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Peter Bottomley: One of the changes made by the House a few months ago was the introduction of the rectification procedure, suggested, I think, by the former commissioner. Under that useful procedure, if a Member thinks his or her entry should be changed, that can be done without the need for a report from the commissioner.

Sir George Young: Many of the changes that we are introducing are welcome. It would have been wrong to postpone them, especially that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown).

Of course we will keep these matters under review, and of course there will be a dialogue with the Wicks committee. The hon. Member for North Cornwall described the proposals as provisional and transitional. That implies a degree of mortality to which I would not subscribe, but they will be kept under review. It is rather like painting the Forth bridge.

I understand what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said about limits. In paragraph 2 of the report, we point out that wherever the line is drawn there will be an argument for drawing it somewhere else. But there is a line in regard to gifts, which concerned him, along with the rules on hospitality and earnings. The £125 rule had not been reviewed for some time, and we felt that 1 per cent. was right.

Mr. Levitt: I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that there used to be a number of de minimis rules in different parts of the code. Is it not much more consistent to apply a 1 per cent. threshold to all the different categories?

Sir George Young: Yes. One of our guidelines was a requirement for consistency and clarity.

Mr. Alan Williams: Was not one of the reasons for our switching to a percentage basis the fact that it was self-indexing, and did not need future adjusting?

Sir George Young: There was also the argument that people might not remember the £125 figure, but most know what Members of Parliament are paid and can work out what 1 per cent. of that is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) said he hoped that our proceedings would be dull. I can only say that they are more dull now that he has left.

Mr. Tyler: It may be rather early to ask this question, but can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, now that he and other Chairmen of Select Committees are apparently to receive additional remuneration, the 1 per cent. will apply to that extra money?

Sir George Young: The 1 per cent. is 1 per cent. of the parliamentary salary. If the hon. Gentleman reads the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, he will see that my Committee was excluded from the benefit of additional remuneration for its Chairman. That is quite right, and I do not seek such remuneration myself.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold for making the case so eloquently, and for helping us to make a change to the advocacy rule. That will benefit not just those caught by it but the House, in allowing us to gain from their wisdom.

I hope that some time will elapse before we have to do this again.

Question put and agreed to.


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Alcohol Abuse (Young People)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Dan Norris.]

10.5 pm

Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire): I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise the issue of binge drinking and its effect on youngsters, and to share with other hon. Members my experiences and concerns.

Binge drinking is a problem with proven links to many of the more serious aspects of antisocial behaviour in our communities. The debate is important because it will consider many issues associated with binge drinking, such as teenage drinking. As we know, our teenagers are tomorrow's policy makers. A recent report on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, by Communities That Care, covered some 14,000 secondary schools throughout England, Scotland and Wales. It stated that the widespread misuse of alcohol among under-age drinkers

Alcohol Concern stated that the report

It adds that drinking among teenagers is linked to antisocial behaviour and the use of other drugs.

The following figures from a survey show the scale of binge drinking among British teenagers. Up to 25 per cent. of 13 and 14-year-olds claim to have downed at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session. That figure rises to 50 per cent. of all 15 and 16-year-olds. Some 27 per cent. of 15 and 16-year-olds reported going on three or more binges in the past month. The survey also found that 9 per cent. of boys and 5 per cent. of 11 and 12-year-old girls describe themselves as regular drinkers. Those figures rise to 39 per cent. of boys and 33 per cent. of girls aged 15 to 16. The majority of children surveyed stated that their parents would think it wrong for them to steal or to use illegal drugs, but the proportion who said that their parents would object to under-age drinking declined significantly.

Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): I should point out to my hon. Friend that most research shows that young people do not regard themselves at as risk from alcohol. According to various surveys in Scotland and the rest of the UK, education for children about alcohol is almost non-existent in some schools. Perhaps some attention can be given to that in this debate.

Jim Sheridan: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I shall deal with education later.

The national picture gives cause for concern, given the association of binge drinking with criminal activities committed by teenage drinkers. Some 10 per cent. of schoolchildren admitted that they had committed burglary, and 25 per cent. of 15 to 16-year-olds admitted to carrying offensive weapons. The report's findings simply replicated the conclusion of earlier reports that British teenagers are more likely to get drunk than their European contemporaries. Some researchers would claim that that is attributable to a more relaxed attitude to alcohol use in Britain.

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In a recent case in Stirling, three boys aged between 10 and 12 were admitted to Stirling royal infirmary, suffering from the effects of alcohol. The two boys aged 12 were described as suffering from drowsiness and vomiting. The condition of the 10-year-old boy gave greater cause for concern. His body temperature had to be raised, as it was dangerously low. Coupled with severe vomiting, his condition could have led to cardiac arrest. Police in Stirling are still trying to discover who supplied the boys with alcohol—and therein lies another problem.

Consumer advocates and anti-alcohol groups have recently called for regulations to place stricter controls on the marketing to teenagers of fruit-flavoured alcoholic drinks. Such drinks are known as alcopops and are designed to appeal to the younger drinker. The groups say that the new hard lemonades and other fruit-flavoured malt beverages are primarily targeted at teenage consumers. Alcopop drinks are clearly child-oriented products that are designed to get children to consume alcohol at an early age. The complaint called for an investigation into whether labelling and marketing of fruit-flavoured alcoholic beverages could be construed as unfair marketing practice under law. In response to the complaints, drinks manufacturers and distributors stated:

The chief executive of the charity Communities That Care recently called for urgent Government action to spearhead a joined-up approach by all agencies to provide support for young people, addressing drinking and other problematic factors that contribute to their lifestyle. A recent World Health Organisation report stated that one in eight deaths among young men in the UK are caused by alcohol abuse. While children in most European countries are given wine with their meals by their parents in an effort to encourage responsible alcohol consumption, most British children cannot wait to reach the legal age to drink in order to emulate the drinking habits of their parents. The report states:

Older British drinkers have developed a last drink syndrome, in which they have a ritual that when last orders are called at the bar, they order two drinks or more just to squeeze in a final one for the road. That means that they are attempting to swallow two pints in the time that they would normally only drink half a pint. That quick intake means that they get drunk and stagger out into the night to get involved in brawls and fights in late-night carry-out shops and taxi ranks, leading to more public disorder.

The British Entertainment and Discotheque Association, a representative body for late-night venues with more than 1,000 members across the UK, has been heavily involved in the debate on binge drinking and the impact that alcohol discounting has on the late-night environment in our communities. It is calling for a solution to the problem that still gives operators some freedom to offer promotions while removing the ability to offer the deep discounts and irresponsible promotions that cause so much trouble in our communities.

The British drinker does not know how to drink sensibly. As my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons) said, we need a programme to

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educate and inform the British public about sensible drinking and the horrific problems associated with binge drinking. To that end, I welcome the current initiative from the Scottish Executive to attempt to provide such a programme for the people of Scotland. I ask that the Government give serious and urgent consideration to a similar programme throughout the UK.

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