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Earl Peel: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for having brought the Bill to your Lordships' House for its Third Reading and for explaining so clearly how it has reached its present state. I too spoke at Second Reading and I have followed the Bill's progress with great interest ever since. At that time I felt that it was a very good Bill. It set about establishing a management structure which would bring together those with an active interest in Bodmin Moor. It would result in sensible management practice of benefit to both farming
The law on commons is complex. Clearly, differences occur between owners and graziers. The Bill will go a long way towards addressing that difficulty. But what pleased me particularly about the Bill was that, although it was promoted by Cornwall County Council-- I congratulate the council--it had the full support of those working on the ground. It was a Bill emanating from the people of Bodmin Moor. I appreciate that the carrot of ESA status acted as a helpful stimulus. Nonetheless, it is a useful step forward.
Sadly, matters did not develop, in the short term at least, quite as the promoters had expected. Certain organisations petitioned against the Bill in order to try to impose a right of open access over Bodmin Moor, which was quite against the wishes of the owners, the graziers and indeed the promoters of the Bill, Cornwall County Council. I appreciate that petitioning against a Bill is a perfectly legitimate and right thing to do. But it was particularly disturbing that in this instance there was quite blatant support for the access groups from the Countryside Commission. I should make clear that I do not include any of the local branches of the Countryside movement. My information is that it involved purely the head office at Cheltenham.
I appreciate that the Countryside Commission, as a government advisory agency, has statutory responsibilities on access matters and public enjoyment of the countryside. But to attempt to push through a policy which was opposed by all those promoting the Bill and which was contrary to government policy was, in my view, at the very least unhelpful and, I think, an underhand way to behave. It held up the Bill, caused considerable frustration to those involved with it and, although I have no evidence to prove it, I suspect that the additional costs have been considerable.
However, I am delighted that partly because of the determined efforts of those responsible for the Bill not to be moved and a most useful intervention by the then Minister for the countryside, my right honourable friend Mr. Robert Atkins, the matter now seems to have been resolved. Clause 16 has been amended and the public right of access removed, still leaving in place the very reasonable access provisions referred to by my noble friend in his opening remarks.
So I can say with confidence that we now have a thoroughly good Bill. Now that a proper management structure is in place, within the Bill at any rate, I hope that the Government in due course will seriously consider Bodmin Moor for ESA status or some such environmental scheme. I do not ask my noble friend on the Front Bench even to contemplate answering such a request because I realise that it is not in his power to do so. I just make the plea because of the importance of Bodmin Moor from an environmental point of view.
I am delighted to say that the prospect of the Bill being enacted has enabled the Cornwall Commoners' Association to be awarded a MAFF/EU 5B grant which will fund the expenses for the implementation of the
It has been brought to my attention, in my capacity as Lord Warden of the Stannaries of the Duchy of Cornwall, that there is a minor difficulty still remaining within the wording of the Bill in relation to the exemption clause of the Duchy of Cornwall. I do not want to go into details now; my noble friend Lord Cranbrook is aware of it. However, I hope that the wording can be sorted out; otherwise, as the solicitor for the Duchy of Cornwall said,
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I congratulate all those involved in the successful progress of the Bill through its rather laborious stages. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Peel, I regret the fact that the provisions for public access have been removed. The preamble originally contained provisions dealing with public access; they are no longer there. Although the Bill provides permitted use as a resort for open-air recreation, that is merely a power that the council possesses rather than a duty upon it. My understanding is that the present damage to Bodmin Moor is mostly caused by over-grazing and not by members of the public visiting the area.
