socially outside the home. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his clear presentation and also for giving the reasons behind this Bill to extend our licensing laws. He made clear the changes in our way of life that he felt necessitated the changes now proposed. Before I say anything more, let me say that the views I shall be putting forward in this debate are my own. I do not speak on behalf of my noble friends, who will no doubt be presenting different arguments of their own.
This is by no means the first time I have spoken on this subject in the House. I remember in particular a debate initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, when the question of extending opening hours was discussed. I took the view then, as I do now, that certain anomalies exist in our licensing laws in our present-day life. In the noble Viscount's debate, I went to some length to stress the importance in which the public house is held in the lives of small communities, in villages and so on. I acknowledged also the pleasure that they give people and how vital it is that the services public houses render should be what their users want. I agree that the present restrictions on afternoon opening are an oddity and may well inconvenience a growing number of people.
I have on previous occasions, however, spoken also of the need to improve the service given by pubs whereby whole families could together enjoy visits to public houses. I even suggested that the environment of a public house should be changed to such a degree as to enable children to be present without any harm being done to them. I agree that there are now many pubs offering a variety of food and non-alcoholic drinks that are treated as places for families to visit rather than merely for hard drinking. However, I very much doubt whether this spirit has permeated public houses in all areas. I fear that in some of the 802 harsher inner city areas one would still find that the habit of hard drinking permeates the pubs. This factor should be borne in mind.
I welcome the view from the tourist office that there will be a great number of additional jobs. Subsequent improvements will be made to the service in pubs with the relaxation of the hours.
This leads me to my second point. If there are more jobs then presumably there will also be more drinking. Surely one follows on from the other. On present concessions with regard to the question of alcoholism, I believe that there is a worry that this Bill does not contain the necessary safeguards to protect the interests of society as a whole with the level of alcohol abuse as high as it is at present. These concerns are different from fundamental matters such as disorderly conduct in an individual public house that disadvantages the neighbourhood. I know that has been dealt with in Clause 3 of the Bill.
The safeguards to which I refer are those needed to reduce the amount of alcohol-related crime, the amount of drunken driving, and the present level of people in hospital with drink-related illnesses. The facts of alcohol abuse clearly demonstrate this need. For example, 45 per cent. of all violent crimes in Britain are alcohol-related. Published figures reveal that in one-third of cases of child abuse there is an alcohol-related factor. This is a time when child abuse quite rightly is a major concern. We should take note of that chilling statistic.
Every year there are between 1,400 and 1,500 road deaths caused by some form of alcohol abuse. Between 8 million and 14 million working days each year are lost through absenteeism caused by drunkenness. It is important to remember that behind every statistic on alcohol lie devasted families, ruined health and wasted lives. Above all, alchohol abuse affects the innocent, the victims of drunk-driving accidents, the victims of assault, and the families that have to suffer the effects of abuse on someone close to them.
Who will benefit from afternoon drinking? They fall largely into two categories. The first is tourists and those people who are on holiday. That is therefore to the good. However, as the extension does not cover Sundays, those who are employed will not benefit. This makes me question the Government's intention.
The noble Earl has explained why he feels that Sunday opening is not necessary but I wonder why this group of working people should be so unfairly left out. On Sundays, working people may have a little time on their hands. They may like to go for a walk late in the morning, taking their dogs with them. When they finally reach the pub they will find that they will be unable to have a drink with their sandwiches. I am not sure that I agree with the explanation that the noble Earl has given on why he has not included Sunday in this extension.
The second group to benefit on weekdays is the unemployed and the young. It is important to draw special attention to those two categories, especially where they merge. The combination of youth unemployment, inner city conditions, and pubs open all day could be extremely dangerous and I feel it needs very careful thought.
803 This brings me to one of the more serious inadequacies of this Bill in Clauses 13, 14 and 15. I am not sure that I share the confidence of the noble Earl that the safeguards on juvenile drinking are covered in these clauses. Perhaps I may give some of the more sombre statistics about juvenile drinking to show how it is increasing at great speed.
From their own sponsored research evidence, the Government know that one in five 15 year-old boys and one in ten 15 year-old girls drink above the recommended safe health limits. The Home Office knows that in 1985 for the first time this century a 16 year-old male ran a greater risk of appearing before the courts for a drunkenness offence than a male aged between 30 and 60. The Department of Health knows that, in 1984, 2 per cent. of 3,000 patients discharged from detoxification units in the north-east London regional health authority area were under 15 years old. In some district health authorities the figure was as high as 5 per cent. Lastly, one in every four drunkenness offences is committed by 16 to 24 year-olds and one in 14 by children under the legal age. Therefore the number of young people who commit drunkenness offences is increasing.
Where do these underage drinkers obtain their drink? The Minister fairly said that it is indeed very often in pubs. The OPCS report on adolescent drunking, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Security and published in December 1986, found that almost half of the 15 year-olds who drink obtained it in pubs. By the time they were 17 it was the vast majority of them. Even a sizeable majority of 13 year-olds bought their drink in pubs. The report states:Most adolescents who buy alcohol appear to buy it unchecked. More than half of those who say that they usually buy alcohol in pubs or clubs say they have never been refused service and more than two-thirds who have been refused say it happened to them only once".Surely the Government's first priority in the Licensing Bill should have been to deal with this problem in a stronger way than I believe they have in this Bill.
During the Committee stage of this Bill in another place my right honourable friends tried to persuade the Government to bring in these necessary safeguards. The noble Earl has explained the present position. In order to prosecute, the police must prove that sales were made knowingly to underage clients by license holders. Publicans therefore did not ask young people how old they were because then they would have known and could have been prosecuted.
My right honourable friends tried to have the word "knowingly" removed, making sales to minors an absolute offence but allowing a defence if charged. To support them in their attempt they had the recommendation of the Home Office working group chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that the offence of selling alcohol to those under age should be made absolute in order to allow better enforcement.
This is not exactly what happened. Although the Government agreed to this at Committee Stage, they changed their minds before Report stage. A final decision was to drop the word "knowingly" but to insert a defence; namely, that the person charged had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18. Surely that will be as difficult to prove as 804 "knowingly" has been. Contrary to the Government's assurances, the fact that this is the word enshrined in the Scottish Licensing Act 1976 does not mean that it will be effective in dealing with the problems in England and Wales, because there is no evidence to show that this provision has alleviated the problem in Scotland. In the light of that we must question seriously whether the Government have dealt appropriately with under-age drinking and whether proposed changes will effect a change to enable the police and the courts to deal with a serious abuse of the law and with the dreadful effects on the health of young people in this country.
I should like to conclude by saying that my criticism of the Bill is not its content but its timing. I suggest that we are not quite ready for it. I further suggest that it is putting the cart before the horse to have first a Bill extending licensing hours and later the Wakeham Report to review and develop the Government's strategy for combating the misuse of alcohol. I also suggest that the recommendations made in the report of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, should be considered more seriously. We all accept the problem of young drinkers and share in the deep anxiety. I believe that if we introduce a Bill about the availability of alcohol, we should look also at the control of the sale of alcohol in supermarkets because surely that is one of the problems. We should also take note of the fact that, in order to curb alcoholism, other countries are going to great lengths. France is banning the TV advertising of alcohol because it is concerned at the fact that alcoholism in that country is so great.
Although, as the noble Earl said, the Bill fits in with the way of life in this country in having public houses open in the afternoon, there is a major problem in the rise of alcoholism, especially among young people. In the light of that fact many people may think that the Bill is premature. I believe that a great deal more educating must be done. More should be done to promote services for those with alcohol problems. We need to look more closely at the whole drink culture. I find it difficult to understand that if in this country someone refuses a drink he is treated as a spoilsport and as someone who is spoiling the party for everyone else. If there is an alcoholic in the family there is often an inhibited attitude towards it and it is difficult for people to accept that it exists. They would rather push the problem under the carpet in the same way as the Anglo-Saxon refuses to face up to certain factors such as death.
I welcome the Bill for what it stands for but I maintain my criticism that it is premature. It is strange that the Government have put a committee to work on the problem of alcoholism but that before knowing the result they have made a fundamental change in the licensing laws of this country.
§ 6.23 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, over the past three or four years we have debated the subject of licensing laws on a number of occasions. A number of those debates have been introduced to your Lordships' House by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. I am grateful to him for doing so because we have had the opportunity of considering 805 some of the curious characteristics of drinking in this country. It is against that background that the Government's Licensing Bill must be seen.
I declare the fact that I am president of an organisation known as Keep Alcohol Safeguards. It is supported by the churches, the medical profession and one of the government financed bodies involved with alcohol abuse. The title of the body may appear to indicate that it is against alcohol and against changes in the licensing laws. It is not; it agrees with a great deal of what has been said by the Minister.
There is nothing special about controlling the hours in which people drink as a way of dealing with alcohol abuse. If there were we should have less alcohol abuse than we have today. The harm that is done today is considerable and the noble Baroness has given the House a good picture of it. The road deaths are known to many; there are approximately 1,500 a year. Approximately 500 deaths a week are directly related to alcohol abuse and that is far in excess of deaths from drug abuse. Approximately 14 million working days are lost each year. In terms of hard cash, approximately £1.6 billion per annum is lost to industry as a result of alcohol abuse. That is shown in absenteeism, early death and so forth. There are also sexual offences and other alcohol-related crimes, to which the noble Baroness referred.
It is encouraging to note that over the past four years the background has changed to the extent that the amount of consumption appears to have reached a plateau. Before 1979 the consumption of alcohol per capita was approximately 5.4 litres of pure alcohol a year. If one uses one's imagination one can see that that is an enormous amount of alcohol. Since 1979 that figure has risen to approximately nine-and a-half litres of alcohol a year. That is a frightening thought but it is encouraging to know that the figure has flattened out, indicating some changes in attitude in our society towards the dangers of alcohol and showing a more responsible attitude.
However, I believe that the theme of many of the speeches, and much of the opposition and the momentum behind the amendments to the Bill, will be the fact that the plateau does not apply to the drinking habits of young people. Today approximately £300 million a year is spent on drink by people between the age of 15 to 20. That is a huge amount of money and it is not surprising therefore that the drinks industry directs its advertising and markets its products towards that enormous group of customers. That is the problem with which we must deal.
