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24 Oct 2006 : Column 1383

Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although you have previously explained to the House that you are not necessarily allowed to listen to Radio 4 in the mornings in Speaker’s House, may I draw your attention to the fact that this morning there was clear Government spin that there would be a statement in the House on the serious issue of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria into this country, in light of their accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007? You will be aware that there has been only a written statement. Have you received a request from the Home Secretary to make a full statement from the Dispatch Box, which is what I believe is necessary?

Mr. Speaker: I get the chance to watch Sky News, from which I understood that there would be a statement, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, it is a written statement. The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of Parliament. I am not inviting him to do so, but if any hon. Member feels that a written statement is inadequate, there is nothing to stop a request being made to the Speaker as to whether an oral statement should be made or whether an urgent question should be tabled. That is not to say that such a request would be granted, but that facility is available to hon. Members.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am extremely interested in what you have just said. An oral statement is necessary to allow the Minister in question to be cross-examined on the extent to which any of the matters that you have mentioned would infringe the existing rules of the European Union.

Mr. Speaker: I will not be drawn into that. A facility is open to hon. Members, both Front Benchers and Back Benchers. The hon. Gentleman knows that, because he has often applied for an urgent question—sometimes he has been refused.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. After your very generous clarification of the position, would it be in order to make an oral request for such a process to take place?

24 Oct 2006 : Column 1384

Mr. Speaker: A written request tomorrow is the best thing to do.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This morning, I had the honour of welcoming 13 of my constituents on a tour of the House of Commons. As they are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing, they found it very difficult to do a fulfilling tour of the House of Commons because there are no facilities within the Palace for the hard of hearing or the visually impaired. Will any money be spent on improving that deficiency during the investments that we are making in the visitor centre, in trying to improve our constituents’ time in this House?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, especially for me, because as Chairman of the Commission I am involved in these works. We want to encourage as many visitors as possible. I will take up the matter with the Serjeant at Arms and other officials of the House, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising it.

Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker: Do you have a point of order, Mr. Benyon?

Mr. Benyon: My point of order was eloquently made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay).

Mr. Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on reports in The Times that my former employer, ITN, is to have its reporting from war zones restricted by the Ministry of Defence. Given the extreme difficulties in reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan without MOD co-operation, and the importance of the public being allowed access to ITN’s first-hand reporting, is it not appropriate that a Minister should come to the House of Commons to explain what lies behind this enormous decision, which looks very much like an attempt to punish a major news organisation for speaking the truth?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is a new Member. The Speaker should not be drawn into such matters. However, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to table parliamentary questions about these important matters to MOD Ministers in order to seek both a written reply and, when the time comes, a reply in oral questions.

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Drinking Vessels (Toughened Plastic)

3.36 pm

Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): I beg to move,

My Bill is an attempt to reduce the number of people who are seriously injured during alcohol-related violence. In a nutshell, it would enable local authorities to designate, if required, “drinking districts” in town and city centres where it would be mandatory for alcohol served after 11 pm to be served in plastic or toughened glass. I wish to make it clear from the start that my Bill would have a relatively narrow impact on selected licensed premises—namely, late-night venues in busy town and city centres. It is certainly not intended that it should have an impact on the many traditional stand-alone pubs and private members’ clubs in towns and rural communities that keep more traditional hours.

In Milton Keynes, we are only too aware of the dangers of glass bottles and glasses. In the early hours of Christmas morning 2004, a constituent of mine, Blake Golding, was the victim of a brutal attack while working as a doorman. At the age of 22, he was shockingly scarred for life while he went to the aid of a female colleague. The sad fact is that that horrendous incident could have been prevented had Blake’s attacker not had access to a glass bottle.

The terrifying truth is that bars and clubs have extremely dangerous weapons at arm’s reach. A glass or bottle is potentially lethal in anybody’s hands. On 14 June 2005, a campaign was set up by the Golding family. As a result, more than 18,000 people, including hundreds of police officers and bar managers, have signed a petition calling for a ban on glass drinking vessels in late-night clubs and bars. The success of the campaign is a testament to the determination of the Golding family and the support shown by the local press and institutions.

