Amendment of Definition of "sale by Retail" in Licensing Act I964

Orders of the Day — Licensing (Retail Sales) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1988.

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Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 29th April 1988

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out 'to any one person'.

It would be wrong to say that the Bill was subjected to protracted scrutiny on Second Reading. Indeed, this is the first occasion on which this excellent measure, which is the child of my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), has been debated on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Committee discussed the Bill for three sittings and it was suggested in some quarters —quite wrongly, and the suggestion was rejected by you, Mr. Speaker —that we were filibustering? We considered serious amendments. We examined some of them at great length. We think that the Bill has now been fully considered.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have studied the reports of Standing Committee C with great care. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) was a member of the Standing Committee, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), who is partly a parent of the Bill.

Our debate takes place on the 87th birthday of the Emperor of Japan and on the 46th birthday of the deputy Foreign Secretary. I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Reigate and for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) have already been in touch with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, raising with her issues about double summer time which were considered by the House last evening. I do not want to be led astray down those paths, however.

As well as' the two birthdays to which it is right that the House should pay tribute, we should note that our debate on the subject of drink takes place in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Father of the House. The House should not despair, however, because seated on the Treasury Bench is the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household —my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). He is visiting us at the start of a weekend which appears for him to have begun already. He is in his place because he has a deep interest in alcohol I have an interest in alcohol, but it is not quite the same as that of my hon. Friend the Vice-Chamberlain.

I see that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is in his place.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

He is not sitting beside the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). That would be quite wrong. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West was a member not of Standing Committee C but of that Committee which considered the Housing Bill. You may wonder, Mr. Speaker, why I am bringing the hon. Member for Newham, North-West into the debate —

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. We are considering the Licensing (Retail Sales) Bill, not what went on in the Housing Bill Standing Committee, interesting though that may have been.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was a member of the Standing Committee. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison).

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

I do not know why my hon. Friend should wish to give way to me. I have no wish to intervene in the debate, so overcome am I by my hon. Friend's eloquence.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I do not want to be led astray, particularly with you, Madam Deputy Speaker, in the Chair.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

That is true. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, will have studied closely the Bill and the amendment. The amendment seeks to leave out the words, "to any one person". When I was discussing the series of amendments with some of my hon. Friends I wondered whether the words, "to any one person" were really necessary.

I dislike very much even raising a doubt about whether the draftsmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) could in any way be defective. It is possible, although the clause was considered most carefully in Committee, that the point that I draw to the attention of the House on Report was overlooked. I say that to my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East and to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has brought with him a massive volume of paper and books that are not readily available to BackBenchers.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

This particular book is not so readily available to Back Benchers because I have nicked it from the Library and it was the only copy.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

That book was written by my noble Friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone who has been engaged in a very erudite correspondence through The Times —with which I am in respectful agreement —with Lord Jenkins, who used to sit close to where the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is seated, and who used to be in the same party as the hon. Member. Lord Jenkins of Hillhead has been engaged in a correspondence in The Times—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman reads The Times —about the powers of another place. It will be interesting to see, when the Bill reaches another place, whether the amendment is rejected or withdrawn. It is quite possible that the amendment will be considered in another place.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

Will my hon. Friend say whether he believes, in the light of the Under-Secretary of State's presence on the Front Bench, the amendment arises out of some conspiracy or some cock-up?

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

The amendment was tabled by me. It is perfectly true that none of my hon. Friends has added his or her name to the amendment. I think that it would have been in order for the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) to add her name to this first amendment. Madam Deputy Speaker confirms that that is so. It would not have been possible at this stage for the Minister's father to add his name since he is a member of another place.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

My hon. Friend mentioned the Minister's father. Would it be appropriate for us all to congratulate him on the excellent interview that he gave on television last night in which he spoke for the British people?

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I entirely agree with the ruling that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have given. We want to know, either from my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), who had a great deal to do with the parenthood of the Bill —I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East will not think it discourteous of me when I say that they were joint parents of the Bill —

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

There are usually joint parents.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

My hon. Friend is quite wrong about that. How many letters now start off, "I am a one-parent family"?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Obviously the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) is prepared to give way to anyone this morning, even to me. Although it can end up as a single-parent family, at the point of conception two parents are usually involved, unless it is a virgin birth.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

As my hon. Friend —I almost referred to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) as my hon. Friend. Indeed, we had many happy discussions about the Housing Bill. However, I should not be led astray by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

What do you think, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It is not for the Chair to determine whether an hon. Member must give way. The hon. Member has given away a great deal of time this morning.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 9:45 am, 29th April 1988

I shall give way to my hon. Friend and if my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate should seek to intervene I shall certainly give way to him.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

My hon. Friend referred to the number of one-parent families. Is he aware that more than 20 per cent. of births are illegitimate? Would he consider that as being related to the availability of alcohol?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Member's interventions do not relate to the amendment.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I believe that the Bill will be improved and its comprehensibility advanced if we omit the words "to any one person" because they are superfluous. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East will acknowledge that those words are not necessary and that the clause will be made clearer if those words are omitted. I expect that to be the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East, and I expect that the Minister, when he advises the House, will agree that the amendment is a modest improvement to this excellent Bill.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

I always hesitate to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) because for four glorious days in 1983 I served as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and I have always held him in the greatest respect.