How do we change the attitude towards drink in this country? I do not think that a good example has been set to young people by their parents and the older age groups. I believe that up till now the attitude towards alcohol in this country is one of denial. It has been characterised perhaps by a family member developing a drink problem through increasing social drinking, by someone developing an early addiction or by a family member becoming wild and intoxicated at parites or football matches. There is a curious characteristic of denial about the whole area of drinking.
It is interesting to note that, as reported to me by psychiatrists and voluntary organisations, most 806 problems are reported not by the individual but by a close member of the family who has become so exasperated and troubled. The family has been seen to be seriously affected and after many months or years they have seen an expert and asked what they should do. The denial goes into the workplace and when an employee develops a drink problem the employer tends to say, "Poor old George, he has been doing a good job. We all have a bit too much to drink and maybe he will snap out of it". Of course he does not snap out of it. In most cases he gets worse until he becomes a hospital case and before that a liability to his company.
This denial of the problem seems to me to run all through society even to the level of government. In their approach to the change in the law I do not believe that they have given enough credence to the very serious problems that exist among young people with alcohol abuse. Although I do not object to the purposes of the Bill, I believe it is too early to introduce it. We are not sufficiently well prepared for it. I should have preferred the Government to wait for the findings of the Wakeham Committee. It has already produced some interesting, constructive and helpful ideas on the way in which alcohol abuse can be combated.
A great deal more work has to be done and a great deal more money has to be spent. If I can put it in rather graphic terms, the amount of money which comes to the Exchequer is £200 per minute from alcohol revenue at the level of duty which applies at the moment. Only 10p of that is spent on work to combat alcohol abuse. I believe it was the noble Baroness who said a moment ago as regards detoxification centres that in certain parts of the country there are many young people who are in a desperate state with organs which are already affected by alcohol. They are in desperate need of proper treatment but they are having to wait for as long as 15 to 20 weeks before they can be admitted to treatment. All that can be done with a young person in that condition is to give him more drink, because if he is left to withdraw by himself the consequences can be sometimes disastrous. There is a need for the Government to address themselves with more imagination to the whole question of young people and drink and the amount of money which has to be spent and where it is to be spent.
I ask the Minister whether the Government have a long-term strategy of introducing ways in which creative and effective help can be given to people, which should include young people and those unfortunate people—it is always about the same percentage in every society—who have a real addiction which is viewed as an illness. Recent research has shown that there is an enzyme peculiarity in the make-up of many alcoholics so they have an in-built propensity to this kind of addiction.
When I hear the spokesmen for the Government talk about this area of our life they often fail to distinguish between addiction and intoxication. In this country alcohol addiction is probably at no greater level than that of some of our neighbouring countries and possibly somewhat less. However, it is still a great harm in our society.
I am sure that all your Lordships will have had experiences at some time or another, whether 807 travelling by boat or on a train or attending a sporting event, of seeing the quite remarkable way in which the British express themselves, particularly young people, when under the influence of drink. This is reflected in the most extraordinary behaviour. Many of your Lordships may have seen on television the other evening the scenes at a boxing match when disorder broke out. Young people were actually seen on camera running about with packs of lager.
Incidentally, nowadays young people tend to drink stronger and stronger drinks. Despite the controls on advertising and the safeguards which have been imposed many manufacturers sail close to the wind. They advertise strong drinks with sometimes double the amount of alcohol; for example, ciders and special brew lagers. These have 8 per cent. alcohol or slightly more. A policeman told me that in the London area this is one of the major problems they have in managing youth disorder at football matches. This kind of drink makes people absolutely out of control if taken in excess. It is an extreme problem in terms of police management.
If I may say a little about advertising, I do not believe that it is something that we shall dwell upon when amendments are put forward. There may be amendments which deal with advertising. I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has already dealt with this wonderfully in her Home Office report. Some of the advertising which is directed at young people is very curious. I have in front of me a most astonishing picture, which is a copy of an advertisement for a brand of long life lager. The inducement to buy the lager is accompanied by an offer of a cassette which features a well-known pop group. It has a picture of a man or a boy in a state of exuberant abandon. The caption says:When you send off six ring pulls for the free Long Life Alive cassette … featuring eight hits … you'll be dancing too".At the bottom of the advertisement it says,You'll be doing the same after six cans of Long Life".It seems a most extraordinary invitation to people to go completely berserk.
Some of the matters which one sees in advertisements are quite extraordinary. I should like to know from the Minister what the reaction of the Government is to this trend where there are headlines on advertisements which say, "Hullo young drinkers" or "capture children and parents will follow". I believe there is a need for concern, and the concern will be for what follows this Bill in terms of response and creative action to get to grips with the problem of alcohol. We are seen as a nation of boozers, particularly in some neighbouring countries which have had the unhappy experience of receiving our football fans to their shores.
There is an encouraging trend and I should like the Minister to comment upon it. I have with me the current edition of Marketing Week which informs us that low alcohol and non-alcohol beers have now reached a market level of £50 million. I believe this to be encouraging because it tends to show that there is a breaking down of the rather disturbing macho attitudes of young people who believe it is necessary to drink, to drink a lot and to drink strong in order to appear a lady-killer or whatever other kind of killer you want to be. At the end of the leader in this 808 week's edition of Marketing Week it says this, and I believe it to be absolutely right:The thing now is to see if the brewers, prompted by likely changes in licensing hours and changing social attitudes"—I am interested to note that they observe the social attitudes because this is the area upon which we need to concentrate—— "can build on the changes in those attitudes and convert their pubs from smoke-filled drinking dens for adults only to all-day eating and drinking establishments that can be enjoyed by the whole population".That echoes what the noble Baroness was saying just a moment ago.
I should like to see a strengthening of law enforcement particularly where under-age drinking is concerned. I should also like to see alcohol sales in supermarkets and off-licences rigorously controlled. I agree with what the Minister has said about young people serving drinks and the problem of creating unemployment. The situation seems to me to be asbsurd and I wonder whether other noble Lords agree. A young person is not allowed to buy a drink, yet can serve one. That is very curious. Recently several cases have been reported to me of very young people being in no position whatever to refuse another young person who wants to buy a drink. They would not have the authority to stop him. This is an area in which I should like to see a little more hard thinking.
My final point is that ideally I should like to see a postponement of the effectiveness of the Bill, if it goes on to the statute book, until the Wakeham Committee has completed its full report. Having said that, I can tell the Minister that I am not against the Bill. I agree with much of what he said but I should like to have assurances that safeguards will be tightened up, that law enforcement will be tightened up and that the Government will be fully behind new drives to make young people more aware of the harm that alcohol can cause.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ely
My Lords, I listened with great respect to the noble Baroness and to the noble Viscount who spoke from such informed concern and I look forward to having my understanding further increased by the speeches of other noble Lords this evening.
I make it clear at once that I do not rise to speak against the Bill on Second Reading. Rather, I seek briefly, if I may, to avoid a misunderstanding to which supporters of the Bill might find themselves exposed and to emphasise what I believe needs emphasising positively in the present situation.
If I have an unease about the Bill, it is that those who support it might be taken wrongly in one important respect. To be involved in an extension of the hours in which alcohol is available could invite the criticism of complacency in the face of mounting anxiety about the results of misuse of alcohol which we see all about us; so much so that, as the noble Baroness eloquently said, this insidious thing is part of the climate of life. Its effects are evident in the threat to life and property, in the incidence of alcohol-induced illness, accidents or violence and, especially grievously, as already emphasised, in the reducing of the lives of those caught in its toils—particularly sadly, the young.
809 All that I understand about Her Majesty's Government leads me to believe that they are not complacent. I think in particular of the working group of the noble Baroness and what we have heard from the Minister of the ministerial group on alcohol misuse— the Wakeham Committee. From that, it is clear that the Government are much concerned to find ways to address the problem. To my mind, that is the point; it is the wider front that needs to be addressed.
I may be right or I may be wrong in taking the matter of licensing hours and when "time" will be called a little bit in its stride, as I do. However, I do so in the face of the major and urgent need for the positive aspects to be addressed. It comes down to the education of the social conscience. The influence of government and the use of public resources are vital together with encouragement of personal responsibility based on proper information. Ultimately, it rests with the individual— but always remembering our responsibility for each other.
It may interest noble Lords to learn that the Church of England's board for social responsibility has given this matter urgent attention and is about to publish what I believe will be a constructive and clear statement on alcohol misuse. This, it is hoped, will be useful in seeking to bring home to people the need for wisdom, discipline and, very importantly, a readiness to look for help in the ordering of their lives. But let us encourage the Government in their concern to tackle the matter with energy, determination and, using a word, if I may, from the speech of the noble Viscount, with imagination.
With this education dimension must go the necessary vigilance to protect the young. There are provisions in the Bill with regard to persons under the age of 18. We must, by the rigorous enforcement of rules, help society to an awareness of its responsibilities, particularly to the young, in this regard. We have been assured that the Government are aware of that.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, I should like to give a general welcome to the Bill. I quarrel perhaps with the noble Baroness opposite and with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, who both suggested that this is perhaps the wrong time. Those who have very sensitive feelings about this matter will always find a Bill of this nature is coming before Parliament at the wrong time. In looking back at the effect and the held-out promise of the Erroll Report some 14 years ago one sees that very little has happened since.
I should like to ask this question of the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs: exactly who is to represent to your Lordships tonight the view on this Bill of the official Opposition? The noble Baroness made it clear that she was speaking for herself and for herself alone. We have had no expression of direction from the official Opposition. It would be useful to know exactly where they stand.
I do not want to take up too much time this evening, but I should like to refer immediately to Clause 1— that is, the clause amending the permitted opening hours. There is no doubt that eating habits in public houses have markedly changed in recent 810 years; though I recognise the sandwich and beer lunch. It is true that many pubs now offer a much wider menu, and many offer three-course luncheons. It seems to me that we not only need to meet the needs of tourists to eat and drink for longer hours but also perhaps the family on a Sunday. I note that in consideration of the permitted opening hours there was no change in the Sunday opening hours when the Bill was in another place. Indeed, I think the other place recognised the omission because my attention has been drawn to the fact that there is an Early Day Motion tabled on this very subject.