If the provisions for regulated access that were at one stage in the Bill had been retained, it would have been possible not only to allow people to use larger areas of Bodmin Moor but also to regulate that access to the benefit of the environment by erecting fences around particularly sensitive areas and so forth. Therefore, not only have the public lost out because of the loss of provision for access to some parts of the moor, but also the environment and some species may have lost out because it is not possible to provide powers to regulate their access.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, we are delighted that the Bill is about to achieve its Third Reading. We believe that it will do a great deal of good. My noble friend Lord Peel raised a matter of concern about the activities which he says the Countryside Commission undertook. He will be aware that we do not share the view of the party opposite that the countryside should be regulated by bureaucrats for the benefit of town dwellers. My right honourable friend Mr. Atkins reacted speedily and with
The Earl of Cranbrook: My Lords, the issue of access has been properly dealt with. The noble Baroness is correct. Originally, Clause 10 applied both to access and to the regulation of it. However, the right decision has been made in allowing that to be debated at national level rather than trying to impose regulations piecemeal in a local way. I commend the Bill to the House.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we are a small and select group this evening discussing an important problem. It is none the worse for being a small group and I do not expect this to be a debate in which there are political differences.
I was asked by several noble Lords in the corridors of this House, in the friendly and congenial way in which things happen here, what was behind my Question. I am sure they wished that they had not asked because I was able to give them a synopsis of my speech. However, it is interesting that I should be asked by two or three Peers about this. They were interested, certainly, in what I started to tell them. It indicates that there is a contact with the way the general public think. At best there is an underestimation of the problems of crime and its links with alcohol.
I am vice-chairman of the all-party group on alcohol misuse, whose function it is to keep parliamentarians aware of developments in matters concerned with alcohol. We placed strong emphasis on health. We have now moved to the aspects of alcohol consumption which affect crime and to that end we conducted an inquiry. We took written and oral evidence from a number of important bodies such as the police, voluntary agencies, prison authorities and so forth, to discover as much as we could about their views of the problem.
Statistics indicate that we in this country are generally modest consumers of alcohol per capita every year. I do not suppose we are any different in terms of the small percentage who become addicts or alcoholics; that seems to be a fairly general and sad fact. In most societies there is a small percentage of people who will become addicted to one substance or another, unhappily nowadays crossing over from alcohol to drugs and back again. Those statistics may not be of much cheer to the
I am sure that the noble Baroness, when she replies, will have some interesting and constructive thoughts in relation to the problems--mainly connected with younger males and their propensity in certain circumstances to indulge in activities which can be criminal as a result of an immoderate consumption of alcohol. One only has to read the newspapers every day or to follow the media to find cases of crime or sad events which may or may not be criminal, connected with alcohol abuse. Those are clearly most publicised, and have been publicised in recent years, in connection with sporting events. My noble friend Lord Addington will deal with that point. We have heard of British tourists misbehaving on international flights and some noble Lords may have seen a recent television programme about violence and alcohol on our railways, particularly our underground system in London.
There are also deaths and injuries from drinking and driving, although there has been a quite remarkable cultural change over the past 15 years. There has been an enormous change from when I was a young man. Generally speaking, I do not think that young males drink and drive. In fact, if one had to point the finger anywhere, it would be at middle-aged drivers, who drink and drive more than young people because they have not changed with the culture. The Minister may have something to say to us about that. Because I feel that there has been such a change and because I believe that when people have behaved well they need a pat on the back rather than being further chastised, I am not necessarily a supporter of more random testing. But persistent offenders--people who persist in driving while under the influence of drink--should be dealt with seriously, and sometimes severely.
The incidents we hear of are probably only part of the problem, either because other incidents have not been detected or because the link has not been made between alcohol and the crime. The overriding view given to the all-party group from doctors, the nursing profession, the Probation Service and the Prison Service was that not only is there a link between alcohol and crime but that not enough has yet been done to address the link. Therefore, a serious attempt must be made to reduce the large number of crimes which are undoubtedly related to alcohol.
The Police Superintendents Association estimates that more than 50 per cent. of all crimes have some alcohol component. The British Medical Association told the inquiry that two in three homicides, three in four stabbings and half of all fights in domestic situations are associated with alcohol. A survey by the West Midlands police showed that alcohol was a factor in 82 per cent. of disorder cases and 43 per cent. of assaults in that area of the British Isles, with most of the offences happening--this will not surprise your Lordships--around weekends and around closing time near licensed premises.
