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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady will be able to advise the House if and when she catches my eye. However, I should like the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) to mention the

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amendments that are the subject of this debate. He appears to be making a more general speech, and I am sure that he does not want to do that.

Mr. Forth: Certainly, it was far from my mind to make a general speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for not making it clear that I was speaking in the context of amendments Nos. 19, 25, 30, 44 and 45, all of which touch on possible methods of payment and whether or not transactions take place on licensed premises. These matters are, I believe, germane.

I mentioned barter. That emphasises the fact that, faced as we are with such a bewildering array of methods of purchase, we must ensure that the Bill encompasses all those and deals satisfactorily with them.

The same applies to amendments Nos. 26 and 27. We must be satisfied that the more complicated relationships that can now exist between the licensee, the licensee's employees or agents of the licensee, and the person making the purchase are all adequately covered.

When the promoter of the Bill sums up the debate on this group of amendments--I hope that the Minister will be able to guide the House as well--we will require from him reassurance that all the matters raised by the hon. Member for Brent, North, which I am trying to reinforce and, in some cases, to amplify, will be covered by the Bill in its present form, or by amendments to strengthen the effect of the Bill.

That is the point of the Report stage, and those are the matters that must be dealt with. We must satisfy ourselves that all the conceivable and likely circumstances that may arise with regard to purchase, whether through an agent or an employee or through the licensee himself or herself, will be adequately covered by the Bill.

Amendment No. 59 touches on a different matter, which rather worries me. In the Bill, the word "bar" is used. For example, proposed new section 169E states:

Unless I am told later that that is some term of art of which I have hitherto been unaware, my concern is that the use of the word "bar" is far too restrictive. Traditionally, we have been used to terms such as cocktail bar, public bar or lounge bar, although those are rapidly going out of fashion. They were the terms that I was used to when I was introduced to drinking alcohol.

We have gone far beyond that. The sorts of premises on which intoxicating liquor is now sold vary enormously from the traditional concepts that I have just mentioned, and include, as the hon. Member for Brent, North said, pub gardens, which are becoming increasingly popular, to say nothing of theme pubs, where the point of the exercise and the attraction of the premises is that they are much more varied. Theme pubs may contain many more different rooms, styles and areas in which the consumption of intoxicating liquor can take place.

The worry is that the use of the term "bar" may turn out to be overly restrictive. There is at least the possibility that loopholes could arise in cases where the physical premises were not properly covered by the terms of the Bill.

That is even more the case in the light of the Government's excellent proposals--as I told the Home Secretary when he introduced them a few weeks ago--to

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liberalise in a responsible and sensible way the licensing of intoxicating liquor. I praised the proposals at the time; I am not sure that the Home Secretary was pleased about that, but he was gracious, as ever he is.

However, we must pause and reflect. To the extent that we may sensibly and responsibly liberalise the consumption of intoxicating liquor, we must make sure that the terms of the Bill will cover the possibilities that may arise in the fairly near future, as I understood it from the Home Secretary. We will be guided by the Minister. In the context of what the Home Secretary has recommended and the consultative manner in which he did so, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the Bill will be able to deal with the changes that may well occur in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Paice: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I endorse his comments on the use of the word "bar", which occurs in at least two subsections. From those, it seems that the opportunity for consumption in a part of a pub or licensed premises without a bar would get round the legislation. I do not understand why the word appears at all. If the wording had been "consumption in licensed premises" or "within the curtilage" of such premises, to cover pub gardens, it would have been a much clearer description. I wonder whether the word "bar" is defined in law, anyway.

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend reinforces my anxiety. Any of his suggestions would probably be an improvement. I tried rather inelegantly to get round the problem by adding "or similar facility", which I thought would cover all the eventualities, but the unnecessary use of the word "bar" may be unduly restrictive, unless we are told that "bar" is a legal term of art whose coverage is much wider than I thought.

Maria Eagle rose--

Mr. Forth: I may be about to get some legal advice.

Maria Eagle: I do not propose to offer legal advice, not least because I am no longer insured to do so. I do not recall whether I ever came across a definition in law of "bar", but I suspect not. However, it has a common meaning, which the law would pick up immediately. To me, it means the place from where the beer is sold and from which the barman or bar staff serve it. Other rooms would not count as being the bar. Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify the wording that he proposes--"or similar facility"? Does he mean other rooms within the curtilage, or the garden as well? What is his definition of "or similar facility"?

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I had in mind the place where the intoxicating liquor was dispensed. On reflection, I may not have achieved my purpose. The hon. Lady has been helpful. Perhaps I had a mental block and thought of "bar" in the traditional sense of cocktail bar, public bar and lounge bar. The legal definition may be anything over which the liquor is passed in the course of making a sale or a purchase. A trestle table might do--for example, in a pub garden.

Mr. Maclean: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who, in his rigorous style, has come across--I was going

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to say "stumbled across", but that would be unfair--a possible lacuna. We are dealing with a 1964 Act, which in the section under discussion envisages only two systems for selling alcohol--licensed premises, which would be the off-licences, and bars, as they existed in 1964.

My right hon. Friend's terminology "or similar facility" is too tightly related to the old-fashioned concept of a bar. We may need a wider form of words, which would allow for theme park situations, where there may not be a trestle table, a bar or a counter, and people may be served alcohol in odd locations. The alcohol may all come from a kitchen or a bar pantry, and there may be no bar or counter as such. My right hon. Friend is on to a valid point, but his amendment is still too tight.

Mr. Forth: The more I think about the matter as the debate proceeds, the more I am inclined to plead guilty to what my right hon. Friend has just said. My amendment is defective. I can envisage circumstances in which, say, on a hot day, someone was serving drinks out of a large refrigerator direct to the public for payment of cash. There might be nothing remotely like a bar or trestle table in sight, but the serving and the transaction would still take place.

Maria Eagle: In some premises, which have been described in newspapers in the past year, one can serve oneself because there is a tap on every table. Where is the bar in those circumstances?

11 am

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you received a request from the Government to make a statement on the worsening crisis in Sierra Leone? We learned through the media yesterday and this morning that the Government have shifted their position and extended the mandate for British troops to stay in Sierra Leone by four weeks beyond the original task. Conservative Members--I hope all hon. Members--are worried about the families of those serving in Sierra Leone. They need much greater clarification.

There seems to be confusion between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. It has been suggested that there might be a commitment for as far ahead as 2001. The Government owe it to the House to clarify the position. What is the mission statement? What are our troops expected to do? The Government should explain that as quickly as possible because the families of those serving will be worried until that moment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point of order. It is not a matter for the Chair, but I am sure that the appropriate Ministers have heard the hon. Gentleman's comments.

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