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Ms Keeble: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that to hold the difficulties of e-commerce against such a Bill as this is unrealistic, as everyone knows that e-commerce is fraught with all kinds of regulatory problems?
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Lady makes a powerful point in relation to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who has referred to the e-word and will not bring himself to say e-mail. Huge problems will arise from the growth in e-commerce, not least in terms of the collection of indirect revenues by Customs and Excise. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) chooses to buy his compact discs from Tower Records in New York off the internet. One wonders whether the VAT is paid when the goods are delivered to the UK.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) is right to say that nothing we try to do in limiting the powers of the Bill should impact on e-commerce. Nevertheless, we must recognise that more and more purchases are likely to be made from home, rather than at retail premises.
I welcome the fact that the Bill includes a proposal concerning deliveries made at a residence or working place of the purchaser. However, that in itself could be a loophole. What if a young person at his place of work were to place an order for alcohol to be delivered to his place of work or home? Would that still be legal because of the proposal?
Amendment No. 59, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, concerns the legal definition of "bar". I accept the Minister's advice on this, but I remain concerned that the definition might be restrictive in terms of where alcohol should be sold. It
We have heard about beer gardens, theme pubs and so on. I wish to refer to the different ways in which drink is served nowadays in pubs. When I was doing a doctorate at the university of Southern California 20 years ago--
Mr. Fabricant: I fear that the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic may be more accurate than mine. While I was studying for my degree in southern California, I spent some private study time in Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica. I was relieved to find last year that that bar is still running. Often, trends in the United States are copied here in the UK. It was not like a pub that one would find in the UK and it was built in 1953. I was not around in 1953.
Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend is right, but I was not drinking beer in Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica. The point is that, more often nowadays, drinks are served at the table and not at the bar. If so, despite the assurances given by the Minister this morning, I wonder whether there is a major loophole in the Bill--a Bill we all want to succeed.
Maria Eagle: I was not aware that my fame had spread beyond Liverpool in that respect. I do not pretend to be a lawyer any more, as I am no longer insured and I no longer give legal advice. I ask the hon. Gentleman the same question that I asked the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). Would he attempt to define "similar facility" so that we can better understand precisely how the phrase extends the definition of a bar? I am not certain that it does.
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Lady says that she is not a lawyer, but the perception shown in her question demonstrates that she still is. She makes an interesting point, and we can only go by common sense. "Similar facility" means a facility that is similar to that which has been described as a bar. If we define a bar as a place of serving, then a "similar facility" is inadequate. If we say that a "similar facility" is a facility at which alcohol can be served, that is adequate. [Interruption.] I should go into more detail, as the House seems confused. There are facilities at a bar, including pumps and optics. A table is the recipient place for alcohol, and there is no mechanism for producing drink.
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Lady is right on the point of law, but it seems unlikely that such places will spread. It would seem that a great deal of trust would be involved if one could put coins on the table and get as much alcohol as one liked--unless people are more trustworthy than I give them credit for.
Mr. Gardiner: The licensing law reform panel, of which I was a member, visited a pub in Denmark that had barrels at the end of each table. It was an extremely popular facility and one that the proprietors had franchised and were hoping to propagate throughout Europe. It is possible to gauge the amount of flow, as one does with a petrol pump, and charge accordingly.
Mr. Fabricant: That is an interesting point. One wonders how the drink is paid for. If one puts coins in a slot, one is purchasing at that point, and--this is directly relevant to the amendments, in case you were thinking of ruling me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker--if one can swipe a card, as at a petrol station, that is credit, which is one of the forms of payment dealt with in some of the amendments.
In any case, such facilities are a worrying development, both because they may encourage people to drink more and because they widen the definition of "bar", which is an issue that we must address before enacting the Bill.
Now we come to the very vexed question of amendment No. 53, which is designed to extend the legislation to the House of Commons. I fully accept that codes of behaviour that we seek to impose on others ought to be followed by ourselves. We do not want to be hypocrites. Indeed, I believe that the word "hypocrite" applied to another Member of Parliament would be unparliamentary language. We should not legislate and then, in principle, break the laws that we have created. However, I worry when small but important pieces of legislation erode the privilege that has existed for hundreds of years in this place.
This is not only a legislature: it is a royal palace. If we are to include the House of Commons and the other place, as the hon. Member for Brent, North has suggested, should not we include all royal palaces? Perhaps he will intervene to say whether we should do that to set an example.
There is a principle involved. If we want respect for the laws that we pass, we must be seen to abide by them ourselves. There is no good reason why any institution should be exempt simply by virtue of its being a royal palace.
Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman makes his arguments powerfully. I am suggesting not that individuals in the House of Commons break the rules, but that the rules may not necessarily apply or be enforced here. I would not want any Member of Parliament to commit a crime outside or inside this place, even though
Maria Eagle: The hon. Gentleman came perilously close to suggesting that parliamentary privilege extends to criminal activities. Our privilege allows us to speak freely, which is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, but does he accept that it does not extend to allowing us to commit crimes?
Mr. Fabricant: That is an interesting point of law, to which I do not know the answer. The Minister is looking especially blank at the moment, so I suspect that he may not know the answer either, although he may perhaps find it out before he winds up the debate.