Although I have no particular objection to the amendment, as it does not affect my Bill, I believe that when my hon. Friend the Minister addresses the House we shall find that the amendment will have consequential effects on the major licensing Acts that have been passed. Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne might find it wiser to withdraw the amendment, but perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if we were to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister about that

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have to say that I had not expected to speak so early in the debate. It occurred to me that this kind of amendment, striking at the root of parliamentary draftsmanship, about which hon. Members from both sides of the House would like to speak.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has raised the matter and I have been challenged, as it were, by his former Parliamentary Private Secretary. I fear that I shall not rise to that challenge in quite the way that he would have done had he continued with his speech a little longer. There is no doubt that the question that has been raised so clearly by my right hon. Friend —I am sorry, I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne; I cannot think how such an omission has occurred —is a matter of some importance. That is because there is a nasty tendency on the part of those who draft legislation to increase the volume of words that appear in the Bill. Consequently, it is important that when a certain phrase appears in a Bill of this kind we should be in a position to justify it. Otherwise, out of an abundance of caution, we shall find the language of the Bill being multiplied, with phrase being piled upon phrase, and becoming verbose. In the end, we have to ask what it means

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports me. He will remember that on a number of occasions in Committee, when I have had the privilege of serving with him, he has tried to add phrases that have no meaning, but on this occasion I see that we are as one. Incidentally, that also applies to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). He has given me some nasty moments, for example, on money resolutions.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

That is one of life's modest consolations.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

If it is one of life's modest consolations for the hon. Member for Bradford, South, I have to say that it was one of my embarrassments, but I hope that I rose to the occasion with good humour and charm. In any event, the hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) and I, and, I think, the Vice-Chamberlain Household, Lord Tinky-pooh and various hon. Members are anxious to know —

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Did I hear my hon. Friend refer in a somewhat disparaging way to a member of Her Majesty's Household? At the beginning of the debate, did I not remind my hon. Friend that today is the 87th birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan? Were not the words that fell from my hon. Friend's lips anticipated earlier by the marvellous Mr. W. S. Gilbert?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

That is the problem. I was reminded about the glorious birthday of the Emperor of Japan, and that put the unhappy words "Tinky-pooh" into my mind. I withdraw them, because it is disparaging to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and, no doubt, to the Emperor of Japan. Therefore I withdraw them on that ground as well.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Does my hon. Friend realise how closely the Bill is related to the Emperor of Japan?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I believe that such references were ruled out of order earlier.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I was about to refer to the Deputy Foreign Secretary because you had ruled, Madam Deputy Speaker, that she could have added her name to the amendment. I draw that fact to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is true that my hon. Friend the Deputy Foreign Secretary could have done just that. Had she done so, it would have been a great advantage because she occupies a much more distinguished place in the Government than I do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not know how to reply to the sedentary interventions behind me, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I feel sure that you would not wish me to do so. Nevertheless, had she added her name to the amendment, the House would have had the benefit of a speech from my hon. Friend the Deputy Foreign Secretary and she would have been able to bring her international experience to bear upon it.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

And, indeed, her intellect. We should have had both a precise analysis of the legal questions and the experience of my hon. Friend the Deputy Foreign Secretary, who would have drawn upon comparisons with Germany, France, Italy and—

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate

Is it not the case that, had she done so, she would not have remained Deputy Foreign Secretary for very long?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do not know about that. It is not for me to speculate on the future of my hon. Friend the Deputy Foreign Secretary, but I should have thought that the House would have been better informed—

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

My hon. Friend the Minister seems to be somewhat confused over titles. Understandably, but wrongly, he referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) as his right hon. Friend. I share his view that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne should be my right hon. Friend, but he has just done a grave injustice to the Deputy Foreign Secretary by calling her his hon. Friend. He should know, as I know, that she was made a Privy Councillor about 18 months ago. No doubt he would wish to add his congratulations to her.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I most certainly wish to add my congratulations, but I think that they may be a trifle belated. I have to say that I am overcome by shame. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am not, on the whole, overcome by shame, but on this occasion I feel that the point that has been made is particularly sharp.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

Is not my hon. Friend's error compounded even more by the fact that our right hon. Friend is the only other Lady, apart from the Prime Minister, who is a right hon. Member of the House?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is rubbing salt into the wound. All that I can do is to grovel, and I do so in a way that I hope is much more meaningful than the way in which others grovelled in this House a few days ago. I have committed a grave sin. I can only apologise to my hon. Friends and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), who is not here today. I have a feeling that if I continue in this vein, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall be in serious trouble with your good self.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

On a point of order. Madam Deputy Speaker. There is no post known to the law as Deputy Foreign Secretary. May we know to whom my hon. Friend the Minister is referring?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I do not think that that has anything whatever to do with the legislation that is before us. We ought not to go down that path.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Why has my hon. Friend not paid tribute to our right hon. Friend the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine)? Was not mention made at the beginning of the debate to the Father of the House? Did we not say that our proceedings would be strengthened if only he were to arrive?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am afraid that I had not noticed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point had come into the Chamber, but that is a fact upon which we should comment. Very few hon. Members know or care more than he does about legislation that relates to alcohol. I think that I speak on behalf not only of the Treasury Bench and my hon. Friends but of the hon. Members for Erdington, for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs Golding), when I say that we very much welcome the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point. His presence denotes the possibility that this legislation will be examined in somewhat greater detail than might otherwise have been the case. That is inevitably good, especially on a Friday morning when we have the time to explore these matters in some detail. On behalf, therefore, of all right hon. and hon. Members who may be in the Chamber, or who are shortly to arrive, I welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point and hope that he has a very full contribution to make to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) raised a point of order about the term "Deputy Foreign Secretary". He was right to do so, but it is a tribute to the reputation of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne that the description that he applied should have been treated by hon. Members as a definitive description. Strictly speaking, he was not right, but, as on many occasions, he sets the tone that this Chamber is anxious to follow.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

My hon. Friend could be misled by the fact that the BBC constantly refers to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) as the Deputy Foreign Secretary. We all know that the BBC never makes a mistake.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is perfectly true that our understanding of the facts may occasionally be perverted by the BBC, and it is undoubtedly true that—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. These proceedings are by no means tedious but they are quite irrelevant.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

You may remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that about 10 minutes ago I said that if I pursued my then current line I should be ruled out of order by you, but just as I was turning to the point with which I now wish to deal—the words "to any one person"—I was sidertracked by the very welcome arrival of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point. Should that phrase be in the Bill? We began from the proposition that we should not include words that are surplus to the meaning of the Bill. Are those words surplus to the meaning of the Bill, and do they damage its effect?

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

We are getting into trouble with titles this morning. To help us make up our minds about the amendment, will my hon. Friend say whether he has consulted the parliamentary draftsmen about whether the amendment would preclude a pregnant lady from purchasing liquor?