It is not unreasonable that Sunday hours should be extended perhaps to three or four o'clock in the afternoon so that a family, visitors, or whoever it may be, can enjoy a drink with a meal later on that day. It would be only those pubs with I believe a supper licence that could serve drinks. It would also bring pubs more into line with restaurants and with the provisions of the restaurant meals act which was piloted through your Lordships' House by my noble friend Lord Montgomery only a short while ago.
I should like to turn to Clause 30. I happen to believe that this clause which applies the due diligence test is really right. I am glad that the word "knowingly" was taken out in another place.
I can understand the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I wonder whether one might consider inserting into this Bill— or perhaps in another Bill, although it would be more appropriate in this Bill—a fit and proper test of the licensee to be applied by the justices. This would raise the profile of the responsibility of the licensee with regard to the sale of liquor to underage people.
I should like to mention also the sale of alcohol through off-licences or supermarkets. Your Lordships will probably recall that we had a long debate on the matter some years ago. I took the view then (as I do now) that there are anomalies. It is comparatively easy not only for the young but for anyone to buy alcohol in a supermarket perhaps without the social restraints that might apply when buying from off-sales in a pub. I attach no criticism to the supermarkets, which I believe implement the law as it stands diligently. In some supermarkets there are separate places, a kind of enclosure, but in many there are not. The supermarkets ensure that a cashier on a check-out, if a person is under age, stops the check-out until a supervisor arrives. I believe that supermarkets are doing all that they are now asked to do, and doing it reasonably well. I question whether we ask enough of them.
Finally, I move away from matters in the Bill. The noble Baroness used the term "drink culture". The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, used the word "appetising". The noble Baroness said that one might be seen to be the odd-ball if one did not have a drink. I do not believe that that is so any more than I believe that a guest in my private house is thought to be odd by my wife or by me when he or she says, "No, I won't have anything else to drink, I'm driving"; or, "Have you a soft drink?". Most responsible hosts, whether one is in a public or a private place, will say, "It's entirely up to you. It's over there, do help yourself". I do not believe that we should require of the private host anything more than due diligence, that which a proper and responsible host should apply in any event.
811 I was glad to hear what the right reverend Prelate had to say. He said he felt that opening hours, Sundays and drinking up time was one thing, but he saw the matter in a much wider context. I look forward to reading the report of the Churches.
I shall listen later with interest to how the Government concluded that 20 minutes was a proper drinking-up period. I can see more of a problem in future than there is now. In 10 minutes one can get through so much drink. That gives something like 16 minutes from time is called. On the one hand, before time, there are six minutes, then, after time is called, there is 20 minutes' drinking up time. A lot of booze will be bought and, in that last frantic 25/26 minutes, it will all go down. It reminds me very much of the Australian rush at 6 p.m. some years ago before the Australian licensing laws were altered. After consideration and advice, I may wish to table an amendment to reverse that position. However, we shall have the opportunity to discuss it. Meanwhile I am happy to give Second Reading of the Bill my wholehearted support.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I have very little to offer in the debate except an opinion. It is a combination of opinions that I suppose in the end prevails in a democracy.
First, I apologise to the House and to the Minister for being absent during his introductory speech and part of the speech of my noble friend. I was occupied upstairs in a Committee and was unable to arrive in time.
I have the strongest reservations about the Bill. I do not think that it is called for at present. There is a great deal of concern about alcoholic indulgence, excesses, abuse, drunkenness, violence and crime. I think that we have to take note of that concern. We have to face the fact that alcohol is an addiction. It is part of the drug category of human consumption. This is the evil part about it.
In many cases the consumption of alcohol is a craving for its addictive influences and not to quench a thirst, for example, so we have to watch this. Anything that people get hooked on we have to beware of. We all see signs of excess drinking and the silly way in which many young people in present circumstances are spending their money unwisely. Moreover, I find that there is deep resentment against the seductive persuasions of television advertising for alcoholic drink. That is the wrong message to give.
I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, from his experience at the Department of Transport, had nothing critical to say about drink and driving. We are remarkably timid about that. We go running scared in the face of the harder drugs that we do not understand and deeply fear. We erect all the apparatus of police surveillance, body searches, enforcing entry into premises and arrest on suspicion. The mighty force of suspicion, arrest and punishment is brought against the drugs that we fear most and do not like. Alcohol and tobacco, however, we are very used to. There are huge social and economic interests at the back of them. There is much social habit at the back of them. We see them go on notwithstanding the harm that they are doing. This is the atmosphere in which we have to consider the Bill.
812 I come now to drink and driving. I was in the Government 20 years ago when we were considering the matter. A Labour Cabinet, after a long and close discussion of the matter, decided in favour of the random test. After the election of 1966 the Minister of Transport changed and a new Minister had larger ambitions on legislation in that field. There were some murmurings in the party. We were also told that the motoring organisations were against it. There is nothing more undemocratic than the motoring organisations. Why one should feel that they are representing any point of view I have never understood.
However, random testing was abandoned and we settled in favour of what we now have, which is called the specific test. After 20 years we have not come to grips with drinking and driving. We have employed all kinds of promotional exercises, television programmes, police drives and so on but we have not taken it seriously enough even yet. I do not say that that would necessarily have been restrained by shorter drinking hours. One can never be sure. One can assume that with the abolition of the afternoon break for the opening of licensed premises there will be a greater temptation for people on the road to drink and drive. That is undesirable.
I regard the afternoon break as the symbol of the Bill and of the attitude behind it. It rather suggests that, notwithstanding all that has been said about drinking and driving and alcohol on the football terraces, which is another serious problem, the problem is not too serious. This is the moment to pause. There is the Wakeham Committee on Alcohol Abuse. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, who is to follow me was chairman of a committee on drinking among young people. I am sure that the House will listen closely to whatever she may have to say. These factors accumulate to show that we are concerned about alcohol consumption and its effect socially, in the family and so on. The cost is enormous in many directions. We ought to be regarding it as one of the aspects of social life which requires restraint and curtailment. If used excessively it can become dangerous.
If I may humbly say so, this point of view can be held and is held by a large number of people. The Minister probably told us—and I apologise to him if he did but I did not hear him—who is asking for this change. Is it the tourist trade? We hear about the grumbles of tourists who say what a miserable lot we are because they cannot get a drink in the middle of the afternoon. I ask, who are tourists? They are visitors; not an army of occupation. They have to put up with some of our little habits, queer as they may be. We have to do that when we visit them. I do not think that we should allow tourism to govern our actions in this regard.
Who is barking for the afternoon rest to be abolished? What do people want to do with it? Are those who are urging it telling us that it will not lead to greater consumption and that consumption will merely be more widely spread? Where is the proof of all that? Why open for a longer period if it is not for greater consumption? Have the economics of the industry gone barmy with pubs intending to open for no reward and no better trade? I cannot understand that for a moment.
813 Before I become too worked up with my opinion I think I shall let my point of view rest with your Lordships. If there is an answer to what I have been saying I hope to hear it in the rest of the debate. Meanwhile, my reservations remain very strong and I hope that we shall examine the Bill closely in Committee to see whether it is worth while going on with it.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl the Minister for his kind words about my committee and report. Alcohol abuse is a universal human problem. Alcoholism seems to be the biggest factor in family break-up. I have received many letters of concern about the Licensing Bill, mainly from women. We have seen that under-age drinking has become a major problem. The press has highlighted some of the wild parties and uncontrolled drinking of young people under 18. I witnessed young people under the age of 16 who were let into York racecourse free. They took over a bar and had a glorified cocktail party.
Scotland has endlessly been given as a success story in discussing the Bill; it has had more liberal opening hours for some time. There is also tougher policing. Not being able to drink on the way to, and back home from football matches has paid off. As mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, many people were greatly shocked recently by appalling behaviour at a boxing match in Stafford. It was noticeable, watching on television, that a great deal of drinking was going one. Should these places allow alcohol? Why is it that British people cannot handle sport and alcohol? Those who lose control of themselves spoil an event for those who want to enjoy it.
Scotland has problems, too, At a recent meeting I was told by a consultant psychiatrist that 80 per cent. of people admitted to hospital through casualty departments in Scotland were over the safe alcohol limit. Among them were women and children. I received a letter from a consultant psychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital congratulating my committee. He told me that many of its recommendations were similar to those in a report produced by the College of Psychiatrists in 1986. A recent consensus of medical colleges came to similar conclusions.
I live in a rural area of North Yorkshire. A recently appointed young psychiatrist from a local hospital told me that most of the problems he had had to treat since taking up his post were alcohol-related. A few weeks ago I was talking to a young reporter from York. He told me that the city of York, one of the tourist attractions of Britain, was becoming a dangerous place after 10.30 at night and that he had had to leave a pub where he had been enjoying a drink with two friends as young drunk teenagers were becoming violent. What about children coming out of school? Will they not be popping into the pub on their way home?
I was talking this morning to a member of a team who came to Yorkshire to survey drug treatment facilities for the Department of Health and Social Security. He told me that while in Yorkshire he learnt that the police often did not check pubs for under-age 814 drinkers in case there was a riot. This is a very serious state of affairs. If the police are frightened of controlling young people, what hope have their parents? I ask the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to do something about this. I can think of no better person to tackle the controlling of young people and underage drinking than the noble Earl in his position as Minister with responsibility for the police. In the past the noble Earl and I have debated the appalling situation of rape and violence. Alcohol is one of the causes of the terrible problems which put fear into the community and spoil people's enjoyment of life.
I understand the attitude of the tourist industry which maintains that present controls are an irritation to tourists wishing to purchase alcohol throughout the afternoon. But in the Licensing Bill, we desperately need strong, clear rules which the police must be able to enforce. The police have said that the present law is difficult to enforce because of the confusion of when and where young people can drink. Our committee's conclusion was to make 18 the clear age under which people should not drink alcohol or be able to buy or sell it in a public place.
I should like to ask the Minister to explain Clause 15 where it says,unless the sale has been specifically approved by the holder of the licence".Is not that provision rather vague? Many young people buy, or have bought for them, large quantities of alcohol which they drink while sitting around a video or in a public place. That is just as much a problem as under-age drinking in pubs.
