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Mr. Maclean: The hon. Gentleman is wrong in principle. We should maintain parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons, as well as the exemptions for this place as a royal palace--not for any misguided sense of
I have always worked under the assumption that Members are not breaking the licensing rules internally. I am happy to be corrected, but I would not imagine that any hon. Member or member of staff was breaking the licensing rules. I suspect that no bar man or woman in the House of Commons would knowingly break the rules either, although if a Member of Parliament asked for a lager and lime for his 12-year-old, I suspect the bar man would feel duty-bound to serve the Member of Parliament. The Member would have the right to demand the drink, and should take the blame.
If there are rules that should apply to the House of Commons, we should apply them through our own internal procedures while maintaining the right not to apply statute law. The same goes for the health and safety rules. We should move as expeditiously as we can to having all the same health and safety requirements as everyone else--as far as we possibly can in an 1854 building. I suspect that the new building will comply with the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963.
If we directly applied every aspect of that Act in this old building, we would be able to fit only about 10 people into the offices here. Much of our accommodation is far too cramped to accord with that law, but it is perfectly acceptable to us. I use this merely as an example to illustrate the point about regulations applying to the House of Commons. I do not want to get sidetracked too far from licensing and amendment No. 53 on to health and safety.
We should attempt to comply with the spirit of the provisions, without having to incorporate the whole body of the law or apply it to us. If we go down the route of removing the privilege of the House of Commons and the other place, it is a small step to removing other privileges, including the right to free speech.
Mr. Gardiner: I entirely agree that there is no question of hon. Members intentionally trying to procure intoxicating liquor for minors, but let me paint a scenario in which a Member of Parliament has an intern, researcher or secretary who is under 18. That young person could visit any of the Bars and buy alcoholic liquor, and there would be no redress whatever against the person who sells the liquor. If the amendment were made, redress would be available. Without in any way impugning--
Mr. Maclean: We can have the redress if we want it, through our own internal rules and procedures. The hon. Gentleman cannot lift the relevant sections of the 1964 Act and say that the law applies to the House of Commons, because we would then have to accept the whole of that Act. We would have to apply to licensing magistrates and would create a whole new bureaucracy, with an appeal system and everything else that is in the 1964 Act, a copy of which I have here.
We have spent a considerable time discussing section 169, which is very important, but if we make it apply to the House of Commons, we may have to take the Act lock, stock and barrel. We would have to have the name of the Serjeant at Arms--or perhaps your name, Mr. Deputy Speaker--painted above the door. We do not want to have to paint "Serjeant at Arms licensed to sell intoxicating liquor" above the door of the Pugin Room, but the Act requires the licensee's name and address to be painted above the door of the premises.
If we want to set an example or to apply parts of the Act in spirit or in reality, the solution is to make a resolution and tell the Serjeant at Arms that we want to apply section 169 and ensure that people cannot buy alcohol for under-age children--the children of Members of Parliament or of their constituents. We can put up a notice and apply sanctions on a host of matters.
I hope that an internal rule banning mobile phones from the Pugin Room is brought in soon. Their use in that place is, in my view, a criminal offence worthy of five years in the Tower of London, but the Minister knows that I have strong views on criminal sanctions.
However, we can apply a host of regulations to both Houses of Parliament that are not elements of the criminal law. For instance, it is not an offence to smoke in most corridors in the country, but to do so in some of the Corridors here is against our internal rules. That is how it should be--the House must be able to regulate itself and set an example, but we must be careful not to erode the important principles of parliamentary privilege by unnecessarily applying sections of criminal law to the House of Commons.
Mr. Russell Brown: The House no doubt awaits with bated breath the private Members' Bill that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) will introduce to ban mobile phones from the Pugin Room. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell) on getting his Bill this far. I hope that it leaves the House of Commons at the end of the debate and moves on to the other place.
I shall speak to the amendments in this group tabled in my name and in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne). However, in case any hon. Member is not aware of the fact, I point out that clause 3(3) states:
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) argued, in connection with amendment No. 5, for the insertion of the word "knowingly" in proposed new section 169A(1) of the Licensing Act 1964, but amendment No. 15 would delete the same word from proposed new section 169B of that Act. The Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 has served the people of Scotland well for a quarter of a century. It is important to look at that legislation and to learn what lessons we can from it. The word "knowingly", as proposed in clause 1, is not used in the equivalent section of the 1976 Act.
It has to be said that is almost impossible to gain a conviction under the licensing laws as they stand, as the research paper referred to by my hon. Friend shows. If licensees, suppliers or providers make a genuine mistake about the age of a person, they should be protected.
I want to refer to the prosecution of a Mr. James Morrison Noble, a licensee who appeared in court on 23 November 1965. He was charged with knowingly permitting drunkenness on his premises. He pled not guilty to the charge. He was found guilty and liable, and fined £5. At his request, the magistrate stated that it was a case for the opinion of the High Court of Justiciary. I want to go through the following proceedings, because it demonstrates an aspect of "knowingly", which is so important.
The case went to the High Court before a Full Bench--the ultimate authority in Scotland. That was important in relation to the decision that was reached, bearing in mind that the appellant had been found guilty.
The case centred around an evening in September 1965 when the police approached the premises in question and discovered that the lights were still on at 11.20 pm. In those days, licensed premises closed at 10 o'clock. There was a certain amount of noise. When the police eventually gained access to the premises, they found a youth, Dennis Flynn, aged 18 years of age, lying on a bench unconscious, in a state of intoxication. Efforts to rouse the youth were unsuccessful. The officers then went downstairs to the lounge bar, where they found five men and three women. One of the men, James Spanivich, was staggering around the room, obviously under the influence of drink.
The officers searched the building further and found another three men and a woman in the manager's office. The appellant was not present at the time of the offence, but the manager, James Welch, was in sole charge at the time the police officers had entered the premises.
Apart from the two persons already mentioned, everyone else in the building was sober. I find it somewhat difficult to believe, when people have been locked into a pub for almost an hour and a half after it has closed, that only two people were intoxicated.
When the case appeared before the Full Bench of the High Court, it was argued, and decided, that the appellant had not personally permitted the drunkenness and that he had no knowledge of it. The condition attached to his certificate was that he should not knowingly permit drunkenness in the premises licensed. The wording of the condition was plain and unambiguous, and knowledge on the part of the licensee was required before he could be found guilty of a contravention.
The case demonstrates that aspect of "knowingly". The licensee had appointed a manager who had done his best to ensure that the property was being run in a way that complied with the licence conditions. It is a difficult situation, which is why the amendment to remove "knowingly" from proposed new section 169B(1) is being considered.