10 am

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

That possibility was not in my mind when I first considered the amendment. Although it is capable, by extension, of applying to persons not present in the corporeal world, perhaps my hon. Friend is stretching the point further than I would wish. I shall discuss the matter at an appropriate moment with the parliamentary draftsmen and explore possible further refinements of the law to make the position crystal clear. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) for raising that drafting point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne looks as though he is about to leap to his feet. Does he wish to intervene?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

We have just witnessed a unique event. I invited my hon. Friend to intervene, but he declined. I always welcome new experiences.

I revert to the interesting, if somewhat detailed, question whether the phrase, "to any one person" should appear in the Bill. There are two reasons why it should not. First, there is the question of its impact on related legislation. The House will be aware of the provisions of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979, particularly section 4(4). The definition of "sale by retail" in the Bill follows broadly the provsions contained in section 4(4) of the 1979 legislation, where the words at any one time to any one person appear. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne is a lawyer. I was a lawyer and hope never to be one again. We understand the importance of consistency in legislation. If I were to make one serious point—I hope to make many serious points—I would suggest that it is desirable to have the same definitions in relevant and related legislation. For that reason, I find the amendment difficult to accept.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point of principle about the way in which the country is run. In view of his contribution to a recent debate, is he suggesting that when a Government have made a cock-up and legislation is on the statute book, it is inviolate for all time and cannot be amended by subsequent wiser thinking? That would suggest that a measure passed in 1982 would stand for ever. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made a valid contribution. It is wrong to say that because words have been enshrined in legislation, or that because in the past some buffoons accepted them, we must accept them for all time.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am a wiser person than I was two nights ago. I believe that the phrase that I used was a trifle inelegant, so I shall not repeat it. My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh, however, is right. If an error was made some time ago, we are not bound by it thereafter. We are entitled to consider legislation and decide whether the error should persist I do not believe that the 1979 legislation is defective in its definition. I am, therefore, anxious to maintain consistency between relevant and related legislation.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I am sure that my hon. Friend would like to comment on whether the voters of Eastleigh, North took this amendment into consideration when yesterday they increased the Conservative majority from 228 to 511. The Labour party's vote decreased dramatically.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I suspect, although I cannot speak authoritatively, that the answer is no. I imagine that the voters of Eastleigh, North had in mind the Government's successful policies and the great leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Those facts are more self-evident than the true but less self-evident merits of the Bill.

The Government are neutral about the passage of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward) was right to draw to the attention of the House our remarkable victory. I think that it had more to do with the overall success of the Government and the defects of the Opposition than the merits of this important piece of legislation.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

And a good candidate.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

And, indeed, a good candidate. As you, Madam Deputy speaker, will know, the Conservative party is extremely careful to select only good candidates. I wish that the same could be said of other parties. I am aware that I am trespassing, Madam Deputy Speaker. You need not rise, because I know that I am at fault. I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I would apologise to those Opposition Members who should have been selected had they been present.

My second reason why the words "to any person" should not appear in the Bill is that they do not deleteriously affect paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of clause 1, but they have a prejudicial effect on paragraph (e) because they would dilute the control encompassed in clause I. They would enable people to band together to buy quantities of alcohol, the effect of which would be that such sales would be treated as wholesales and would thus be exempt from the licensing regime.

It was right that the phraseology of clause 1 should be challenged, but for the reasons that I have given I do not commend the amendment to the House.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

In view of what my hon. Friend the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Having listened to the Minister on amendment No. 1, I shall not move amendment No. 2.

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, leave out line 12.

Line 12 of clause 1 states: to any canteen or mess. This Bill is a small but excellent measure and it will give added protection to children who can be misled into buying alcohol from the back of a lorry. It will be warmly welcomed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), the Father of the House. It will also be welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Vice Chamberlain.

I think that my right hon. Friend the Father of the House will agree that not every canteen or mess sells alcoholic drink. My right hon. Friend is a deputy lieutenant of his county and has also been a soldier. I have never been into a mess where alcoholic drink was not served, but, there are canteens and messes, however rare, where it is not. Indeed, I believe that that is increasingly the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) drafted clause 1 on the assumption, which I do not believe is valid, that alcohol is served in every canteen and mess.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I assure my hon. Friend that many canteens throughout the country in many industrial premises quite rightly do not sell alcohol because it is recognised that people have to return to work having eaten in those canteens.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

My hon. Friend reinforces the point I was making. I believe it to be the view of my hon. Friend the Vice-Chamberlain that it would be no bad thing if there were more canteens and messes, within and without the House, where alcohol was not served. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Durant) has many soldiers living in his constituency. Unlike the Vice-Chamberlain, he is allowed to have a drink. Indeed, in the past I have given a drink to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West, but I have never given an alcoholic drink to the Vice-Chamberlain. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point will not think that this is an incorrect recollection on my part, but I believe that in a canteen or mess I have given a glass of sherry to my right hon. Friend. Does my right hon. Friend wish to intervene?

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

I am listening with intense interest to this debate. I listened to the high quality speech from my hon. Friend the Minister, which is what we expect from him, and to the contributions from my hon. Friends.

I was once the chairman of a working party—I think it was the first working party in the country—that looked into the question of alcohol in the place of work. We came to the conclusion—it was widely accepted by industry, the medical profession and the country as a whole—that alcohol and work were a mismatch. In fact, a high proportion of industrial accidents and an inordinately high incidence of absenteeism from work were caused by the imbibing of alcohol during some part of the working day. I am glad to say that, by and large, employers and trade unions agreed. I should like to pay tribute to the contribution made by the trade union movement. In fact, a distinguished member of the Trades Union Congress was a member of the working party. As a result of that, there have been considerable improvements.

There is also the growing problem of young people and alcohol. Youth leaders up and down the country are urging the provision of bars and canteens where young people can take a non-alcoholic drink to refresh themselves. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne is dealing with an extremely important point and I will listen to the rest of his speech with the greatest interest.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

I was not sure whether my right hon. Friend had caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, and was making a speech or whether it was an intervention. Certainly, that brief intervention has whetted the appetite of the House and I hope that it may be possible for you to call my right hon. Friend later in the debate.

