|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Truswell: I am exhausted with respect for the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner). If he would like to join me in proposing a Bill to license and regulate Pokemon card sales, I would welcome his assistance. As always, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) made an admirable, perceptive and incisive contribution.
I need not remind the House that I have lobbied for two and a half years to close the loophole that the Bill primarily addresses. Everyone will be aware of the tragic death of David Knowles, which gave rise to the Bill, so I shall not rehearse those details or circumstances today. However, I was somewhat perturbed that the Library had catalogued its briefing on my Bill under the heading "Sport and Leisure". I asked myself, "Whose sport and whose leisure?" However, given the number of amendments tabled, I suspect that the Library staff were blessed with paranormal foresight, because my Bill is clearly giving Members good sport. I do not use the word "sport" in any demeaning or pejorative sense, because all the issues that have been raised today are of the utmost seriousness.
Faced with the amendments, I feel like the holder of the parliamentary equivalent of the fairground dodgem concession. I have some ownership of the structure and its contents, but now find that hon. Members are understandably and legitimately piling in and driving around in host of directions. No doubt they will bump into each other occasionally. That is their prerogative, but I hope that they will not bump too heavily into me or my Bill.
Hon. Members will know that, from the outset, my aim was simple and straightforward: to close the loophole in the Licensing Act 1964 highlighted by the tragic death of 14-year-old David Knowles, my constituent. I need not rehearse the circumstances in greater detail because all hon. Members will be aware of them. In securing the assistance of the House in closing that loophole, I shall fulfil my pledge to David's parents to do all I can to secure that objective. The Bill, as amended in Committee, will achieve it fully and comprehensively.
I stress that the amendments are not necessary to improve the Bill, which has a narrow remit. I entirely take on board all the comments that have been made, especially by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that many of the matters that have been or are due to be discussed are not important or valid in a much wider consideration of licensing law. They most certainly are. I find myself to be the parliamentary India rubber man; I completely agree and sympathise with many of the amendments, but cannot support them for the reasons that I have given. I have always wanted the Bill to be as targeted and precise as possible.
I was tempted to include other measures, many of which are the subject of amendments. The licensing laws are generally thought to be outdated and, as we know from the White Paper, they are in need of major overhaul. I succumbed only once to that temptation, to include a measure--which, I believe, the House supported unanimously--to outlaw proxy purchasing. However, I remain conscious of the need to avoid over-stretching my
The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst might be interested to know that I had a vision--perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a nightmare--of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) standing in that metaphorical charnel house of perished private Members' Bills, holding a decaying copy of my Bill and uttering the words, "Alas poor Pudsey, we knew him, Bromley. He must have been a man of infinite jest to think that he could get away with this lot." I must apologise for referring to the right hon. Gentleman when he is not in the Chamber. That terrible vision has guided my every step in this matter, and it is why I have tried to be specific and have concentrated on closing the loophole.
The Second Reading and Committee stage of the Bill were admirably summed up by the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell). He said that we were all hon. Friends with regard to the Bill, and I hope that that still obtains. However, some of the amendments in this and other groups would clearly break that unanimity.
My Bill was intended to repair anomalies in the 1964 Act. It is not intended to build a brand new production line model, tempting though that objective may be. That is a broader and more comprehensive task than can be discharged by my humble private Member's Bill. Right hon. and hon. Members will raise matters that should, and I hope will, be taken into account by the Minister in the comprehensive review of licensing legislation outlined in the recent White Paper.
Nevertheless, a number of issues have been raised that I hope the Minister will want to discuss with me if we have the opportunity, with the possibility of enshrining them in the Bill if that is possible within the narrow confines that I have described and that I have been working to.
As I said on Second Reading and in Committee, I am pleased that my Bill has fulfilled this further purpose of promoting much broader debate. It has prompted a broader discussion on a much wider range of very important issues. Most of the amendments, if not all, are intended to signal to the Minister the feelings of the House on those broader issues. I know that he will be mindful of many of them, and will no doubt treat each of them with the seriousness that they deserve, and will respond accordingly. I shall not attempt to steal his thunder.
It is an added benefit that my Bill has acted as a catalyst for such a wide-ranging debate. It is fair to say that it is a dress rehearsal for a much more comprehensive series of debates that I hope will take place in the near future. Those debates will be based on the issues raised by the White Paper and subsequent proposals for legislation.
In conclusion, although I am pleased that my Bill has acted as a catalyst, I remind the House that a catalyst is an agent that, while promoting a reaction--a beneficial reaction it is hoped--remains unchanged itself. I hope that the outcome of today's debate will be that my Bill will stand as amended in Committee, and that Members will understand the reason why I am arguing that particular line.
I shall address in particular the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Brent, North. Amendments Nos. 30 and 32 concern the buying or obtaining of alcohol. The hon. Gentleman rightly argued that there are alternative ways to obtain alcohol that may not involve the passing of money across a bar. Alcohol may be bought on credit--on tick, to use his words. Drinks may be put on the slate.
The hon. Gentleman gave the example of the cartoon strip character Andy Capp, which I think is still published in The Mirror. I invite Labour Members, who probably read The Mirror more often than I do, to correct me if I am wrong. I gather from their silence that I am not wrong. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that Andy Capp is syndicated throughout the United States. What they make of the character I do not know.
People can obtain alcohol by various means other than simple purchase. Without amendments Nos. 30 and 32, that dangerous loophole would continue to enable young people to obtain alcohol. I invite the Minister to explain his position on that.
Amendment No. 39 concerns the delivery of alcohol, and is of particular interest. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) raised the issue of internet sales. There are also telephone sales, as a result of which someone may make a delivery to a home and find that they are delivering to a younger person. Waitrose.com operated such a service when the John Lewis Partnership acquired Findlater Mackie Todd. No one would accuse a company as respected as John Lewis of being anything other than a highly responsible organisation. Should we put such a burden on delivery drivers working for John Lewis that they may break the law if they deliver alcohol to a home and unwittingly give it to someone under the age of 18?
Mr. Maclean: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, as I suspect that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) and I want to make the same point. Deliveries to someone's residence or working place would not be in breach of the law, and we need to