Should not our direction to the youth of today be clear and straightforward? The biggest problem, often mentioned, is that of identification. Who is under 18? I believe that the country's attitude is changing. So many of us now carry identification cards. In America that is common practice, as it is in many other countries. The Government are taking seriously the fight against illegal drugs. But, for young people, alcohol is also a dangerous drug.
The tightening up of the drink-driving regulations has made drivers think and take notice of the law. However, that does not apply to the young who just go on drinking and breaking the law without having any incentive to stop. In the Bill, some of the recommendations of the Young People and Alcohol Committee have been incorporated. Will the Minister say whether he feels that they are clear and strong enough?
The other day I received a letter from a friend telling me of a young mother with two children who is now in hospital in a coma and on a life support system, all due to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol abuse, or misuse, produces a multitude of tragedies. We know that up and down the country there is a serious problem of alcohol misuse. The drinks industry is a powerful money-orientated organisation. I hope that it will take a more responsible attitude to the misery that it is causing and to the crime and road accidents that it is promoting. I hope it will help provide more non-alcoholic drinks which are tasteful, attractively presented and more readily available across the country. I further hope that it will provide more places for young people to congregate and enjoy themselves without the danger of alcohol. My hope is that it will no longer continue to break the existing 815 law by advertising, thereby attracting the young with its tempting advertisements, and that it will clearly mark its alcoholic drinks with a comprehensible indication of their strength.
I should like to conclude on a hopeful note. One of our recommendations was that there should be an inter-agency approach to tackling the problem of under-age drinking. In many parts of the country that approach seems to be working. Police authorities, voluntary organisations, teachers, the Church, the probation service and others are all coming together. There is much to be done. I am convinced, with the Bill before us, that now is the time to tackle the problems. But along with an extension of drinking hours should go clear, firm laws whereby our young people are protected and grow up respecting the need for a responsible approach to drinking, so enabling them to educate future generations.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness on her speech and on her excellent report, which we have all read with great interest. I should also like to thank my noble friend the Minister for the way in which he introduced this small, but, to many people, important Bill. We all agree that since 1915, when these restrictions were introduced, conditions in the country have changed out of all recognition. It is 14 years since the Erroll Report advised the Government to change the restrictions, but nothing was done.
However, in 1977 the licensing laws, as we all know, were made more flexible in Scotland. I wondered why. I also wondered why the statistics show that north of the Border more women are drinking than ever before. Unfortunately, the noble Baroness Lady Elliot, has not put her name down to speak; otherwise I am sure she would have told your Lordships why so many women in Scotland are increasing their intake of alcohol. I think that perhaps they are going out with their husbands more than they ever did.
I feel that we should now emulate Scotland and change the laws in this country. I shall not go into Clauses 13, 14 and 15, as other noble Lords have done this evening, because I think they are self-explanatory, urgent and necessary. I am certain that whatever we do in Committee we should try to stengthen them. I should like to reiterate how easy its is for young people to buy alcoholic drinks in supermarkets. That has been mentioned, so I sure that the Minister will have taken that fact on board.
Many people think that the punishments imposed by the courts are not sufficient; I am one of them. The penalty for drinking and driving when caught should be stronger. For instance, if a driver is found drinking with excess alcohol the maximum fine is £2,000 or six months' imprisonment, with a mandatory disqualification for one year. I wonder how many magistrates impose the maximum punishment for this especially dangerous flouting of our laws. I want to see magistrates encourged in every way possible to impose the maximum penalties, even if the maximum fines are not raised.
Those of your Lordships who live in the country may be interested to know that if you drive or ride a 816 bicycle when your are drunk— you can cause a lot of trouble not only to yourself but to other people—the fine is only £400. When I was first a magistrate, which was pre-Barbara Castle—a very long time ago—if on a Saturday or Sunday night some one was found unfit to drive, according to the local doctor, they were automatically kept in the cells until they came before me and my colleagues on Monday morning. They then went to prison forthwith; it was mandatory.
I should like, however, to congratulate the Government on their recent drink and drive advertising. I am sure that more people are aware of the problems which this causes. I have noticed—I expect other noble Lords in the House will also have noticed—that there are now far more people taking coaches to dinners and therefore not having the problem of not being able to drink. There are also more people saying, "No, I don't drink because I am driving home". I am one of them. I live 30 miles away and therefore I do not drink in your Lordships' House.
One problem on which the Minister may be able to help me is this. I have read that local licensing authorities are giving more licences to petrol stations to sell intoxicating liquor. I wonder very much whether that is right. It is well known that the British pub is second to none. It is treated as a drinking place for non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic drinks. It is treated as an eating place, a meeting place and a place for gossip. We are told that tourists take great advantage of country pubs when they are open. I wonder whether the tourists are grumbling at not being able to get a drink or whether it is literally that they have nowhere to go so that they are off the road, perhaps in the middle of a long journey through our lovely countryside. I have a feeling that I am right on the second suggestion.
In 1986, about £7 billion was spent in this country by tourists, by 15 million visitors. We like to welcome them to our country; we like to welcome them to our pubs and to our hotels. We are told that if this Bill goes through and is enacted, many more jobs—probably up to 50,000—will be created. It will also create competition between one pub and another, between one hotel and another. This must also be good.
However, I draw the attention of noble Lords to the word "permitted" in the Bill. That does not mean that any pub-keeper has to be open all those hours. I submit that it is entirely according to what the local people require. With those words, I hope that the Bill will go through.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, it is a pleasure to rise immediately following the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, because they are both signally successful in representing their beliefs on particular aspects of matters contained in the Bill. I have known the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, for many years. She is acknowledged as being devoted, not least among many other things, to her work for the magistracy. In my community of Enfield she is acknowledged as having played a major part in elevating the stature and standing of magistrates.
817 Thus when I hear what she has to say about the views of magistrates, I take this fully into account and treat it with the same concern as when I listen very often to another magistrate—my wife. She tells me her views on these matters. And then we have conflicting views around the House as to the importance, the significance and the purpose of the Bill. What the Bill is doing is simply to extend the hours of drinking to fill in the "dead afternoon". I think that the Home Secretary used a particularly unfortunate phrase because it will very often turn out to be a dead afternoon for a great many people, not least the children coming home from school and many other people who may well be the victims of some of the drivers who have access to alcohol at that time.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is not in his place because I should have liked to have helped him when he raised the issue in a very friendly way as to why my noble friend Baroness Ewart-Biggs had started her speech by indicating that this was not a whipped matter on this side of the House. In essence it was to be a free vote. As I understand it, the short and simple answer is that if the noble Lord had been here and heard the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, he would have appreciated just how difficult we would have found trying to Whip the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, on an issue of this kind.
There is some quality in the Labour Party which is called either conscience or whatever else you like. Temperance, an attitude to drink, has for many years been a matter which we recognise in our party. We are neither priggish nor libertarian; we recognise that there are very strongly held views and that is right and proper. I read the speech of my right honourable friend Roy Hattersley in another place. The very first words he said, like my noble friend from the Dispatch Box, were, "This is a free vote. I believe that is because of the conscience issue which is involved. I make no comment on any other party which says, "Whether you have a conscience or not, or regardless of your conscience, these are issues on which we would like you to come into the Lobby to support your Minister's Whip." We know all about protocol and privilege.
These are personal views. I take the attitude which has been termed "the sensible drinker" or "the reasonable drinker" or "the moderate drinker". Whatever term one uses, I like a drink but I am also very conscious of my responsibilities. I think one of the difficulties in accepting the imperative of the Government is that I can understand the very good reasons which may well be to cater for the tourists. But I blanch as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said. If that was the prime imperative, I should think it went very much along with their de-regulating nexus; they are a great government for de-regulating as often as they can. I am firmly convinced that the licensing de-regulation is not very far removed from Sunday horseracing, Sunday trading and a great many other things of that kind. It is not accidental.
However, if we examine the purposes of the Bill, I think we must acknowledge that there needs to be not only freedom. I am all for that; I am all for people having the right to drink when they want and how they want. But the Government have an obligation to 818 make sure that excesses and abuses are covered by protections which are needed for young people, for drivers or for pedestrians. I think the Government will find at the Committee stage that that will be tested, to improve the Bill, not necessarily to change the imperative but to improve it. When we look for instance at the appalling consequences of the current situation, the Office of Health Economics has estimated that 700,000 adults in England and Wales—2 per cent. of the adult population—have serious problems related to alcohol. It found that a total of 3 million are heavy drinkers, around 8 per cent. of the total population.
I should like to pay tribute for those statistics and also for others, to the "Keep Alcohol Safeguards" office who did a very good job indeed for Members of this House and others in drawing our attention to this without being too pedantic over what they want to see. They want what my noble friend Baroness Ewart-Biggs said: perhaps a little more caution from the Government in awaiting the findings of the Wakeham Committee. If we have been waiting 10 or 12 years for Erroll, we can wait a little longer for Wakeham. I hope that he is going to say good things since he is a man whom I respect and who has a very powerful committee. If he does, I think we might have been able to wait.
When we look at alcohol and crime we note that alcohol is a factor in 45 per cent. of violent crimes which are committed—one every eight minutes. Drinking plays a part in up to half of all murders and is a factor in over one-fifth of cases of child abuse.
I have one further statistic, and that is that Government research shows that industry loses between 8 and 14 million working days a year because of absenteeism following heavy drinking. That is far more than the 2 million working days lost in 1986 through industrial action. Therefore we have a very real problem in trying to get the balance right.
I am not opposed to the Bill. But I am in the business of trying to improve the Bill and I invite the Minister (who has my respect in these matters) to give serious attention to one or two issues which could be raised in Committee. I speak now after advice from the Retail Consortium. That body represents 90 per cent. of the retail trade. It represents the large departmental stores, the multiple chains and, among others, the National Chamber of Trade and the Co-operative Societies. Therefore it can speak with some authority. The Retail Consortium has drawn my attention to two points to which it would like the Minister to give consideration. He may not be able to make any comment tonight on them, but perhaps he will consider them before Committee.
The first point is the fact that the licences which are held by supermarkets very often commence at 8.30 in the morning. But as one knows if one is about in the mornings many supermarkets are open not at 8.30 but at 8 o'clock. From 8.00 to 8.30 in the morning people who are encouraged by the Minister and his colleagues as well as myself to be good working people will be trying to get their shopping in before they go to work. They go into a supermarket, such as Sainsburys, Tescos, Asda or the Co-Op at 8 o'clock in the morning and they can buy items such as their sausages and their bread but they cannot buy their booze. I think that the request for that to be changed is a reasonable one.