10.15 am

My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, with his long experience of canteens and messes as a former soldier, in his quasi-judicial role as a deputy lieutenant of his county, and as a member of the Privy Council, which, as my right hon. Friend knows, has quasi-judicial origins, has added support to the amendment. It is true that he was not able to bring himself to sign the amendment, but he has done something much more important. He has come to the House on the last Friday in April, on the very day when he could have been at the Japanese embassy signing the book on the Emperor's birthday. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) is giving a luncheon party today in order to mark her 46th birthday. All I know is that I have not been invited to that party, nor do I know whether it will take place in a canteen or a mess. I hope that my right hon. Friend's newly made constituency of Castle Point will continue to return him for many years. He is not with the Deputy Foreign Secretary, but has come to the House, whose Father he is, to support the amendment.

For those reasons I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East and my hon. Friend the Minister will agree with the amendment. The glittering political career of my hon. Friend the Minister may be injured if he disagrees with our right hon. Friend the Father of the House and, in view of the added weight given to this amendment, I hope that he will feel it right to acquiesce.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has been putting words into the mouth of our right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). I listened carefully, as I always do, to the intervention of our right hon. Friend and I was not clear whether he was supporting the amendment or simply making some extremely valid points, which have been helpful to the House, about the dangers of alcoholism at work and the detrimental effect of alcohol being drunk in the workplace. I felt that his remarks were supported widely on both sides of the House and that it was an intervention with which we all agreed.

However, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne, that does not necessarily mean that our right hon. Friend was suppporting his amendment. I had hoped that it would merely be a probing amendment so that we could have the sort of enlightened debate, such as we have had already this morning, on the subject of alcohol in canteens and messes.

I urge the House to reject the amendment if, after hearing from the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne does not withdraw it. It would be an embarrassment to the Ministry of Defence, our hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces and messes throughout the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne is a distinguished officer in the Territorial Army and I am sure that he would be the last person to wish to cause such embarrassment. Therefore, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

In interpreting the word "canteen", my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), spoke almost entirely about military canteens. When I intervened, he referred to industrial canteens as well. Inevitably, one makes such an interpretation when it is associated with the word "mess", but there are many industrial canteens in factories and offices in the City of London, Westminster and this building. It is appropriate, as I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) will agree—as he did in his brief but lucid intervention—that people who are to return to work having had a meal in a canteen should not consume alcohol. It is a danger not only to themselves, especially if they work on industrial machinery, but to other workers.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

The Chamber is a place of work as well. It could be argued that it is just as dangerous for Members to go into the Bars here, return in a drunken state and participate in the passage of legislation as it is for someone in a factory to drink and then operate a piece of machinery. The hon. Gentleman should be equal in his treatment.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I am not sure that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would accept the suggestion that any right hon. or hon. Lady or Gentleman ever returns to this place in a drunken state. I hope that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will take the opportunity to correct that interpretation.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I should like first to deal with the intervention of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

May I point out that I have not been ruled out of order by the Chair. To prevent the hon. Gentleman from trying to provoke further debate, I should like to say that I made no allegations about an individual Member. Perhaps it would satisfy the hon. Gentleman if I said that Members return here suffering from a very heavy lunch.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I thank the hon. Gentleman for clarifying the matter. I share his view that it is important that in all circumstances, whether in this place or elsewhere, but especially when safety is involved, people should be able to work to their maximum efficiency and not endanger anyone. One could reasonably presume, and hope, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office—the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) —if she is having the birthday party to which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne referred, would return to work not influenced by any alcohol that she was able to acquire in a canteen, mess or club or for the purposes of her trade. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be able to convey her congratulations to the Japanese on the birthday of the Emperor of Japan. I understand that this evening the Japanese embassy will celebrate the Emperor's birthday. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will have been invited to that.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I wanted to ask my hon. Friend earlier whether he would comment on the advice given by the late Lord Attlee to a new Member of Parliament, that he should, first, specialise and, secondly, that he should keep out of the Bars.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Most ignored his advice.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

I note that, as ever, the hon. Member for Newham North-West makes a sedentary intervention, observing that it was universally ignored advice. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was not suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point ignored that advice so rightly given by the great Lord Attlee. I note that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West does not wish to comment. I am sure that the advice is not universally ignored, although it may be ignored by quite a number.

I return to my original point, as you would wish me to do, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification on the amendment. Are we talking purely about canteens and messes in military establishments, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne spoke at length, or are we speaking in general about canteens? Clarification is needed by all those responsible for running non-military canteens.

I referred earlier to the by-election in Eastleigh, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State responded. There were similar results in Durham and Hammersmith which were not good news for the main Opposition party. This amendment, or previous amendments, may well have been in the voters' minds when they pondered before casting their votes yesterday.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

I had no intention of speaking to this amendment, until I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). It seemed that he lacked the sort of background knowledge that I have had, having been a boy sailor and junior sailor. Some of the messes into which we were allowed did not serve alcohol, and that was always a great regret because we never learnt at a young enough age to control the problem, and later in life we perhaps compounded it. Rather than pass the amendment, we should first decide why we all want to be Holy Joes all the time, telling people what they should and should not do, and consider the matter in relation to canteens.

Having been a director of personnel in a company with five works canteens, all of which served alcohol, I do not recall many instances when people were the worse for wear, except perhaps on their birthdays. The Emperor of Japan is no doubt celebrating his birthday today. Perhaps you are not aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that when I was a young lad in the Navy there was a tradition that on one's birthday one was allowed to get blind, stinking drunk and was never in trouble for it. When I was a young man in the Navy, sailors were real sailors and drank rum, unlike sailors today, who are technocrats who drink lemonade. The Navy currency was that each measure was made up of a sipper, two sippers were one gulper, two gulpers were half a tot, and two halves were a whole tot. A young lad knew how many friends he did or did not have on his birthday by the number of times that he was invited to come round and have a sipper, a gulper or half a tot, or a bosum pal might even give a friend his tot. That did not make the whole British Navy any the worse. In many ways it made it better. We did not lose too many wars or battles as a consequence. Sometimes we lose sight of these important little aspects of' our life when we introduce measures such as this.

