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Mr. Gardiner: I hesitate to point out to the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing amendment No. 39--it was on that provision that the hon. Member for Lichfield intervened. It relates to proposed new section 169F. I hope that clarifies the matter.
Maria Eagle: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way--I hope I am not putting him off his stride. When I first read this extremely worthy Bill, it struck me--coming from south Liverpool as I do--that many under-age drinkers obtain alcohol not from licensed premises but from other sources. If my hon. Friend's amendment--plus the ingenious proposal of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant)--could be said to extend to those other deliveries that are not from licensed premises, would that not be wholly good for the prevention of under-age drinking? Of course, we should need to clarify the law so that people understand it--that is most important. Would it not help the purpose of Members on both sides of the House if we used our imagination, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman, so as to extend these worthy provisions more widely than the promoter of the Bill originally intended?
Mr. Fabricant: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you be prepared, during the course of the morning, to accept manuscript amendments to the Bill to enable us to extend it in the way suggested by the hon. Lady?
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) about the inventiveness of the hon. Member for Lichfield. I should welcome many interpretations of the provisions that reduced drinking by minors. In some respects, the prospect held out by the hon. Gentleman of widening their scope is attractive. The White Paper and my investigations into the matter as a member of the licensing law reform panel make it clear that it is sensible for parents to be able to introduce their children to alcohol properly, in a measured way, within the confines of their own home, perhaps at the dinner table. The law has always allowed for that. The Government's view is that it offers a sensible way to introduce young people to alcohol under the supervision of their parents or of a responsible adult. Young people can learn to savour the quality of good beer, for example. Others might acquire a fine palate for good wine. They can be educated into sensible and moderate drinking.
I am not opposed to drinking, and I suspect many hon. Members are not opposed to drinking per se. However, we are opposed to irresponsible drinking and to the abuse of alcohol. In particular, we want to protect the under-18s from the dangers of unregulated exposure to alcohol.
Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's exposition, but I am a little concerned about the proposed new section 169F, which relates to the delivery of intoxicating liquor to persons aged under 18. I am worried by its implications for the vexed question of internet sales, which I have tried, and the delivery systems of some companies appear to be quite good.
Let us suppose that, in a few years' time, the hon. Gentleman orders a case of wine from Tesco Direct, the licensed premises arm of the supermarket, and Cameron, who is now 17, answers the door, says, "Daddy is in the House of Commons" and takes delivery of the wine. The person who delivers is unsure whether the father has ordered the wine, so what would the effect of the new section 169F be in such a case? Intoxicating liquor has been delivered to someone under the age 18 even though a legitimate order was made by an adult.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely interesting point. Although the first half of the scenario painted would be covered by the point that no minor would have the credit card necessary to make an internet order, the clever second half of the example, in which the right hon. Gentleman envisages the door-step scenario of a youngster being present when the delivery is made, is one to which I have no ready answer.
Mr. Gardiner: My hon. Friend has been perspicacious in pointing that out. I had forgotten that I began by saying that proposed section 169F(4) would cover that point. Under paragraph (a), the provisions would not apply if
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire): Would not the point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), about sales that are made not through licensed premises but through other means, be covered by other provisions? Surely, it is an offence to sell alcohol outside licensed premises. Are we not right in wanting to channel sales into the lawful category of licensed sales and then to regulate them?
Mr. Gardiner: Yes, I do not fundamentally disagree with that. Clearly, groups such as Tesco and Safeway own licensed premises that people do not need to step into; they can make telephone or internet purchases of alcohol. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point.
(2) Subsection (1) of this section applies regardless of whether the liquor is to be obtained from the licensed premises or from other premises from which it is delivered in pursuance of the sale.
Mr. Heald: As I understand it, the amendment is designed to deal with a situation in which someone sends a child to the licensed premises with a bunch of roses to say, "Give us a Stella Artois." Does that happen very often, in the hon. Gentleman's experience?
Mr. Gardiner: I remind the hon. Gentleman of the anecdote with which I started my speech. In West Kilbride in the early 1960s, my friend Rose would be sent--not with a bunch of roses for Stella Artois--to get two cans of Tennents lager on tick; it was all credit sales based on the assumption that mum would pay later. That is not a sale at the point that the alcohol is handed over.
It is many years since I have been to West Kilbride and I do not know what practice is currently in force there. However, I would be very surprised if informal arrangements did not allow such transactions to be carried out throughout the land. My hon. Friend the Member for
Parliament became involved with the regulation of alcohol in the 13th century--more than 700 years ago--to impose controls simply on purity and price. That was the object of Parliament's intervention in those days; there was no question of it being concerned about under-age drinking or anything like that. Parliament sought to control purity and price, and began to consider public order issues, the need to provide for wayfarers and travelling craftsmen, and how to keep the labour force sober and productive. Indeed, I believe that there are Acts that deal with controlling immorality, which was often linked to the sale of alcohol.
I am not suggesting that the sale of alcohol in the precincts of the Houses of Parliament is associated with immorality in any way. None the less, if Parliament seeks to regulate the provision of alcohol to minors throughout the rest of the country, surely it should not envisage a situation in which minors are freely sold alcohol on these premises.