Clause 33 - Enforcement of certain offences relating to under-age drinking

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 1st March 2001.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate 11:15 am, 1st March 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 135 in page 25, leave out lines 5 to 8.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this we will take the following amendments: No. 47, in page 25, line 17 at end add—

`(4) A constable or an inspector of weights and measures may only request that a person under eighteen buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor, or send such a person to buy such liquor, where that constable or inspector has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence under section 169A or 169B of the Licensing Act 1964 has been committed on the premises in question within the preceding six months.'.

No. 108, in page 25, line 17, at end insert—

`( ) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance—

(a) about requests made by constables and inspectors to persons under 18 in accordance with this section;

(b) about the manner in which purchases and attempted purchases are to be made under this section;

(c) with a view to encouraging good practice in connection with the operation of this section.'.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I preface my remarks by making it clear that it is difficult for Back Benchers to suggest sensible amendments to Bills given all the other demands on our time as Members of Parliament. For example, under the programming motion that was approved earlier today, the Committee will have an extra sitting at the same time as an important evidence-taking sitting of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and the Regions, on which I am supposed to be serving. I will therefore have to make an uncomfortable choice about my priorities, in exactly the same way as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. We are trying to complete a vast amount of detailed scrutiny of legislation in the absurdly short time given by the programming motion, and such problems make life totally impossible for Committee members who are not Front Benchers, who have other responsibilities in this House and who try to carry out a wide range of scrutiny functions as Members of Parliament. I make those comments to apologise for the fact that the amendment is probing, or must be seen as such, because I do not know its precise consequences. The Library was not able to find the information even with half an hour's notice. If the House of Commons Library is not able to produce the information, I think that I can be forgiven for not doing so.

The amendment relates to legislative enforcement. I am worried about our capacity in the United Kingdom for gold plating legislation in terms of the way in which it is enforced. Proposed new section 169I states:

``It is the duty of every local weights and measures authority in England and Wales to enforce''.

The word ``duty'' makes the task almost the first priority of the authority's work. If anything goes wrong, and the authority has a duty imposed on it by Parliament, it will have to ensure, determinedly, officiously and zealously, regardless of whether there is a problem, that the provisions of clauses 31 and 32 are enforced. I am grateful to have been passed the appropriate part of the Bill, and I shall do my best to read it and speak at the same time. If any Member wants to intervene on me, so that I have an opportunity to read that section, I would be extremely grateful.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the duty—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. Has the hon. Gentleman taken an intervention?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the duty imposed on every local weights and measures authority in England and Wales to enforce the provisions of sections 169A and 169B of the Licensing Act 1964 would relate to provisions dealing with the offence of selling to somebody under the age of 18 or of permitting a sale to somebody under the age of 18?

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

Yes, that is my understanding. I am concerned about the language used by the Bill to place that duty on every local weights and measures authority. I do not know whether the Licensing Act 1964 or other legislation, as it relates to local weights and measures authorities when they are given a responsibility to take action in relation to certain affairs, encapsulates that duty. I presume that the weights and measures authority officiously prosecuted a gentleman in the north-east who wanted to sell bananas by the pound rather than by the kilogram. Most people consider that an absurd prosecution, but those responsible could not exercise any discretion in carrying out their duty, presumably because of how the legislation was framed.

If the provision were removed, presumably the duty, or responsibility, would still lie with weights and measures authorities to test the powers provided in clauses 31 and 32. However, if no particular problem was experienced in an authority's area with people under the age of 18—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.