It should he noted that men like to drink. They like their pint of beer. I have even known ladies who enjoyed a gin and tonic. A young couple can go to the works canteen, have a pint and a gin and tonic, and indulge in intimate conversation spread over some time, rather than have to rush clown to the car park, try to get the car out, knowing that the space will be gone when they return, and drive 30 miles to a pub. It is wise to say these things when dealing with this legislation. They enable the matter to be put in its proper perspective.

It will be a sad day when we do what has been done in some places and ban all alcohol. I am afraid, though, that I might have liked to ban alcohol last Sunday when I managed finally to get into a compartment at Wembley Park after the football match and was squeezed like a sardine. Someone, who perhaps had been drinking a little too much, happened to throw up in the compartment. The problem was compounded by the fact that the Holy Joes of the GLC and London Transport had banned smoking, and I could not light up to offset the fumes from that offensive action. The more we legislate to ban things, the worse they become. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I think that it will be to the benefit of the House if I proceed fairly quickly. There seems to have been a misunderstanding about the nature and scope of the words "canteen" and "mess". They are, in fact, narrowly defined in section 201 of the Licensing Act 1964, which states: 'canteen', except in part X of this Act and in the expressions 'canteen licence' and 'licensed canteen', means a canteen in which the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor is carried on under the authority of the Secretary of State". That is further defined as meaning, in effect, a military canteen. "Mess" means an authorised mess of members of Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces". It is therefore a mistake to suppose that the word "canteen" is apt to include the ordinary canteens with which hon. Members are more familiar. It has a narrower meaning.

Against that background, let me deal with the substance of the amendment. All sales of alcohol are sales by retail and are thus subject to the licensing regime unless they are exempt, and the Bill sets out the categories of transaction that should be exempt. One of those exempt categories is "canteen or mess". The amendment would mean that those who run a canteen or mess could get their supply of alcohol only from licensed wholesalers, unless they were purchasing in quantities which constituted wholesale quantities, which, in loose jargon, is purchased in bulk. That has two unfortunate consequences. First, it probably diminishes the range of suppliers who can supply to a canteen or mess. Secondly, it might persuade the secretary of a mess or canteen to order a crate of gin when a bottle would do just as well.

On the basis that the amendment narrows the range of supplier and that it is at least capable of increasing insobriety, I advise the House not to accept it.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

In view of my hon. Friend's answer, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order, for Third Reading read.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East 10:32 am, 29th April 1988

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I believe that the Bill that I have piloted through the House represents a significant contribution to the reduction of alcohol abuse in this country. It tackles in particular, the dreadful problem of under-age drinking. I do not believe that there is an hon. Member who has not discussed with anxious parents, teachers, social workers or other interested parties the problem of school children consuming large quantities of alcohol. By making illegal the sale of alcoholic drinks, for example, off the back of lorries, to under-age drinkers—especially at carnivals and pop festivals—the Bill makes a significant move in the direction in which the country and the House wish to proceed: we want to ensure that it is as difficult as possible for young people to consume and abuse alcohol.

There has been one unfortunate aspect of the Bill's passage through the House. The House and the country have acknowledged that this is a significant Bill. Hon. Members on both sides of the House were upset, therefore, by the attitude of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and the supporters of his private Member's Bill who, earlier this year, tried to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), myself and other sponsors of this Bill, as well as hon. Members on both sides of the House who served on the Standing Committee, were in some way trying to delay the proceedings of this Bill and thus of the Bill which was introduced by the hon. Member for Mossley Hill. They tried to suggest that this Bill was irrelevant—a gross insult to everyone who is trying to tackle alcohol abuse. Then they had the impertinence and cheek to persuade their zealot supporters—the ayatollahs who parade under the banner of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children—to write to churches and newspapers in our constituencies suggesting that we were filibustering.

First, as Mr. Speaker pointed out in a ruling on the Floor of the House, that was most certainly not so, and it was an insult to the occupants of the Chair. Secondly, it was an insult to all those hon. Members who are anxious that the Bill should proceed. It should be put on record again that that disgraceful incident did no credit to the hon. Members involved.

Today, we see proof of the Bill's importance. My highly respected right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), who is also a strong supporter of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Mossley Hill—I hasten to add that he took no part in the disgraceful episode—has the House and acknowledged our work on the Bill. I hope that in future hon. Members who have been fortunate enough to draw a relatively high position in the ballot and who choose to introduce legislation that is perfectly in order, as is their right, will not be harassed as my hon. Friends and I have been harassed by outside groups aided and abetted by certain hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

My hon. Friend may have clarified the point that I intended to make with his reference to our right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). He used the terms "zealots" and "ayatollahs" when referring to those who supported the actions—which I regret—in support of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). Perhaps he will make it clear that he was not referring to all that Bill's supporters, of whom I am one.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

I am happy to make that clear. I would put my hon Friends the Members for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who I know takes a similar view on the subject, in exactly the same category. I cannot put the hon. Member for Mossley Hill and certain other hon. Members on both sides of the House, who I am not prepared to name at this stage, in the same category and I certainly cannot include in it a large number of the Bill's supporters outside the House who parade under the banner of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Life, who behaved in a despicable way and have been suitably censured by the Chair.

I am delighted that the Bill is proceeding through the House. It is a significant measure. I hope that it will gain its Third Reading and proceed to the other place, that it will return unamended to us in July and that it will be on the statute book by the end of the year. I believe that it will help and do good. It is a modest but significant reform of our licensing laws.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 10:38 am, 29th April 1988

As the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) knows, the Opposition wholly support the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman does the House a favour by reminding us of the events that surrounded the start of the Bill's Committee stage. A number of us who served on the Committee were subjected to the most intense pressure by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) who made the most astonishng and false accusations about us and against us—not in this place but by letter circulated all round our constituencies, and directed especially at ministers of the Church. That led to a great deal of anxiety.