Unfortunately, the problem of annealed bottles and glasses being used as violent weapons has largely remained unaddressed. I am not the first to raise the issue on the Floor of the House, and I fear that if we do not make changes soon, I will not be the last. These are readily available weapons with the potential to kill or cause great harm, as Blake’s case demonstrates. Hon. Members may be surprised to learn that glass bottles and glasses are the most common weapons used in violent assaults in the United Kingdom. That is not unexpected when we consider how many drinks are served in glass containers each year. In the UK alone, more than 5.6 billion pints are served in bars, pubs and clubs, along with almost 6.8 million bottles of beer, 4.2 million bottles of alcopops and 313,000 bottles of wine. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and violent behaviour. A study by the Prime Minister’s strategy unit found that 1.2 million incidents of alcohol-induced violence are reported every year. The 2005 British crime survey points out that in 44 per cent. of all violent incidents reported, the victim described the assailant as being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the
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assault. Everyone is aware of the associated risks of glass drinking vessels. Unfortunately, it takes a tragic event such as that involving Blake to shock people into supporting a proposed change to the law.

I must take this opportunity to congratulate Bar Mee in Milton Keynes. It became the first bar in the city to serve drinks solely in safe plastic glasses and bottles, in an attempt to reduce the number of bottle attacks. I also praise the policy of Yates’s wine bars, which has already made the switch to using shatterproof plastic glass in all its establishments nationwide. It is our job to support such initiatives, and to make multilayered plastic bottles and glasses the norm in bars and clubs throughout the country which operate late at night and in the early hours of the morning.

Many other towns and cities across the United Kingdom are experiencing a rapid expansion of their night-time entertainment districts. Although many communities enjoy the economic benefits that that brings, unfortunately such expansion is often accompanied by an increase in crime and disorder owing to the concentration of pubs and clubs and the large amounts of alcohol that are consumed. In 2003 in Glasgow city centre, there were 313 serious assaults, 81 of which involved glass bottles, and similar statistics apply in any part of the country where a central drinking quarter has sprung up. In Glasgow, steps were taken to replace glass with plastic and that, combined with other measures taken by the police, has helped to result in a reduction in the number of serious injuries in the city centre.

Clearly, we have to accept that if someone really wants to act in a violent manner, a weapon will invariably be found. Although I do not believe for one second that this Bill will eradicate all violent behaviour, I do believe that, by reducing the number of weapons available to violent people, the Bill will make a major contribution to increasing public safety. If the glass used to attack Blake Golding in Milton Keynes had been multilayered plastic or polycarbonated glass, he would not have suffered the degree of injury that he did.

More than half of the reported incidents of alcohol-related violence result in some form of injury. In a fifth of those incidents, the perpetrator of the attack had a weapon that they had threatened to use—usually a glass or bottle. Steps have been taken across the country to reduce that, and I would like to praise the work of Cardiff council and Cardiff police for the dramatic 70 per cent. reduction in altercations involving glass bottles and glasses that they have produced through their proactive work in stopping people carrying glass drinking vessels on the streets of Cardiff.

I shall now turn to the need for the Bill. The Licensing Act 2003 does not allow licensing authorities to add a condition to a premises licence unless an application for review of the licence is made or, during the application process for a new or varied licence, a representation is made by a responsible authority such as the police or another interested party. With all premises licenses issued and valid indefinitely, the opportunity to consider whether a glass condition could be added to a licence now only arises if a review is sought or the licence is varied.

To use Milton Keynes as an example, Thames Valley police have been making representations where variations have been sought, and approximately a
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dozen premises now have the condition. But for existing unchanging premises, conditions can only be imposed if a review has been requested—for example, by the police as a responsible authority. There appears to be some difficulty in obtaining evidence against individual premises in city centre locations, particularly when incidents occur in the street. The local publicity that Blake Golding’s campaign received did lead to voluntary compliance by pubs and clubs being achieved, but management and ownership do change, and without a condition on the premises, licence enforcement is simply not possible.

