Motion to Approve
Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench)
I rise to bring a slightly different tone to this debate. I declare my interest as a member of the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians. I welcome this order, because, in all honesty, I welcome anything that tries to address the culture that we have of grossly irresponsible drinking. If I am right-and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm this-the balance up till now, following the Licensing Act 2003, has favoured commercial operators over local residents. This, combined with parallel reforms in Section 33 of the Policing and Crime Act, will allow a swing back to people at a more local level, so that they can navigate review systems more easily when they live adjacent to premises in their community that are being adversely affected by the drinking habits locally.
As the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said, there have been an alarming number of alcohol-related hospital admissions and, indeed, deaths. The problem overall is one of public safety. It is not about stopping people doing what they want to do sociably; it is about protecting those who have not had a drink from being killed or maimed, seriously or even in a minor way, by somebody who has drunk completely irresponsibly. It is against that background that I welcome this order, which I hope nobody will oppose. I agree that it does not go far enough, but at least it goes some of the way, which is to be welcomed.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, it is sad that we have not seen the introduction of minimum pricing. You can see students in the streets swigging on bottles of cheap spirits, especially vodka, which they have bought in the supermarket. They are getting "plastered" before they even start to go out for the night. They are drinking a lot of alcohol to get "front-loaded" before they go out elsewhere to drink. Student balls, of which I have attended many in my more senior years-no longer as a student-have sadly sometimes been a spectacle of the most awful drunken games, with students pouring spirits into the mouth of another student lying on the ground. That has had devastating consequences in the premises, from which that group of students is often banned. I welcome anything that will stop that happening. Some of those students are admitted with alcohol poisoning. It is the irresponsible behaviour of those around that pushed them further over the top when they were already severely intoxicated.
I think that the pubs would have welcomed minimum pricing, because their biggest threat must come from sales of very cheap alcohol in supermarkets. In a pub, those drinking are overseen and there is an onus to encourage responsible drinking. Landlords in a pub are much more likely to spot the underage than the supermarket checkout person will do. While there is a provision in the order about ID, I have a concern about fake ID, which is readily available over the internet and which fulfils all these criteria. Indeed, I have seen fake ID cards that look completely plausible. I can see that someone working at a supermarket checkout in particular, who is not familiar with the ways of some of these young people, would be completely taken in. It has become increasingly difficult to judge the age of young people, particularly girls, by their appearance.
I would appreciate it if the Minister could clarify that the tap water provision is to deal with things like pop festivals, where it may be difficult to have a tap out in the field-although one would hope that the organisers could run a hosepipe out across the field to a point, rather than sell water at very costly prices. They could certainly have a tank out there. I hope that there will be some imposition for pop concerts for drinkable water-"potable", from the French-to be supplied. With those reservations, I hope that nobody in this House will reject this order, because it will take us no further forward at all to do so.