I have a Catholic abbey in my constituency and I like to believe that I have good and friendly relations with those who work there, although we do not always agree on the issues that we discuss. It was right and proper that, after a deal of pushing, the hon. Member for Mossley Hill wisely withdrew his accusations and caused letters to be sent to those to whom he had originally written.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was particularly offensive to select him for such criticism as he was appointed to the Committee in his capacity as Front Bench spokesman for the Labour party rather than as a volunteer? Does he further agree that the same applied to my position as a Minister, so it was wholly reprehensible to suggest that either of us had any choice in the matter?

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for making that important point. It was certainly implied, if not stated, that places in the Committee were self-selected for the malevolent and improper purposes ascribed to us by the hon. Member for Mossley Hill. I am delighted that we managed to dispose of that episode, although, like the hon. Member for Berkshire, East, I greatly regret that it ever started.

The Bill is a small but none the less important measure. I suspect that there is agreement throughout the House on the immense and growing problem of alcohol abuse among young people. I do not pick on them deliberately, but one of the most alarming factors in the rise in alcohol abuse is the increase among the very young. A recent survey shows that children of 10 and 11 are regular drinkers and that there is regular heavy drinking by 13 to 15-year-olds. Anything that we can do, as the Bill does, to focus the spotlight on that problem is certainly to be welcomed.

It is a pity that the press does not give the same attention to alcohol abuse as to drug abuse. The problem of drug abuse is extremely important, but a hundred times more people are affected by alcohol abuse. For reasons about which we had better not speculate, however, it is extremely difficult to get the media to take an interest in alcohol abuse. Perhaps it is felt that sustained boozing is more acceptable than sustained drug abuse. I hope that that is not so, as abuse of anything is bad for anyone.

The hon. Member for Berkshire, East has done the House a service. I hope that the Bill will receive its Third Reading and have a fair wind through the other place.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 10:43 am, 29th April 1988

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on having secured a high place in the ballot and piloted the Bill as far as Third Reading. It is a short and in some ways modest Bill, but it is extremely important. Sometimes it falls to those who succeed in the ballot to introduce measures that will have a lasting effect for good on our society. I believe that that can truthfully be said of this Bill. It was clear from the proceedings in Committee and from my hon. Friend's speech in moving Third Reading that this is a matter about which he cares deeply.

My hon. Friend will have the satisfaction of knowing that when the Bill reaches the statute book—like him, I wish it a speedy journey through another place—and its provisions become operative, it will give protection to some of those currently exposed to exploitation by people seeking to sell alcohol to the young. My hon. Friend will be able to look back with great satisfaction at his introduction of the Bill and the skill with which he has piloted it through the House. I congratulate him again. I am sure that the Bill will be of great value to our country.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 10:44 am, 29th April 1988

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on his success so far with the Bill, which I am sure will be passed into law very soon. The temptation of impulse buying is a problem in a wide range of situations. By reducing the opportunities for impulse purchasing of alcohol the Bill will help the whole community

As a community, the publicans of this country are a highly responsible group in their efforts to deal with under-age drinking.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support. We all welcome her presence as she has played a major role in educating people into better diet and therefore better health.

The publicans of this country are highly responsible people who recognise that under-age drinking is a major social problem. They also realise that if they are found guilty of selling drink to persons under age they risk losing their licence and livelihood.

I believe that we should consider further the availability of alcohol not just from the backs of lorries but in supermarkets. The availability of alcohol in supermarkets at prices with which publicans cannot compete is a major problem. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department replies to the debate he will deal with that point and give an assurance that the Government are examining it extremely closely.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East will be thanked by a large number of people as a result of the Bill. As a parent of two young children, who in a few years' time may be tempted, I thank him. I am sure that he will also be thanked by many other parents and by social workers because the Bill deals with a grave social problem about which we all feel very strongly.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood 10:47 am, 29th April 1988

I echo the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on introducing the Bill. I hope that it will have a fair wind and progress into law as quickly as possible.

I also echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) about the sale of alcohol. I might perhaps disagree with the comments of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), as I interpreted them, on the consumption of alcohol by the young. Personally, I have no objection to the consumption of alcohol by the young in a family situation, so long as they are brought up to appreciate the effect of very limited quantities. The danger of allowing young people to consume large quantities of alcohol as soon as they are 18 is that they have no previous experience of it and therefore tend to abuse it. The Bill seeks to tackle that problem by dealing with sales which do not take place in controlled circumstances. Inevitably, that is where the greatest dangers arise. At present, alcohol can be bought from the backs of lorries at carnivals, gymkhanas, and so on. It is in such circumstances that people are tempted to consume a large amount rather than to learn slowly the dangers of abuse. In so doing, they may put at risk not just their own lives but those of others.

I share also the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South about the easy availability of large quantities of alcohol in supermarkets where it is not controlled in the way that it is, for example, in the family home or in a public house or club. It is too easy for people —some of whom may be under age—to buy alcohol in large quantities by taking it off supermarket shelves to the checkout. The checkout girl herself may be under-age. It is difficult for her to refuse, to call a supervisor, or to say to the person, "I am not going to sell you this large quantity of alcohol."

Like my hon. Friends and, I believe, Opposition Members, I support the Bill. I believe it will close a loophole in the law regarding the sale of alcohol and help to prevent abuse. We wish to see a realistic and sensible consumption of alcohol. We all hope that our society can progress to that. This measure will go a small way to achieving that end.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate 10:51 am, 29th April 1988

I join hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on his energy and skill in getting the measure through, at least to its Third Reading. As he and other hon. Members have said, I have a considerable interest in the Bill, as it is substantially the same measure as I introduced in the last Session of Parliament, so I take some pride in at least a shared parentage.

The Bill has an interesting history and teaches us much about the best approach to tackling the abuse of alcohol, which does, unfortunately, occur in our society. The Bill was promoted originally by the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to which I occasionally offer parliamentary advice, in consultation with the Brewers Society and the Scotch Whisky Association, with helpful and constructive advice from the Home Office. I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for the help that his Department has given with the measure, both in the last Session and in this.