The pepper-potting of premises with conditions alongside those without conditions in the city centre area also gives rise to problems, particularly in respect of external drinking areas, and such problems will, no doubt, increase with the implementation of the smoking ban next summer. Even where a premises is subject to a condition, it is easy to see how a situation can develop where people take glasses and bottles to use as weapons from tables outside adjacent premises where there is no restriction.

A typical drinking establishment found in many city and town centres usually operates as a

—a high turnover establishment where the vast majority of people are standing to drink, not sitting down. Although often not the fault of management, it is in these establishments that violence can erupt as young adults are encouraged to drink in a crowded environment. For that reason, local councils should have the power to establish, where necessary, “drinking districts” in which it would be mandatory for any licence holder serving alcohol after 11 pm to use multilayered plastic drinking vessels. Village and stand-alone town and city pubs not in a designated drinking district would not be forced to serve their local customers with plastic drinking vessels. However, the current laws would allow councils to place mandatory regulations on these premises, should the police deem their safety record poor.

Although the Bill’s scope is relatively narrow, it is clear that plastic bottles and glasses would allow for a safer drinking and social environment, lessen insurance premiums for pubs and clubs and provide a safer working environment for bar staff to operate in. However, these are just small benefits compared with the opportunity to save lives and to prevent serious injuries.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mark Lancaster, Mr. Frank Field, Peter Bottomley, Andrew George, Dr. Brian Iddon, Mr. Peter Bone, Mr. Mike Hancock, Dr. Phyllis Starkey, Mr. Adam Holloway, Julie Morgan, Mr. Ben Wallace and Mr. David S. Borrow.

Drinking Vessels (Toughened Plastic)

Mr. Mark Lancaster accordingly presented a Bill to require that toughened plastic be used for drinking vessels in late night bars, public houses and clubs; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 November, and to be printed [Bill 231].

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(6) (Programme motions),

Lords Amendments Time for conclusion of proceedings

Nos. 36 and 81 to 85

6.30 p.m.

Nos. 1 and 71

8.30 p.m.

Nos. 5, 10 to 27, 42, 43, 46, 53, 78 to 80, 86, 93, 101, 110, 112, 2 to 4, 6 to 9, 28 to 35, 37 to 41, 44, 45, 47 to 52, 54 to 70, 72 to 77, 87 to 92, 94 to 100, 102 to 109, 111 and 113.

10.00 p.m.

Question agreed to.

24 Oct 2006 : Column 1389

Orders of the Day

Police and Justice Bill

Lords amendments considered.

After Clause 46

3.47 pm

Lords amendment: No. 36.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 81 to 85 and the Government motions to disagree thereto.

Joan Ryan: The adoption of these amendments by the other place was a bad day for international co-operation in the fight against crime. Today, we have the opportunity to put that right, and it is the last chance to do so. The amendments were proposed by misguided right hon. and hon. Opposition Members. Why? Because they believed that the amendments would somehow protect people accused of serious offences from facing justice abroad, rather than at home.

Leaving aside the whole question of whether Her Majesty’s Opposition should have allowed themselves to be so heavily influenced by blatantly inaccurate media reporting without checking their facts, my question is this: what is wrong with a provision on extradition that, when in government, they voted into law fully 17 years ago, when they implemented the European convention on extradition?

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): The question is not about extradition per se but about making a prima facie case to the courts. The United States requires a prima facie case to be made if it is to extradite someone here, but we do not require it to extradite someone there. That is the matter in question.

Joan Ryan: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, which has been made several times in the Chamber and in another place. Hon. Friends and I have answered it in Committee and at the Dispatch Box. I repeat—I shall do so again later in my speech—that the hon. Gentleman is, frankly, wrong. The United States demands probable cause of us. We demand of it information sufficient for a magistrate to issue a warrant for arrest. That constitutes reasonable suspicion. Probable cause and reasonable suspicion have what we call rough parity. They are as close as it is possible to get, given that no two legal systems exactly match. We therefore have parity and reciprocity in the evidence required between the United States and us.

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