819 I know that a Minister in another place has said that one should simply relate the licensing hours to the times that shops open. But what about the shops that open at 7 o'clock in the morning? In some areas shops open at 6 o'clock in the morning. What about those? I am not talking about the tiny minority here but 90 per cent. of the retail trade. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, paid tribute to the responsibility of supermarkets in ensuring that their operations were correctly balanced. He said that supermarkets had every respect for the law. In fact the noble Lord was searching around for that annexe in a shop which is called a shop within a shop. Many large supermarkets portion off a part of their premises to make an off-licence shop within a store. Our argument is that it is a nonsense to find that that off-licence is closed between 8.00 and 8.30 in the morning while the rest of the store is open.
The second point that I should like the Minister to consider is the cost and the time that is taken up by magistrates. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, will acknowledge that a great deal of time is taken up by Licensing Benches in renewing licences. One of the points that I shall be putting to the Minister in the form of an amendment is to lift the requirement for employees to attend court for the transfer of licences when that employee has held a licence for the past five years and where there is no objection to the licence. That would significantly relieve the administrative burden not only on staff but also on courts' and on police time. I know that Mr. Hogg, the Minister in another place has said two things about this. As regards the matter of off-licences within shops being closed between 8.00 and 8.30 in the morning he said:I am basically in favour of allowing shoppers, while buying their general requirements, also to buy alcohol … It is therefore important to her to he able to purchase her 'alcohol requirements' at the time when she purchases her bread. I find that to be a very persuasive argument".The Minister then approached the question of the transfer of licences. During a meeting with the Retail Consortium he said that:He was … concerned not to introduce any changes likely to give him any problems with the Magistrates and Justices' Clerks' Associations or the police. However, he conceded that the formality was cumbersome in the case of multiple licence holders.I also find that formality irksome.
My time is up, but I very much hope that the Minister will take the views of the magistrates and the police and others in these matters into consideration. I hope that he will agree that it is not necessary when someone is renewing a licence to demand his presence if he is of good repute and is acknowledged to be running his business well. Apart from that I think that there is a good deal of merit in the Bill and I hope that it will be improved in Committee.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I have to declare an interest in that I am the chairman of a public relations and marketing company that has as one of its clients Ravenhead Glass which sells two out of every three glasses supplied to the licensing trade. Before my noble friend Lord Falkland spoke, I was quite sure that I would be dead-against everything he had to say. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that in fact I agreed with much of what he said in the same way 820 that I have agreed with many of the points made by many of the noble Lords who have spoken before me.
In particular, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, when he said that there was never a right time for this Bill. He said that if we did not put this Bill through now the next time it came up there would be another good reason why we should not introduce it. The same argument was used at the beginning of the First World War as regards marriage. People said that it was not a good time to get married and have children. As far as I can see ever since then there has never been a right time to get married and have children. Noble Lords may therefore gather that I am in favour of this Bill.
However, I am only sorry that the Government have not gone as far as I should like them to have gone in respect of Sundays. Tourists have been mentioned in this respect, as have visitors and working people. One of the few afternoons which working people have off are Sunday afternoons. At the moment if they are not working in their offices or in the factories they can go and have a drink. But come Sunday, when presumably they are at home with their families, they cannot go out and have a drink in their local pub. That is a shame.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, spoke of tourists and said that if they come to our country they must obey our little foibles, or words to that effect. I think that the noble Lord forgot that apart from foreign visitors, we have a lot of British tourists who go on holiday to different areas of Britain and who go to visit beauty spots. Those people also are tourists and therefore their wishes should be taken into account.
Where there are tourists there are probably mothers and fathers and their children. As the present law stands, it does not matter that the opening hours have been extended during the afternoon, the family cannot go into a pub if the children are under-age. It is different in the summer and in the country where many public houses have gardens attached. If the weather is fine children can play in the garden while one of their parents goes into the bar and collects the drinks and the soft drinks for the children. In that way people can enjoy their afternoon as a family.
I feel that the Bill is sadly lacking in not allowing children to enter pubs. Much has been said quite rightly about under-age drinking. I agree that the pictures that one sees in the newspapers and on television of football matches and boxing matches which contain drunken people are very disturbing. Certainly when that kind of thing happens abroad it is a very bad smear on this country. But how many of these young people are under 18? I accept that many are, but I am willing to bet that an awful lot of these youngsters are aged anywhere between 17 and 24 or 25. One noble Lord mentioned boxing matches at which one might see young people with whole clusters of cans of beer. I suggest that those cans of beer were not bought at a public house but rather at a supermarket or an off-licence.
It seems to me that the Bill is basically concerned with extending the licensing hours of pubs. However, the emphasis in the Chamber tonight has been quite different. Leaving out certain areas of the country, in how many pubs do we have people getting roaring 821 drunk? That is true in the case of some bars. But in the ordinary family pub we do not see people getting really drunk. If they do, the landlord throws them out because they upset the regular customers. We must not judge the Bill in terms of drunken louts who buy their liquor supplies in off-licences and supermarkets.
In any case, if one is a hard drinker and goes into a public house, a bottle of whisky will cost, if one drinks in drams, approximately £27 or £30. One can go into an off-licence and buy a small bottle of whisky for £3. One can take it home and get absolutely sozzled. We are trying to blame public houses for something which is not their fault. We have to accept that our licensing laws as they stand at the moment are not only the laughing-stock of most of the world but also cause needless annoyance and frustration.
Before turning to more important matters, I should like to mention Clause 13 and the removal of the word "knowingly". I have spoken with my local publican who runs a nice family establishment. He is very worried about that particular word. I showed him a copy of the new Bill and said to him: "If you read subsections 4A and 4B, you will see that you are protected". However, as I said that to him, I said to myself: "What is the harm of the word 'knowingly'?". It has been suggested that, provided the landlord has not asked someone how old he is, he could claim that he did not "knowingly" know that he was under age. In my experience of ordinary pubs, landlords do not want to serve under-age children. If they do so and they get caught, they are in trouble. Also, if the under-18s get too much to drink, they tend to make aggressive nuisances of themselves.
Perhaps I may now turn to what I believe is a rather serious omission in the Bill. In the old days, one bought beer by the pint or half pint. I believe that it is now bought by measures of 30 or 60 centilitres. In the old days the law stated that if one ordered a pint of beer, one had to receive a pint of beer, except when the drink was Guinness and the head was allowed for. If one bought a half pint of beer, the same law applied. But if one buys wine by the glass, unless the licensee is abiding by the trade's code of conduct—and not many seem to—one does not know the price or the quantity of the wine one receives.
Without going into the question of quantities, I shall put the matter in language which I can understand. As regards a standard bottle of wine, we talk about the number "out". "Five-out" would mean that we would get five glasses out of a bottle. As a generous licensee, one would give a full measure and one would be lucky to get five glasses out of a bottle. Getting six glasses out of a bottle would be very good. However, there are cases where licensees are not getting just seven or eight glasses out of a bottle of wine but nine or 10. We legislate for beer and spirits. Why do we not also legislate for wine by the glass?
The same considerations apply to sherry. If one goes into some of the establishments which sell steaks and also advertise a large schooner of sherry, one will find that the schooner looks quite large. But if one takes a small wineglass and pours the contents of the schooner into it, one will be shocked at how little wine one actually gets.
822 Finally, perhaps I may quote some statistics. Much has been said about the effects of advertising on drinking. The statistics come from the Morning Advertiser, which is the trade's national daily newspaper. They were published in January of this year. They cover the years from 1980 to 1986. In those years the consumption of beer went down by 9.5 per cent.; advertising increased by 27.6 per cent. The consumption of spirits went down by 5.8 per cent.; advertising went up by 5.8 per cent. If we put those figures together, we find that the consumption of beer and spirits in this country in that period went down by 15.3 per cent., although advertising went up by 32.5 per cent.
Those figures help to show that advertising, whether on television or in the newspapers, does not increase the volume of alchohol consumed. It changes brand loyalties and, as one noble Lord mentioned, possibly it is getting youngsters to drink stronger lager than they used to.
Your Lordships may find one final statistic interesting, especially if you remember what I said when I mentioned drinking wine by the glass. During the same period, wine sales increased by 36.3 per cent., although advertising went down by 5.2 per cent. Therefore, we should not try to make advertising the whipping boy of the Bill.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I have one reservation about the Bill; it does not go far enough. Otherwise, I welcome it wholeheartedly. It is an interesting coincidence that exactly 100 years ago, in February 1888, the Daily Telegraph was deploring what it termed "grandmotherly legislation". It was referring to the first moves to restrict shop opening hours. Worse was to come in 1915 with the licensing laws, as the Minister has pointed out.
From that grandmotherly legislation which reared its head 100 years ago has evolved our present-day nanny state. However, not before time, despite such deplorable backsliding as the seatbelt laws, and despite their sometimes inept handling of the Shops Bill, this Government have at last made a start in rolling back the frontiers of the nanny state. In so doing, they are starting to treat the electors as adults, capable of making up their own minds, rather than as retarded children—although I was sorry to hear the Minister use that dreadful paternalistic phrase, "protecting people from themselves".
The way was well paved for the Government by certain Members of your Lordships' House who initiated the excellent licensing laws which now apply in Scotland and which have worked so well over the past decade or more. Another trailblazer was the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, who we look forward to hearing and whose commendable success in reducing the restrictions on selling drink with restaurant meals has already made this country a more civilized place.
Perhaps I may make two points to those who worry about young people. Young people have aways enjoyed and will always enjoy doing that which is forbidden or disapproved of by their elders. The sooner the word "alcohol" ceases to be hedged around with sanctimonious disapproval, the quicker young people will start to regard it as boring, 823 conventional, and bourgeois, and therefore decidedly unsmart. Helping this process along will be a transformation in both the cachet and palatability of soft drinks and low-alcohol drinks, whether sold in unlicensed or licensed premises. A few years ago the only choice was between sickly-sweet soft drinks, most of them allegedly containing fruit, which reeked of sulphur dioxide, fizzy over-priced French mineral waters and almost undrinkable alcohol-free beers. Now one can buy a large range of pure fruit drinks which are cheaper— albeit not as cheap as they ought to be— a much wider and cheaper range of mineral waters, many of them emanating from the United Kingdom, and some really quite drinkable low-alcohol lager and low-alcohol beer. I can think of two excellent brands in particular, one a German lager and one an English beer.
