12 May 2000 : Column 1119

House of Commons

Friday 12 May 2000

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Madam Speaker in the Chair]

Orders of the Day

Licensing (Young Persons) Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

Clause 1

Amendment of Part XII of the Licensing Act 1964

9.33 am

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 1, line 8, after "in" insert "or from".

Madam Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 54, in page 1, line 8, after "in" insert "or through".

No. 5, in page 1, line 9, after "he" insert "knowingly".

No. 19, in page 1, line 9, after "sells" insert--

'or offers for sale or otherwise supplies, whether for payment or not,'.

No. 24, in page 1, line 23, after "in" insert "or from".

No. 55, in page 1, line 23, after "in" insert "or through".

No. 15, in page 1, line 24, leave out "knowingly".

No. 58, in page 1, line 24, after "allows" insert "or facilitates".

No. 26, in page 1, line 24, leave out "person" and insert "employee or agent".

No. 9, in page 1, line 24, after "sell" insert--

', or is recklessly indifferent as to whether any person sells,'.

No. 25, in page 1, line 24, after "sell" insert--

'or offer for sale or otherwise supply, whether for payment or not,'.

No. 27, in page 1, line 26, leave out--

'Subsection (1) of this section applies to'

and insert--

'In this section "employee" means'.

No. 28, in page 1, line 27, after first "in" insert "or from".

No. 56, in page 1, line 27, after first "in" insert "or through".

No. 57, in page 2, line 4, after "in" insert "or through".

No. 30, in page 2, line 4, after "buy" insert "or otherwise obtain".

No. 32, in page 2, line 7, after "buy" insert "or otherwise obtain".

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No. 59, in page 2, line 10, after "bar" insert "or similar facility".

No. 37, in page 2, line 27, leave out "in a bar".

No. 10, in page 2, line 30, leave out "knowingly".

No. 17, in page 2, line 30, after "knowingly" insert "or recklessly".

No. 39, in page 2, line 40, after "sold" insert "or otherwise obtained from".

No. 18, in page 3, line 9, after "knowingly" insert "or recklessly".

No. 44, in page 3, line 10, after second "sold" insert "or otherwise provided".

No. 45, in page 3, line 15, at end insert "or provision.".

No. 53, in clause 3, page 4, line 7, at end insert--

'(4) The provisions of this Act shall apply to the House of Commons as if it were licensed premises.'.

Mr. Gardiner: It may interest the House to know that I had a long-standing invitation from the residents of the Abbeyfield home in the Kenton ward of my constituency to partake of refreshment with them. However, instead of drinking coffee with some of our senior citizens, I find myself trying to prevent drinking among our most junior citizens. I tender my apologies to the Abbeyfield residents, but I am sure that they will appreciate the importance of this Bill, and I trust that I will be able to share a cuppa--and I dare say something even stronger--with them at a later date.

Clause 1 states:

Amendment No. 20 is intended to support the Bill and the aims set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell), as are all the others that I have tabled. My hon. Friend is held in great respect in the House for his campaigning work on behalf of his constituents, and many colleagues have admired the work that he has done to close the loopholes in the Licensing Act 1964. That Act made it an offence for a licensee or his servant to sell alcoholic drinks to a person under 18, but no offence was committed if the servant was a person who was not directly employed by the licensee. Where off-licence staff are the employees of a large retail chain rather than of the manager who holds the licence for the branch, under the 1964 Act no action can be taken if a member of that staff sells alcohol to a child.

My hon. Friend had particular and tragic cause to set about this reform of the licensing law. The death of his young constituent, David Knowles, was precipitated by sales of alcohol under the circumstances that I have described--indeed, two such sales took place inside five minutes. It is clear that the law must be changed. The amendment would not detract from the Bill; it has been tabled with the sole aim of making the Bill stronger.

The clause talks about people "in" licensed premises selling intoxicating liquor. Colloquially, people often talk about things falling "off" the back of a lorry, and much of the alcohol sold in Britain today seems to have come from precisely that source. However, my intention with the amendment is to focus on the preposition "in", and on the ways in which alcohol can be sold.

12 May 2000 : Column 1121

Any hon. Member who has been to a car boot sale will know that the law states that goods should be displayed in the car boot. However, all sorts of racks and tables are used that I have never seen in any Halfords store. It is clear that the use of the word "in" is often abused in practice.

When I was much younger, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I used to spend my holidays just down the coast from your constituency, in West Kilbride in Ayrshire, which I am sure that you know well. In those days, it was common for Rose, a young friend of mine, to be sent by her parents for two cans "from round the back". That meant that Rose went to the back door of the pub, where she was able to purchase a couple of cans of Tennents lager.

From that it is clear that the clause, with its use of the phrase "in licensed premises" is not sufficient to deal with all situations in which alcoholic beverages can be sold from licensed premises to minors. Therefore, the amendment, by inserting the words "or from" into the clause, would reinforce the interdiction against the sale of alcohol from the curtilage of a licensed premises.

Amendment. No. 19 applies to the provision that a person shall be guilty of an offence if he sells intoxicating liquor to a person under 18. I have no doubt that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, like me, have little time to watch television. One of the things that I have seen in the past few months, however, is an advertisement for a Belgian lager, Stella Artois, which prides itself on being very expensive. I have no knowledge of the brew myself, but I understand that it is quite popular in pubs up and down the country. In the advertisement, a person enters a continental hostelry with a bunch of flowers and offers it to the licensee in return for refreshment. The landlord drives a peculiarly hard bargain, because by the end of the advertisement, the hostelry is bedecked with flowers--red roses or red tulips, I think.

The point of that humorous example is to prove that the clause's reference to selling alcohol is not sufficient to catch all the ways in which it may be provided on the premises to people who wish to obtain it. My amendment would make provision for any type of supply, whether through exchange or barter, or whether payment is involved when the refreshment is provided.

Credit sales are not permitted under the existing legislation except when food is also provided--one must partake of a meal in order to deposit a credit card and run a tab. The law is already much abused in practice, and it has become customary for people to run a tab. I am mindful of the old cartoon strip in which Andy Capp used to go into the bar and put his purchases on the slate. Andy was frequently refused any more beverages because he already had far too much on the slate and his credit had run out. However, the law actually provides that one should not be supplied with drink on credit in that fashion.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Some pubs offer deals, so if they have an Oktoberfest, for example, and one buys a meal of Wiener schnitzel and German sausages, one might be able to have alcohol with it. Would such a situation be covered by the amendment?

12 May 2000 : Column 1122

9.45 am

Mr. Gardiner: My understanding is that that is the sort of situation in which credit would apply because a meal is provided. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it seems ludicrous that, for the duration of an entire beer festival, one should be able to keep on drinking on the basis of having bought one Wiener schnitzel.

The amendment would strengthen the clause where it provides that a person shall be guilty of an offence

and would make it clear that accepting other forms of payment such as exchange, barter, gifts and credit would also constitute an offence.

Amendment No. 25 applies to the provision of knowingly allowing any person to sell intoxicating liquor to a person under 18 and would insert the same words as proposed in amendment No. 19. I do not propose to rehearse the same arguments, because it is clear that the rationale for the amendments, as I argued in relation to amendment No. 19--

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