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15 Jan 2003 : Column 711—continued

Mr. Hoon: I appreciate the sincerity with which my hon. Friend puts his case, but I would invite him to consider this point. He says that missile defence might unwittingly add to proliferation, but it will be developed to protect democracies. It will be developed to protect the United States, the United Kingdom and members of the NATO alliance—a fundamental prerequisite of which is that its members should be democratic societies. My hon. Friend is saying that if we do not develop missile defence to protect those democracies, we will be relying on countries such as Iraq or North Korea—neither of which could remotely be described as democracies at present—not to threaten the United Kingdom. If I went to my hon. Friend's constituency and discussed those issues with his constituents, I am pretty sure on which side of the line they would fall, because I suspect that they are not greatly dissimilar to my own. They would say, XWhy shouldn't you protect us against the kind of threat that could come from countries like North Korea and Iraq?" With the greatest

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possible respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think they would say that those countries could be relied on not to develop a threat to the United Kingdom and its citizens.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): It is a very sad day indeed when a Secretary of State comes to the House 29 days after confirming that an application has been received from the United States to tell us that he is minded to accept it. Will he confirm that, in reality, the decision to go ahead with national missile defence was made a long time ago, and that it will mean that we are no longer able to support the ABM treaty? I suspect that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) has said, in future, the Secretary of State will ask us to remove ourselves from a series of other disarmament treaties as well. Is this not the day on which the United States, with British support, has started proliferation again? This is not an interim or technical decision; it is a fundamental departure from the process of disarmament of the past 30 years in the direction of re-armament, and it is being done in a very dangerous way, which can only result in a similar response from China and other nuclear powers.

Mr. Hoon: I believe that I have already dealt with most of the arguments set out by my hon. Friend. He has referred previously to support for the ABM treaty—I have mentioned this to him before—as though somehow the treaty still existed. It no longer exists. It was a treaty between the United States and, originally, the Soviet Union—now Russia, as its successor—and both parties now accept that it has served its useful purpose. In place of that treaty we now have something for which my hon. Friend has long argued: a very substantial reduction in the number of offensive systems. Given the consistency of my hon. Friend's approach to these matters, I should have thought that he would welcome the fact that the ABM treaty has been replaced, and that the Moscow treaty has allowed for that significant reduction for which he has understandably and rightly argued.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): Will the Secretary of State concede that, had missile defence been in place, and had it worked, it would not have made a ha'p'orth of difference to the events of 11 September? Does he accept that it takes at least some explaining that, on the day on which the Prime Minister warned against weapons proliferation in an international context, we are signing up to something that will require us fundamentally to breach the outer space treaty, because missile defence will require the militarisation of space in ways that will take us not only into a vast territorial unknown but into a political unknown, allowing weapons use from space? To settle some of the wagering that has been taking place on the Back Benches, will the Secretary of State confirm just how many nanoseconds it took him to say yes to the United States' request for a further annexation of facilities in the United Kingdom—the 51st state of the USA?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend always manages to put his difficult questions with a good deal of courtesy. I can assure him that, as yet, the Government have no plans to install any facilities in Nottingham, South, but I am sure that, if he requests it in his normally persuasive way, that decision could be reconsidered.

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More seriously, I do not understand the argument that the terrorist threat manifested in the appalling events of 11 September should take overwhelming priority in relation to any other threats that might happen in the world. I accept that there is an appalling terrorist threat—we have seen the tragic consequences of it in recent times in this country—but to suggest that that means that we should ignore all other threats, if that is what my hon. Friend was doing, is simply wrong.

We have a responsibility to protect the citizens of this country against all the threats that we reasonably detect and to take appropriate action. That is what we are doing. I shall report to the House regularly on developments that the United States proposes, including any that have implications for the outer space treaty. However, I do not approach the matter in the same way as my hon. Friend; I approach it in a way that I believe is in the interests and for the protection of the people of this country.