For the warmer months all that is needed to complete the choice is the widespread provision of that excellent transatlantic institution — iced tea with mint and a slice of lemon, sweetened, slightly sweetened or unsweetened according to choice. Perhaps owners of licensed and unlicensed premises will take the hint. The potential profit margins from the sale of iced tea are not to be sneezed at.
I think that it is now generally recognised that the long-term future of public houses depends on their providing a wide range of food and drink, both hard and soft, hot and cold, for the whole family, rather than the traditional beer and spirits padded out with onion- flavoured crisps for a mainly male clientele.
It is significant that a survey which was published yesterday, and which might comfort my noble friend Lady Masham, revealed that,tens of thousands of people every year are kicking the alcohol habit altogether or cutting down the amount they drink. People want to be fitter, to be good-looking and to live longer".That confirms what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, suggested. The report went on to say that the decline of the British drinker will continue because:hedonism and self-indulgence are now unfashionable in this social climate while self-control and discipline are admired … The trend is most marked among the young. This trend will become more pronounced in the future".Incidentally, the report also pointed out that Britain, far from being a nation of heavy drinkers, is 20th in the world drink league. The French, Spanish and Portuguese drink a great deal more, although one rarely sees a drunken person in any of those countries— other than perhaps the occasional British yob on the Spanish coast.
I started by saying that the Bill did not go far enough. I have to agree totally with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Will the Government not reconsider their position with regard to Sunday opening? The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, made a most pertinent point in that respect. One is not necessarily asking them to adopt the liberal Scottish Sunday opening hours, although the latter certainly have not caused any problems in Scotland; but surely an extra hour or even half an hour at lunchtime on Sunday plus an extra hour on Sunday evenings would do no harm and would give a great deal of pleasure to millions of people. I urge the Government to think again about this point.
§ 7.54 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, to avoid any misunderstanding I should like to say at the outset that it is my view that alcohol should not be drunk when one is about to drive a car or pilot an aircraft, vehicle or vessel of any kind. The views I am about to offer on drinking and licensing are qualified by that.
The Bill before the House applies to England and Wales only. It may help the House if I say something about what has already happened in Scotland. A Bill on the same subject was enacted and entered into force in Scotland in 1976. It was different in many respects from this Bill but similar in direction. I was the Secretary of State for Scotland who initiated those changes, appointing the Clayson Committee in 1971. It reported to me and I started the process of consultation and preparation of the legislation.
Naturally I have followed closely what has since happened in Scotland. My home is in Scotland and I have lived there for the past 30 years. My business occupations take me to different parts of Scotland. The situation in Scotland before 1976 was not the same as now exists in England and Wales. I must make that clear. Nonetheless, I suggest that the consequences of the relaxation of licensing hours in Scotland are of interest and of some relevance when considering this Bill. Furthermore, it is important to correct one or two myths which have already been aired—though not today in this House but elsewhere—about what has happened in Scotland.
It is possible to register with confidence trends in Scotland since 1976 because the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) has reported after two surveys. The first was carried out in 1976–77 immediately before the changes took place and the second took place in 1984. That report helpfully provides figures from samples in the population. In addition, in 1985 a specialist unit reported on the effects on health during eight years of the new licensing legislation. I shall come to the figures and conclusions in a minute.
First, your Lordships may ask the reason for making those changes in Scotland. The principal objective, certainly so far as I was concerned, was to reduce drunkenness and alcoholism. That concern was uppermost in my mind as Secretary of State. I and many others whom I consulted were of the opinion that the very resricted hours that were then in force in Scotland might be causing some of the excessive drinking. There was much drinking against the clock.
We thought also that the situation would be improved if drinking became more social and an accompaniment to gatherings of friends and families. Many bars and pubs in Scotland at that time were drab premises where men assembled without their womenfolk and some of them drank as hard as they could before closing time, which was an early hour. Dr. Clayson and the committee which I had appointed came to the same conclusion. Incidentally, one of its members Mr. Menzies Campbell, an advocate and an international athlete, is now a Liberal Member of Parliament in another place.
Of course there were risks involved. More time in which to drink might have led to more drunkenness. In the event, that did not happen. The reform was successful in achieving its principal aims, and that is 825 clear to most of us who live in Scotland from our own observations. The OPCS report records that 73 per cent. of its sample thought that the new licensing laws were an improvement on the old ones.
The relaxations in the 1976 Act went further than the proposals in this Bill for England and Wales. Besides weekday extensions in the afternoons and evenings, pubs were opened for the first time on Sundays. There is no change of course in the present Bill regarding Sundays for England and Wales, where the pubs are open but the hours are restricted.
Scotland was in a different state concerning Sunday trading. It has for years been legal in Scotland for shops to open on Sundays. The restrictions applying in England and Wales have simply not existed in Scotland. Indeed, the late Sunday trading Bill of recent memory would have produced in England and Wales the Sunday shopping conditions that now exist in Scotland. That Bill did not apply to Scotland—there was no need for it. In the mid-1970s it was therefore easier in Scotland to open pubs on Sundays.
I turn to the findings of those who have reported on the years after 1976. The main conclusions reached by the OPCS are these. The results, the report states, seem,to reflect the development of a more relaxed attitude towards drinking in general in Scotland and in particular towards women's drinking".Those are the closing lines of the conclusions. The report finds also that after reform in 1976 drinking has been a slower and more social pastime. Drunkenness has not increased and the statistics for offences confirm that, while the equivalent figures for England have increased during the same period.
On alcohol consumption, the OPCS records, from samples, an increase of 13 per cent. over eight years. It adds on page 43 that because of the limited accuracy of random sampling it is possible that no increase occurred. For myself, I should have expected some increase over an eight-year period with or without a change in licensing laws; an increase seemed to me to be likely in any case.
The sample showed there was no increase in consumption among men. The increase was in women's drinking, but that was not unexpected in Scotland, where, as I have described, men had previously drunk in pubs and bars without women, leading to unsocial excesses. The reform was designed to change those habits. Drinking in moderation and in social or family groups would be a move towards greater sobriety—or so we hoped.
The OPCS report states that women are still drinking much less than men in Scotland. Even among the most affected—the younger age group—women are drinking three times less than men. For more information on offences relating to drink in Scotland, the annual figures for criminal convictions for drunkenness among persons aged under 18 from 1972 to 1976—four years before reform—are most interesting when compared with the statistics relating to four more recent years.
The four years between 1972 and 1975 showed about twice the number of such offences than in the 826 four years from 1983 to 1986. As I pointed out in the debate in your Lordships' House on 25th November, in 1980 there was a change in prosecution procedure in Scotland, so that figures for drink-related offences are not precisely comparable before and after that year. Nonetheless, the picture is a reassuring one.
There is another factor affecting young people in Scotland. Six years ago, a ban was introduced, in Scotland only, on alcohol at football matches and in connection with football matches, and in respect of other sports grounds as well. That has had a noticeable effect on behaviour and hooliganism, I am glad to report.
Has health suffered in Scotland from the extension of licensing hours? It has been reported that there was a greater increase in cirrhosis of the liver in Scotland than in England. However, a comprehensive judgment has been supplied from a detailed study undertaken in 1985 by the specialist alcohol unit at Edinburgh University. It concluded that changes in the licensing hours had been neutral in effect, causing neither a net benefit nor net damage to health. That is the most reliable and expert opinion yet available.
There have been tangible benefits, some of which I shall mention in passing. The Scottish tourist industry, including hotels, has benefited greatly, as has the Edinburgh Festival and similar events. Foreign visitors failed to understand why they could not get a drink at 10 p.m. Also, 20,000 additional jobs have been created in Scotland as a result of these changes.
I have described events in this field since 1970 in Scotland but I am not suggesting that there are direct comparisons with England and Wales that would be valid. The situation in Scotland in the early 1970s was very different from that in England and Wales now. In Scotland, there seemed a clear need for some reform. For example, there were anachronisms in the law that I will not spend time now describing. The results, however, of substantially extending licensing hours are of interest. Having taken a considered risk on that point, the effects have been as good as I had reason to hope in 1971.
It has been pointed out to me that I am in a unique position to share my reflections on these matters with your Lordships. The verdict of the public in Scotland has confirmed these too. The OPCS, in reporting that 73 per cent. of its sample thought that the reform was an improvement, found that only 15 per cent. took a different view. The nature of the changes was not a party political issue; my successors in the Labour Government continued the preparations that I had started and introduced the Bill into Parliament.
While I hope that what I have said is helpful in relation to the Bill now before us relating to England and Wales, I emphasise again that the situation in Scotland was different, could not be left as it was, and needed changes. A large majority among informed and unbiased people living in Scotland regard the new licensing laws there as an improvement. About that, there can be no argument.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, it is natural that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, should defend the action he took in 1971. He has given the House some very interesting figures. I too have some 827 interesting figures about Scotland provided by Keep Alcohol Safeguards. I should like the noble Lord to interrupt me if necessary if he contests these figures. Keep Alcohol Safeguards state that,contrary to popular belief, alcoholic consumption in Scotland did go up as a result of the changes by 13 per cent. between 1976 and 1984".
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, the report goes on to say that the figure would have increased even more but for rising unemployment. Women's drinking went up by 35 per cent., retired men's by 56 per cent. and that by employed men by 9 per cent. Only the fall in drinking by the unemployed of 28 per cent. halted an otherwise rapid increase in consumption.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, and I can say to him that what he has said so far is exactly what I have said. The OPCS reported a 13 per cent. increase in consumption but qualified that by saying that because of sampling there might not have been any increase at all. That is on page 43 of its report.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, that is not very convincing. The noble Lord did not make it very clear to the House that actually there was an increase in consumption despite the enormous number of unemployed.