The Bill is an example of the trade's desire to ensure that its products are not abused by a minority of members of our community, and that those products should not be sold to those who are under age. The trade is prepared to support, and in this case initiate, legislation that will prove effective in promoting what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward) called "sensible drinking".

For thousands of years the moderate drinking of alcohol has played a significant part in civilised societies throughout the world. Alcohol is used for hospitality, for celebrations, in religious ceremonies and as an integral part of an enjoyable meal. There is also considerable evidence that, when taken in reasonable quantities, it improves health rather than worsening it.

About 40 million people in the United Kingdom, consume alcoholic drinks of one kind or another—which is about 95 per cent. of the adult population. Almost all do so in moderation, and benefit accordingly. The United Kingdom has a relatively low per capita consumption of alcohol. It is the lowest among EEC countries. There have always been some individuals who misuse alcohol, and certain people who sell it in such a way as to encourage its misuse, but, the highest figures given official credence show that a very small minority of people who drink develop alcohol problems. The figure is a little over 1 per cent.

In the United Kingdom there is extensive legislation to control the quality of alcohol and key aspects of its use. The trade bodies to which I have referred support all reasonable legislation to ensure that that is so. In a free society, responsibility for the proper use of alcohol lies ultimately with the individual, but society as a whole has a responsibility to promote its proper use. Parents, teachers and others who guide children and young people, the Government, public agencies, employers, trade unions, voluntary organisations, and sellers of alcoholic drinks should act responsibly and uphold the law.

The drinks trade wishes to promote sensible drinking and to ensure that its products are not misused. The efforts of the trade are two-pronged and relate to research and education. The industry is not interested in participating in the numbers game. Anti-alcohol lobbies frequently feed the press with manipulated and misleading statistics, carefully selected to gain popular support for policies which, for example, would prevent any relaxation of licensing hours and penalise the vast majority of moderate drinkers by heavy taxation. The drinks industry should not be drawn into that kind of phoney war. Instead, its efforts should be, and are, directed at funding the necessary research to find out why some people develop a drinking problem and towards educating those who are recognised to be susceptible.

The drinks industry makes grants and donations to over seven major organisations associated with research into alcohol misuse. It has also provided funds for research into various aspects of alcohol misuse to six institutions, nine universities and four hospitals. The efforts of the drinks industry to prevent abuse of alcohol follow similar lines to the Government's policy and are directed at target groups. Young people need to be educated on the strength of different drinks, on how alcohol is absorbed and eliminated from the blood stream, and on the harmful effects of excessive consumption. For this purpose, the Scotch Whisky Association, for example, has produced a booklet, "Alcohol and Man", which is available to all schools, and has also produced films and videos on the subject. There is an Alcohol Advisory Centre booklet, "A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sensible Drinking for Young People". The Wine and Spirit Asssociation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has produced a useful video for youth leaders. It is only by educating young people in this way, as they begin to come into contact with alcohol, that they will learn to drink sensibly and appreciate the harm of excessive drinking.

The drinks industry is keen to promote research into the problem of drinking and driving. The Brewers' Association has produced a booklet for all people who drive, giving the essential facts about which every driver should be aware. The Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has recognised—I think ahead of the Government—that too few organisations appreciated the need to consider the relationship between alcohol and work, and to develop a coherent policy. The association has produced "Alcohol Policy Guidelines for Companies", which advises them on how to develop a rational policy by which employees with an alcohol problem can be identified and treated.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

What representations did my hon. Friend make to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before his last Budget, proposing that there should be much greater—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are on Third Reading. As a very experienced parliamentarian, he knows that Third Reading is concerned only with what is in the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate

I made representations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer before his last Budget and I am glad that he accepted most of them. However, I advise my hon. Friend that they were not directly related to this matter.

It is vital that when those in the professions involved are able to detect alcohol dependency, they are trained to identify and treat the problem. The Scotch Whisky Association gives an annual grant to the Medical Research Council to train doctors, nurses and other members of the health care professions for this purpose. The Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland publishes a booklet, "Drinking and Alcohol—Questions and Answers". It contains information for adults on all aspects of alcohol, and sets out the beneficial and detrimental effects that it can have.

Those research and education initiatives, together with this legislation, are vital in finding a solution to the problems of alcohol abuse. The answer lies, not in the manipulation of statistics, but in the recognition that while the majority of people indulge in only a harmless drink, a tiny minority abuse alcohol and must be helped. It is essential that all interested groups work with the drinks trade to find a solution to the problems, rather than indulge in an orgy of statistical manipulation.

Within the framework of education and research, the drinks trade recognises its responsibility to detect any loopholes in the law, and the Bill is a case in point. It represents part of the industry's commitment to solving the problems of alcohol abuse and to promoting sensible drinking. By the Bill, the drinks industry, together with my right hon. and hon. Friends, is making a laudable initiative to prevent alcohol abuse.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh 11:02 am, 29th April 1988

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on introducing this modest measure. Indeed, he referred to it as a small Bill. However, the length of a Bill, no more than the length of a speech, does not denote its merits or strengths. It has been said that for speeches to be memorable they do not need to be interminable, and neither do Bills need to be overlong to be meaningful.

I wonder whether the Bill is entirely correct. None would argue with its aims, but we must not continually give the impression that drinking is wrong. I am sure that many hon. Members were sad to hear today of the death of Lord Brockway. Until very recently he could be seen having a drink with his old colleagues in the Pugin Room. He was using alcohol, not abusing it; it was a means of enjoyment. Other people who used it in that way included Mannie Shinwell and Winston Churchill. We must be careful not to inhibit all drinking.

Although the Bill is good in many ways, I have one major criticism of it, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East is not in the Chamber to hear it. As in many areas, Parliament has the means to do certain things, but fails to use them. Penalties for breaking the law should be so severe that no one would dream of doing so. Why do so many people abuse the litter, speeding and parking laws? It is because they know that if they are caught, they will not face too great an embarrassment. If those who sell liquor to youngsters under the legal age limit faced swingeing fines and the confiscation of their entire stock, they would soon insist on seeing a birth certificate before selling alcohol to anyone who might be under age. Such heavy penalties would, in some ways, obviate the need for some of this legislation. The Government have been namby-pamby with offenders, and that has caused many of the problems. If they increased the penalties available to the courts, more people would obey the law. We should use the Bill as a vehicle for that.