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Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons)

2.21 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point): I beg to move,

The Bill's aim is simply to restore to the police the power to remove all alcohol from young people in public places so that they do not consume it, get into trouble and cause mayhem in our communities. Let me first establish evidence of current youth drinking habits. The health and science section of the 11 January edition of The Week, under the heading XTeenage binge-drinkers", states:

Andrew McNeill of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said:

I was inspired to do something about this partly by Peggy Grant, who sadly passed away on 23 December. When Peggy was Castle Point's mayor in 1995, she went on to the streets on dark, cold, wet nights at 9 and 10 o'clock, although she was 70, to meet, talk with and understand young people. She tried to solve the problems that we are all so vividly aware of to help the kids and the rest of the community. She found that alcohol was a major contributor to those problems. She had courage, enthusiasm and genuine warmth. She also had dedication, determination and great dignity as mayor of Castle Point. She cared for young and old alike, and was a role model for all politicians—a truly great Conservative mayor who will be much missed in Castle Point.

In 1995, there was, remarkably, no law to prevent young people and children from abusing alcohol in public places. So, with Peggy Grant's encouragement, I introduced a private Member's Bill to give the police powers to stop under-age alcohol abuse and take back control of our streets. My Bill was enacted in 1997 and it worked well across the nation, but then new Labour became the Government and the then Home Office Minister—not, I hasten to add, the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety, who is in his place—issued a press release stating that the under-age drinking confiscation measure, which meant my Bill, showed

That was pure, unadulterated new Labour duplicity.

Last year, the Government's Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 removed the power that I had given the police to take unopened cans and bottles of alcohol from youngsters in public places. That was pure, unadulterated new Labour stupidity. The Prime Minister then claimed that he was giving all possible

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powers to the police to tackle antisocial behaviour, street crime and drugs. That was pure, unadulterated new Labour hypocrisy.

To claim that my Bill was a new Labour initiative and try to take credit for it was a lie; to remove police powers to take alcohol from young children on our streets was stupid; and to claim that all is well and that all is being done on our streets is hypocrisy. So there we have it. New Labour says that it listens and that it acts to tackle crime. It says that it will protect our children and our communities, but it is simply arrogant, stupid and hypocritical—and the Prime Minister is personally responsible.

Let me set out some evidence on under-age drinking. A constituent who said that she would be honoured to be named in this place—I shall just call her Rosemary, however—bravely wrote to me to say:

The House should listen to Rosemary's wisdom.

Let me set out what Basildon's Evening Echo said on 25 October. An article by Gary Pearson says:

In another edition, the Evening Echo reported:

On 12 April last year, Inspector Steve Rawlings of Castle Point police wrote to me:

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Those may be children of nine, 10 or 11 who are out at 10 o'clock on a Friday night. Inspector Rawlings continues:

Bournemouth's The Daily Echo ran a campaign called XWhere are your children?", which was launched just after my private Member's Bill became law. It said:

They were using my Bill. The newspaper continued:

The hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow) told me that his local police are ignoring new Labour's new law and continuing to take unopened cans and bottles from youngsters in public places.

Thus the Government have contrived to make criminals of the police and to help youngsters into crime and drugs. All of us in this place know that the first use of drugs by young people most often takes place under the influence of alcohol. Such is the reality of a bankrupt, arrogant Government who have simply stopped listening.

This raises the question of why the Prime Minister removed the police power last year. Did he think that the police were improperly harassing young drunkards and thugs on our streets? Or he is simply out of touch? Or does he simply not care?

Perhaps the Government will now revert to the common-sense law that worked so well: my original Bill. They may use the Licensing Bill, although I doubt that that would be terribly appropriate. In the meantime, I ask the House to support my new Bill giving the police powers to stop out-of control, dangerous under-age drinking on our streets.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Bob Spink, Mr. David Amess, Mr. Peter Lilley, Mr. Frank Field, the Rev. Martin Smyth, Mrs. Angela Browning, Andy King, Andrew Mackinlay, Mr. Henry Bellingham, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd, Sir Nicholas Winterton and Miss Ann Widdecombe.

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