There have been a number of horrifying things said in this debate, but nothing shocked me more than the plea of my noble friend for an increase in the number of hours during which supermarkets are able to sell alcohol. He is not content that they already sell it from the appallingly early hour of 8.30 a.m. My noble friend wants the time moved back to 8 a.m. I presume that his inspiration for this plea comes from the desire of the Co-operative stores to share this with other supermarkets. If so, I am again appalled at the idea. The Co-operative movement in my youth—a great movement — was a teetotal movement. In no store was any alcohol sold. At all the events, parties or gatherings there was no alcohol. We can see how things have changed.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend not only for giving way but for advising me that he would say what he has said. If he had listened carefully, I did not make the plea on behalf of any one element. I said that I made my point against advice from the Retail Consortium. I said that the Retail Consortium represented 90 per cent. of the retail sales in this country. I then instanced the organisations— certainly the Co-op and Tesco's, Asda, Marks and Spencer and all the others.
My noble friend is absolutely right. Principles that were laid down in the Co-operative movement in 1844 included temperance, the abstinence from alcohol. He would be the first to agree that in the past 140 years things have changed. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, in general supermarkets are most punctilious in observing the law.
828 I made a simple point. Licences are available from 8.30 a.m., and the fashion in trade in 1988 is that stores are open at 8 a.m. It seems reasonable to rationalise matters.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, noble Lords have heard my noble friend. I know well his connection with the Co-operative movement. I can only repeat that, although this change is wanted by the whole retail trade, nevertheless his inspiration is to please the Co-op—
§ Lord Ardwick
And the rest — and do not let us bother too much about the social consequences.
One or two noble Lords raised an eyebrow when I said that I would take part in this debate and speak sceptically about the Bill. They know me as a man who enjoys a drink as much as anyone; indeed more than some. Was it a joke? Was it an hypocrisy? It was neither. I come from a hard-drinking profession, and I have known many good journalists ruined by drink. A few of them, women as well as men, went to an early death caused by alcoholism. The old Fleet Street floated on drink. Although its historic pubs were rich in friendship, they were too seductive for some of us. Far worse were the afternoon clubs, or a far away press club which was open from 10 a.m. until 4 a.m. the next day. Perhaps now the changes in Fleet Street— the newspaper diaspora, and the new digital skills required of journalists—will demand healthy habits of them.
As the noble Lord, Lord Monson, noted, there is a fashion for temperance developing, of drinking sparkling waters fortified only by lemon slices rich in vitamins. There is also a new fashion for nonalcoholic drinks. I should like here to be specific for once. I thank the firm of Guinness, which have made a social contribution by brewing a lager that looks like beer, tastes like beer, but contains only a trace of alcohol. Moreveover, it contains only half the number of calories of a normal alcoholic lager. Several of us in this House are proselytising addicts to this most innocent brew whose name is Kaliber.
I married into the licensed trade. My parents had two objections to the girl who became my wife: first, she was Church and not Chapel; secondly, she was the daughter of an innkeeper. From him I learnt of the evils of the past, of inns that were open early in the morning to provide tots of cheap spirits to men on their way to work and remained open until midnight.
The conditions, as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, pointed out, were revolutionised in the First World War, notably by Lloyd George. Drink was not his problem. Hours were curtailed, spirits were more heavily taxed and an effort was made to change the custom which had been the cause of so much alcoholic abuse—the custom of round drinking. It was such a powerful part of public house culture that when it was forbidden the person whose round it was would distribute the price of the drink to each member of the group. This was the one war-time practice which survived and is still strong today—disastrously strong sometimes. However, the shorter hours had a salutary effect. There was less drinking, less drunkenness and men spent less time in the pub and more at home.
829 Backing it up there were useful institutions such as the YMCA—a splendid creation—the tea shops, teetotal taverns and the temperance billiard halls, which one still sees surviving although I believe that they are no longer halls of temperance. Drinking was still an individual problem for many but it was a diminishing, declining social problem. Had it remained that way, and had it not threatened to become a social problem again, I should be less unhappy about this Bill. I should not be completely happy, if only for the sake of the landlords and landladies who will lose their few precious hours of leisure and who will have to increase their costs or diminish their profitability by obtaining extra help.
I became aware of the change in drinking habits a year or two ago through modest domestic hospitality. There was a time when, if one had a few neighbours in for drinks, they would drink about half the amount of a gathering of journalists. Now they drink just as much and perhaps more. In Britain most of us have more spending money unless we are out of work. Spirits are very cheap. A bottle of whisky cost 12s.6d. before the war. In the diminished currency of today the price should be more than £ 12. It is only £7 or £8.
It is the official figures, however, not personal experience, which make one pause before consenting to any legislation which will facilitate sales for a nation that is spending on drink half as much as it is spending on food or rent; for a nation that in a decade doubled the number of off-licences and increased the number of licensed houses by over one-quarter; and in a country in which nearly three times as much spirits are being drunk as in 1954, eight times as much wine and rather more beer.
Many people will have seen the horrifying picture in the tabloids yesterday of the jeunesse dorée apparently abandoned in alcoholic lust. It is not merely the gilded youth who abuse alcohol. People of all classes under 25 drink more than people of all other age groups. As my noble friend says, each year a thousand children are admitted to hospital with acute alcholic intoxication. We as a nation have a developing drink problem. We should be looking for ways of reducing the problem and not for changes in the law which will, if only marginally, increase it and give the impression that the Government think drinking is fine provided you are not driving a car. In other words, the law should be going the other way, in the direction of more restraint, particularly as regards random breath tests for motorists. It should be going in the direction of more restraint and not of less.
§ 8.20 p.m.
My Lords, the hour is late and I can claim no special expertise on the subject. I should like to deal with three areas that have not yet been covered. I should first like to fill in a few lacunae in the statistics adduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and other noble Lords. They are of some interest. Statistics show that in Britain 62 per cent. of serious head injuries involve alcohol as do 66 per cent. of suicide attempts and deaths. Out of an annual admission figure of approximately 180,000 to psychiatric hospitals, 17,000 are connected with 830 alcohol abuse. Drinking is a contributory factor in 45 per cent. of fatal road accidents involving young people.
As already stated, the World Health Organisation recognises that alcohol abuse is a major problem that is spreading with devasting effects in the third world. I shall say a little about that matter later. An interesting and staggering statistic shows that each year in Europe those dying from alcohol-related causes corresponds with the number of deaths that would be caused by between four and five Hiroshima-type bombs. In real terms, alcohol is cheaper than 40 years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, said. In 1945, about 30 minutes' work was required to buy one pint of beer; today, it takes approximately only eight-and-a-half minutes.
The next matter that I should like to deal with has been mentioned only briefly in reference to France: it is the overseas pattern. It is important that the Government examine carefully the experiences of overseas countries. They suggest that tough controls are one of the reasons why the British drink less—however much that is—and that we have fewer alcohol problems than most western countries. That can be shown by comparing consumption in eight major beer-consuming countries in Western Europe between 1950 and 1979. In four countries which maintained high levels of taxation and restricted opening hours—that is to say, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Great Britain—the increase in consumption averaged 90 per cent. In Belgium and Denmark, with a relatively high level of taxation but no restriction on hours, the average increase was 137 per cent. In the Netherlands and West Germany, where taxation has been low and hours permissive, the average increase has been as much as 300 per cent. Those are telling statistics.
Cirrhosis of the liver has been mentioned several times. It may interest your Lordships to know that France has an even higher rate of cirrhosis than does Scotland, mentioned by several noble Lords. In high-consumption countries—of which France is one—the level of cirrhosis deaths is no less than eight times the level of those in Britain and five times as many drink-driving fatalities occur in that country. Those noble Lords who have travelled in France have seen that Frenchmen going to work will stop for a nip of brandy even at six o'clock in the morning. Over the years that pattern produces serious health deterioration.
It is important to note that where opening hours have been reduced—as in Finland in 1977, in Mexico in 1981 and in Sweden in 1982—there has been a corresponding reduction in alcohol-related problems. I believe that those statistics are worth careful study; I could produce more if the noble Earl wished. However, I hope that the Government will take such statistics into consideration.
I should like to conclude on a personal note. As many noble Lords will know, for a number of years I have been involved with overseas students and refugees. I remember one tragic occurrence which stemmed completely from alcohol consumption. It concerned a young refugee who had lost both parents. Five years ago he came to Britain as a quiet, well-behaved, decent, orderly, law-respecting man. He was only too delighted to escape from the horrors 831 of Uganda and find asylum in Britain. In his home country he had drunk no alcohol, not even the local waraqi made from palm. Here, his friends introduced him to beer, which totally changed his personality. perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, can reinforce the point, based on her committee's experience. I have never known anyone whose personality has been changed so completely. He became wild; he beat up another man in the house; he got into trouble with the police; he started lying and cheating; he became a totally different person.
I endorse everything that has been said in this House against the Bill by a wide range of speakers. I believe that licensing hours must be strictly controlled. I am strongly opposed to the extended hours proposed in the Bill.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, it will come as no surprise to noble Lords to hear that I warmly welcome the Bill. I am therefore profoundly in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and by extension with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster. It remains to be seen whether we are able to convince the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who has listened to the debate with devotion.
Last November the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, introduced an interesting and wide-ranging debate on alcohol abuse. The noble Baronesses, Lady Ewart-Biggs and Lady Masham, also spoke on the subject. At the present time alcohol abuse is a most serious issue. All noble Lords in the House, and everyone in the nation, are concerned about the matter. However, it is important to try to separate alcohol abuse from licensing controls because they are quite separate subjects. The fact is that the control of licensing is not an impediment to the problem drinker. We have heard examples of the fact that people who wish to drink can obtain supplies of alcohol from an enormous variety of different sources. It can be obtained from supermarkets, off-licences and all kinds of places at all times of the day. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, has suggested that that should be extended even further.
We must try to revise our views about the matter and look at it more objectively. I suggest that reform and revision of the licensing laws is an improvement in social conditions. It is the provision of serious and better social circumstances in which alcoholic refreshment can be taken. In that connection the experiences in Scotland outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, are exceedingly valid and are worth reading again and again.