I hope that the Bill reaches the statute book, but I fear that it will not prevent the timorous from saying, "Shall we or shan't we prosecute? Did they know that they had sold alcohol to someone under age?" If the retailer faced severe fines, he would take the necessary steps to ensure that the law was obeyed. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward) said that the checkout girls in a supermarket could not judge whether to sell alcohol to youngsters. The law should be changed so that only someone over a given age—perhaps 40—could work at a checkout—

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

That should be the law where alcohol is sold.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

Such extreme age limits are not necessary. The lower age limit for selling alcohol should be set at the age limit at which people are allowed to buy alcohol. My hon. Friend's proposal would not allow me to work at a checkout—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind hon. Members that the question of age limits does not arise under this Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward), with his activities with a funny little ball, is somewhat of a Peter Pan. However, I hope that he appreciates the serious, underlying point that it is for the proprietors of supermarkets and other stores to ensure that those taking the money for alcohol are fit, proper and responsible. If the law comes down on that proprietor, he should not have the let-out of saying, "I am in the hands of my staff."

Although it is right to introduce this legislation, the Government must also consider the penalties and controls so that, ultimately, we can prevent the far too many young people who are on the streets with bottles and cans of alcoholic liquor from indulging in anti-social behaviour. The Bill will not prevent that. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot be definitive when he answers, but I ask him to give a thought to how the penalties can be stiffened to ensure that people do not profit by selling alcohol to youngsters.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:07 am, 29th April 1988

I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) and for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) on introducing the Bill and carrying it through its parliamentary stages.

The Bill's main purpose is to bring under the licensing regime the sale of alcohol from the backs of lorries and similar points of sale. It would, therefore, help the House if I reminded it of how the licensing regime is conducted. All sales of alcohol through retail outlets are subject to the licensing laws, the most important aspects of which are the restrictions on supplying the under age and on the hours of sale, and the various offences that relate to the manner of sale. The significant aim of the Bill is that all sales of alcohol should be treated as retail sales, and thus subject to the licensing laws, unless they fall within the scope of the exemptions set out in clause 1.

Paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of clause 1(1) prescribe various exempted sales, whereas paragraph (e) deals with quantity. If the nature of the transaction is such that it falls within paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) or if the quantity falls within paragraph (e), it is an exempted quantity or sale. Paragraphs (a) to (d) are probably what most people would describe as wholesale transactions—that is to say, a sale to another trader for the purpose of his trade, a sale to a registered club for the purposes of the club, a sale to a canteen or mess, or the sale to the holder of an occupational permission. Each such transaction is probably properly regarded as—I use a loose word—a wholsale transaction, to which it would not be right to apply the full rigour of the licensing laws.

Paragraph (e) deals with quantity, to exclude what is defined as "wholesale quantity" from the full rigour of the licensing law. That provision is enshrined in the Bill because of the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (M r. Forth). In Committee, he was concerned about the fear that was expressed by organisations such as the Majestic wholesaling company that their activities would be caught by a prohibition which, in effect, was designed to catch back-of-lorry merchants. They felt that that was unfair, and the Committee was persuaded of that view, the Government's position being one of neutrality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire moved the amendment that is now enshrined in paragraph (e). It protects genuine wholesalers dealing in substantial quantities, provided that they trade from their ordinary business premises, as defined in the Bill. That exemption was understandable, and it won the support of the Committee.

During this debate, questions have been raised about sale by and to under-age persons. I shall answer those points briefly, because I am anxious to keep within the scope of a Third Reading debate. It is important to bear in mind that the Bill is to be treated in conjunction with the Licensing Bill has nearly completed its parliamentary process. In the Licensing Bill, the Government were conscious of and tried to meet several points that have been made by hon. Members in this debate.

Wholesale sales of intoxicating liquor to or by persons under 18 on wholesale premises—to use a shorthand reference, the Majestic Warehouse—are covered by the provisions in clause 17 of the Licensing Bill. In particular, it is an offence for a wholesaler thus defined to sell intoxicating liquor to a person under the age of 18. Moreover, it is an offence for a wholesaler to allow a person under 18 to make a sale of intoxicating liquor unless that sale has been specifically approved by the wholesaler or by a person over the age of 18 acting on his behalf. Some of my hon. Friends' anxieties are met by clause 17 of the Licensing Bill, which has nearly completed its parliamentary process.

Another group of anxieties have been expressed by my hon. Friends. In broad terms, they relate to the sale of alcohol in supermarkets. The point was most forcibly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward). I commend to him the provisions of clauses 16 and 18 of the Licensing Bill. Clause 16 greatly tightens the control in section 169 of the principal Act, the Licensing Act 1964. The law has been tightened up on sale to under-age persons. That provision applies to off-licences —for example, supermarkets—in precisely the same way as it applies to on-licences. I commend that clause to my hon. Friend.

Clause 18 is also relevant to my hon. Friend's anxieties. That clause also provides—very much in the same terms as clause 17 does in the context of wholesale distributors—that the sale of alcohol by an under-age person should be effectively supervised and approved. By the interaction of the two pieces of legislation—that is to say, the one now before us and the one that is passing through the House —we have tried to meet the kind of anxieties that have so understandably been raised in the House and in Committee.

My hon. Friends who have promoted the Bill are greatly to be congratulated. The Bill will significantly tighten the sale of alcohol. It brings into the licensing regime disorderly and ad hoc sales of alcohol. Such sales were previously outside the scope of the Licensing Act. That was undesirable, primarily because it resulted in the disorderly sale of alcohol and was in no way controlled by legislation. Of course, in turn, that led to the supply of alcohol to under-age people, or at least it provided the opportunity for that, which the House would deprecate. Having regard to those considerations, I warmly commend the Bill to the House. I hope that it will receive its Third Reading, and I congratulate my hon. Friends.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.