It being after Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Questions relating to Estimates which he was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to paragraphs (1) and (2) of Standing Order No. 55 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.)
Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble): The issue that I raise should concern all Members of the House. It relates to the problems that arise in the pubs and clubs throughout the land that are frequented by young people and to the injuries, in particular facial injuries, that can result from incidents involving glasses and bottles.
A few months ago, a constituent came to see me following an incident involving her child at a licensed premises in Lancashire. The child was badly injured by a glass as the result of an assault in a public house. Following her visit, my constituent spent a great deal of time and energy examining how the incident happened and the factors that might be involved in reducing the incidence of glassing in pubs and clubs.
My constituency includes the town of Leyland and the southern suburbs of Preston, so many of the young people in my area go to pubs and clubs in Leyland, but most of them go to the town centre pubs and clubs in Preston. The university in Preston now has more than 20,000 full-time students and it is the seventh largest university in Great Britain. It is a Mecca for young people.
The police and the local authority have been assiduous in ensuring that the pubs and clubs catering for young people are grouped together. There is closed circuit television, a strong police presence and most of the public houses and clubs have people on the doors. However, that does not stop incidents happening.
If large numbers of young people mix together with significant amounts of alcohol available and with glasses and bottles close to hand, violent incidents occur. Some of them will involve glassing that leads to severe facial injuries. We often think that such incidents involve males who one might argue have only themselves to blame. However, that is not always the case. Many incidents involve innocent bystanders or women both as victims and as aggressors. Therefore, we need to examine the scale of the problem as well as its causes.
I have carried out a little research on how many incidents of glassing take place each year. In 1999, the British crime survey estimated that there were 80,000 incidents involved glassing and that figure was based on a survey of a certain number of households. A survey a couple of years earlier produced a figure of 178,000 each year, but not all those incidents led to conviction or severe facial injuries.
I have a number of letters that give a Home Office figure of between 3,400 and 5,500 glassing incidents a year and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has released figures on the incidents involving severe injuries that have led to compensation claims. In 19992000, 6,550 claims were made following violent incidents in public houses, and many of them would have been glassing incidents. Of those, 3,448that is 53 per cent.led to monetary awards costing £7.2 million.
It has been pointed out to me that the statistics deal only with incidents in licensed premises and do not cover those that spill out of them on to the streets or surrounding areas. It has been estimated that the cost of glassing incidents to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is about £10 million. The figures are not insignificant.
What are the key factors that cause this problem? An important element in any glassing incident is the nature of the glass or bottle itself and significant progress has been made in many pubs and clubs in that regard over the past 10 years. Many traditional glasses have been replaced by ones made out of toughened glass, but it is clear that the repeated use in pubs and clubs of toughened glassware leads to the weakening of the glass itself. When toughened glass goes through the washer many times, it no longer has the properties that led people to support its introduction. An increasing number of severe injuries are arising from its use.
In 1998 or 1999, a patent was made for Safeglass, although production of glasses and bottles in that safety glass has not got off the ground. The documents relating to the patent state that there are two important applications of safety glass. The first is glassware and bottles. The documents explain that
Figures from a survey in 1993 on the wider problems of glass and their effects on bar staff suggested that 40 per cent. of bar staff received injuries not as a result of violent attacks, but simply through handling glassware in pubs and clubs. Anything that can be done to make glassware less likely to cause injury would have significant health and safety implications for bar staff.
My constituent and several organisations have mentioned the value of placing kitemarks on glassware. That would give people who go into pubs and clubs, and local authorities who inspect them, an idea of the quality and type of glassware that is being used. I am sure that that would improve things.
We need to consider the whole issue of alcohol-related violence. The use of CCTV in many pubs and clubs, which is growing, makes a difference by controlling the licensed premises. There are serious concerns about under-age drinking and excessive drinking by young people. There is also concern about the policies of the alcohol trade, which manufactures products with a high alcohol content which are attractive to young people.
Young people have nights out when they drink excessively, and that will probably always be the case. When I was 18 or 19, drinking pints of beer was a slower and different experience from drinking high-alcohol sweet-tasting products, which is what many young people drink. Much more alcohol is consumed in a short space of time than it was 30 years ago. It would help if the Government invested in schemes to deal with alcohol- related violence.
I have received a number of petitions and letters of support from police and Church groups. I also received a letter from Katie Parr, the welfare officer at the university of Central Lancashire, which says:
I received a letter of support from Tina Morrow, the director of Victim Support in Preston, who has been active in collecting signatures on petitions in the area, and a letter from Kevin Quigley, the principal at Cardinal Newman college in Preston, which takes many young people from my constituency. He says:
There may be no simple method of making it safer for our young people to have a good night out. Young people will always be fairly active and run the risk, when they have had a bit too much to drink, of being aggressive. As I said, the combination of energetic young people, excessive alcohol and dangerous weapons in the form of glass bottles and glasses full of alcohol leads to all too many severe facial injuries. Incidents will always happen, but as Members of Parliament, we need to do what we can to minimise the risks.