Clause 2 - Penalty notices

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 6th February 2001.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 6:45 pm, 6th February 2001

This is an entirely legitimate debate. There was a wide range of evidence from different bodies in the consultation process that we have had, as well as many views in Government on how we should address this issue. It is right that we debate it. Before I get into the detail, I would like to deal with a number of the points that were raised.

We should not be tempted too far down a debate on general issues—important and difficult though they are—such as when the age of majority comes. I remember when I was involved in the British Youth Council—more years ago than I care to mention—doing an analysis of what stage people took on different ages of majority. I do not think the attraction of simplicity is necessarily the right approach. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey mentioned an example, but I would be loth to say that, at 16, everyone should be able to drive a car on the public highway. I am doubtful about allowing people to buy drink in a pub under the age of 18. The age of 18 is established as the age of majority in a number of international environments, and also in domestic laws such as the Children Act 1989. I am not saying it is not a legitimate debate, but at the moment we have a structure of law—which may seem inconsistent as one travels from minority to majority, crossing different ages for different areas. I do not think it is the case to put a line in and say that it all happens at 16.