Several noble Lords have referred to timing. I should like to remind the House that the Erroll Report was published in 1971/72 and it is therefore 16 years since this report was published and not a lesser time as has been mentioned by several speakers. We have been waiting a very long time for reform. The Erroll Report proposed far more wide-ranging reform than in fact has been introduced. The fact that this Bill now coincides with the Wakeham Committee and the suggestions which have been put to it by the Masham Report I think is coincidental. The fact that they are able to go forward together shows that these 832 questions are not mutually exclusive. They are both worthy of very serious consideration. The considerations of the Wakeham Committee on alcohol abuse are of vital importance to the fabric of our social life and by the same token so is this long overdue licensing Bill.
Last year noble Lords were kind enough to give passage to a modest reform that I introduced, the Licensing (Restaurant Meals) Bill. As I remain the honorary president of the Restaurateurs' Association it might be helpful if I mention this measure has now been in force since last May. It has been very widely welcomed; but not all restaurants have taken advantage of it because, as many restaurants find, the kind of trade with which they are dealing is not suited to this set of circumstances. They do not require it. What is important about this Bill is that they have the choice to do so if they feel it is necessary. In areas where there is high demand, for example, areas of high tourist attraction, airports and such like, it has proved an enormous advantage and a great stimulus to that industry.
I always listen with great interest to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. He said that he thought this Government were a deregulating government. I disagree with him because this Government are a reforming government. It is the reform we are considering today which is so long overdue and which is so important. I hope it will reach the statute book with great rapidity.
In the extremely lucid opening remarks made by my noble friend Lord Ferrers I wish to refer specifically to Clause 1, which is the main substance of the reform of the licensing laws. He mentioned the arguments in favour of this measure. They are: flexibility; the provision of choice; the provision of additional facilities for choice, both domestic and foreign. I believe he also mentioned (if he did not then other noble Lords did; namely, Lord Attlee and Lord Monson) the importance of the changing habits in our leisure. Leisure has had an immense impact on society in the past 30 years. There is a different approach to it and different facilities are needed.
All these are vital and cogent arguments, but if these arguments apply from Monday to Saturday they apply even more on Sunday, which is indeed a day of leisure and when the family go out and seek recreation. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, said, it is the families who want to be able to go together to pubs. It is in Scotland that the reduction in drunkenness has occurred because wives have accompanied their husbands to public houses and bars. It is getting the family together in this way which is so important.
When he comes to reply, I hope that my noble friend will be a little more reasonable about Sunday. At the moment, the Bill makes no provision for it. In another place some amendments were moved and I believe they were rejected. I believe it is very important that we extend this Bill in exactly the same way as it is at the moment—to Sunday—fully and comprehensively. If the Minister is unable to do that, I hope he will be able to give some comfort to the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth that there should be some partial extension. If he is not able to do that, it will be 833 necessary to come back to this problem at Committee stage and then try to move forward on the Sunday front.
This is a splendid Bill so far as it goes. It just does not go far enough, and I hope we can go the whole course as soon as possible.
§ 8.35 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the welcome in whole and in part, and in some cases in no part, which you have given the Bill this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, was kind enough to apologise for not having been in his seat when I made my opening remarks. He was not alone in that. I was not in my seat at the appropriate time either, because regrettably the previous business went more quickly than I anticipated. I apologise to the House again for that omission of substance in which I take no pride. The noble Lord was not alone.
On the whole I believe that we have had a measure, and only a measure, of agreement about the Bill. Various noble Lords would prefer it not to take place, and they are the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, gave us a fearsome insight into what happened in Fleet Street and into the dire effects of alcohol. I believe that he was quite right in that. He took issue with his noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who I thought was going to have the happy experience of making two Second Reading speeches so long was his intervention in the speech of the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, wanted premises to be able to sell drink at eight o'clock in the morning and not at eight-thirty. That horrified the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. It was an interesting debate between the noble Lords opposite, but it had nothing to do with the Bill because the Bill is concerned with licensing hours. It is a very modest Bill too.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, asked why the provisions could not apply on Sunday afternoons and why it should be only on weekdays. In that she had the support of my noble friend Lord Lucas, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and my noble friend Lord Montgomery. They are the very reasons that we put forward for increasing the licensing hours, and the reasons for increasing them on weekdays can perfectly reasonably be put forward to extend the licensing hours on Sunday. This is supposed to be an uncontroversial and modest measure. If we were to extend the provisions to Sundays we would be running into a whole realm of controversy, and I doubt whether the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely would have found himself as keen to support the Bill as he was generous enough to do this evening.
In his speech the right reverend Prelate said that the Government required to educate people's social conscience about the dangers of alcohol. He is quite right about this and that is why we have set up the ministerial group under my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council. It is not simply a group that is going to report periodically; it is a group 834 that is intended to co-ordinate the whole of the Government's efforts on the dangers relating to alcohol and the best ways to overcome it.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked why we excluded the word "knowingly" from the provisions relating to Clause 13 and people being under the age of 18, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. By omitting the word "knowingly" we put the onus on the publican not to sell to anyone under 18; but if you put no qualification on that and make it an absolute offence, it would be too difficult to administer and would be unfair to the publican.
Very often, as I explained in my opening remarks, it is difficult these days to assess a person's age. Some licensees go to considerable trouble. But how do you assess a person's age unless you ask for his birth certificate? Not many people go into a pub taking their birth certificates with them. Indeed, it is perfectly possible for a person to show his brother's birth certificate. Therefore, I suggest that it is reasonable to qualify the fact that the publican must be able to show that he took all reasonable precautions to make sure that a person is not under the age of 18, but it is not right to make it an absolute offence.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked why we could not legislate in regard to wine measures. Measures are not part of licensing law, but they form part of the law relating to trading standards.
The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that it was too early for the Bill and that we should have Waited until my right honourable friend's ministerial working group had reported. This is a small Bill concerning the licensing laws. It is not a Bill on alcohol abuse. In saying that, I do not mean to minimise the importance we attach to the problem of alcohol abuse. It is of a terrifying nature and we have had many examples given this evening. The Government are wholly concerned to do what they can to curtail alcohol abuse and its effects. However, to say that one should not permit the opening of pubs for an extra two-and-a-half hours in the middle of the afternoon as a social convenience because a working group is sitting is mixing the two aspects—that of social convenience and of the difficulties arising from alcohol abuse.
My noble friend Lord Lucas expressed concern about the extension of 20 minutes drinking-up time. He thought that it should return to 10 minutes. I am not absolutely certain of his logic in that respect other than the fact that, because you have 20 minutes to drink up, perhaps he considers that his friends in the pub would all purchase about six drinks each before closing time so that they could use the next 20 minutes tanking themselves up. That is an extreme view and I hope that he will see that the logic of the 20-minute rule is to make drinking up a more orderly process than might otherwise be the case.
The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, paid me the greatest compliment I think I have ever received. She said that she could imagine no better person than myself to control under-age drinking. That is an enormous compliment. I cannot see what on earth made the noble Baroness come to that conclusion or consider that I would be an appropriate person. I am not at all qualified to undertake such a responsible 835 job and nor do I believe that anyone would take the slightest notice if I did! However, I appreciate her saying that.
The noble Baroness specifically referred to Clause 15 and asked what it meant. The point is that no one under the age of 18 can sell alcoholic drink in a supermarket unless supervised by an authorised person. That means that a girl of, say, 16 can be on the till collecting money but when drink is produced by the purchaser she must then go to her superior or make sure that the superior who supervises her is there. A young girl of 16 must not take money for drink purchased by someone else.
My noble friend Lady Macleod asked about petrol stations. There is nothing to prevent a garage making an application for an off-licence, except at a motorway service area. The justices will obviously want to consider carefully such an application and will have due regard to any objections by the police. In fact I understand that there are few licensed garages—only about 150 in 1986—and there is no evidence that the number is increasing. Nor is there any evidence that licensed garages would add to the incidence of drunk driving. I do not think that my noble friend Lady Macleod actually believes that someone will go into a garage, buy a bottle of whisky, neck it and then get into the car and drive on. That would be an extreme view. Some small village shops sell petrol as well as other goods and it is reasonable in those cases for them to be able to sell liquor.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for having said, quite self-critically, that he is neither priggish nor puritanical, and that drives a very gentle course between two difficult stances. I am grateful to him too for giving notice of the type of amendments which he intends to table in Committee.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy was helpful, as he always is, in explaining that the reforms which were undertaken during his time as Secretary of State for Scotland have proved successful. They prevent the business of drinking against time. We hope that those reforms in Scotland when reflected in England will have the same effect.
I sympathise a certain amount with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. He said with great seriousness and conviction that he was appalled by the effects of alcohol, and he was right to do so. He referred to the pictures in the tabloid press yesterday depicting what he called alcohol lust. I also saw those pictures but it did not seem to me that alcohol was necessarily the prerequisite in them. One young lady who had been to the dance in question was quoted as saying that within 15 minutes she had done the three things that daddy told her not to do. I doubt whether she could have been tight by that time. However, I am not defending that in the slightest. I merely say that alcohol as such was not necessarily the cause of the drama which rightly concerned the noble Lord.
My Lords, that may well be so and I do not defend it in the slightest, but I am merely referring to the pictures to which the noble Lord drew attention. I do not think that the connection with alcohol was necessarily there. However, even if it 836 were, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, it has nothing to do with the Bill. This Bill is merely to deal with opening hours being modestly extended.
My noble friend Lord Montgomery said that he wanted to see the Bill extended and the provisions used for Sundays. I have told him why I believe that that would be most unsuitable. It would put the Bill into the realm of high controversy. I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, for the statistics he gave and I will certainly study them with care. This is a modest Bill. It was never expected to be anything other than a gentle alteration in the laws covering licensing hours to bring them up to present day requirements.
It is a fact that the Government are concerned about alcohol abuse. I should like to allay the fears of your Lordships by saying that we have taken a certain number of steps. We have examined the position in Scotland. We find no evidence to suggest that the relaxation of the licensing laws there has led to any increase in alcohol misuse. We have set up a ministerial group to examine the problems of misuse so that we can co-ordinate action by all departments to counter the problem. We have introduced specific provisions in the Bill to strengthen the law against under-age drinking. We have made clear during the passage of the Bill in another place that we see alcohol misuse as a grave social problem and one to which we shall continue to direct attention across the spectrum of the administration.
We have deliberately avoided radical changes in view of the widespread concern that we share about alcohol misuse. I therefore hope that your Lordships will approve the Bill and give it a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.