I shall return to the subject of licensed premises. Given the number of cases of assault and disorder which take place outside licensed premises around closing time, considerable efforts have already been made by parts of the drinks industry to improve the situation. It is recognised by the drinks trade that a higher level of training is needed by staff working in licensed premises not only to prevent disturbances and to foresee them but indeed to learn how alcohol works. If one has to teach young people about drink and about its health aspect it is quite important to tell them, as indeed I have tried to tell my own children--happily, I have had no problems so far--that not only does alcohol cause health problems if one drinks too much of it but that one has to understand what in each particular case it does. Some people become very aggressive. Some people like me become giggly and stupid--more giggly and stupid than usual. It is necessary for young people to be taught about the dangers of this and other substances.
We heard interesting evidence from the Prison Service. Bearing in mind the number of people who are in prison with alcohol problems, prisons are often without even the most basic information about alcohol and offer little access to counselling and rehabilitation services. In an overcrowded prison system it should be possible to remove a number of people who are not professional criminals. Many of them are, unhappily, inadequate people with problems who find themselves in places of that kind where their problems can only be aggravated.
The impact of alcohol abuse on family life is devastating. The problem affects not only inner city poor areas but also middle class affluent areas. The result of one person--a parent or a partner--having an alcohol problem and persistently getting into trouble with the police who may be called in to deal with domestic violence can be that person going to prison with little or no access to the kind of help which is needed to deal with the alcohol problem.
The report of the all-party group was a step in the right direction and it has gone to the Minister's department. Alcohol studies are not always the most charismatic or attractive of studies to read but this report is full of interesting information. I hope that the Government will consider seriously the recommendations in the report because there is no doubt that they are a much needed basis on which to work for a national and co-ordinated strategy to deal with the problem.
This subject is clearly, from the point of view of new action by the Government in the criminal context, closely related to drugs and cannot be considered in isolation from them, the question being whether self-induced abuse of alcohol or of drugs or even clandestine administration--spiked food or drink--affects the mental capacity in such a way as to exculpate from the commission of a crime. The new action taken would be perhaps to introduce better laws because, as the former chairman of the Law Commission, Mr. Justice Brooke, said in his reflections at page 914 of the Criminal Law Review (1995),
The problem arises in its most acute form--in the interests of time I shall confine my observations to it--in relation to the charge of murder, which, at the moment, is under general review and which incurs the mandatory life sentence. That should be under review, but it is not. It could extend to rape if the proposals as to a mandatory life sentence on second conviction are to be implemented. The automatic mandatory life sentence for a second offence of rape committed under a substantial consumption of self-induced drinking, or even perhaps administered, without any judicial discretion to take that into account, is quite a serious matter. I only mention that as an illustration of the magnitude of this question.
There is the case of Kingston. He was a young man whose food and drink was surreptitiously laced with a powerful intoxicant. Under its influence he caused someone's death with the intention of causing him serious harm. He could not have formed that intention if his drink had not been spiked. He was guilty of murder.
I said that I would make a short speech and I meant it. This is a matter which warrants not only the attention of the Law Commission, which it is about to receive, but also in due course the attention of government in context with a simple proposition; namely, how does the consumption of alcohol to a certain degree which affects intent or the administration of drugs, exculpate from crime?
Lord Addington: My Lords, when I started thinking about the question before us--that is to say, how alcohol and crime are related in our society--I found that it is very difficult to think of any general public disorder crimes which are not to some extent affected by alcohol. The simple reason is that alcohol is the drug of choice for virtually the whole of the Western world and is
Alcohol also breaks down inhibitions at different rates. As my noble friend has just said, different people react to alcohol in different ways. It affects people at different ages in different ways. It depends on one's diet. It is a very variable substance. Also, different types of alcohol react differently in different people at different times. With that chemical variant working through the system, the only thing that we can say for sure about it is that it creates situations where one is not so much in control and there are not so many inbuilt natural or social inhibitions influencing one's actions. There is, then, the situation of people being more prepared to follow through instincts or feelings and thus one has the breakdown of normal rules and regulations, law and order.
The principal offender is, and has always been, the young male. Although I feel something of a veteran when I play rugby, in this Chamber I believe that I am one of those closest to that group. In this context, people who are genetically the most boisterous and most affected by machismo and who take on alcohol may turn towards acts of violence and disorder.
I believe that that is what, primarily, we are talking about here. We are not talking so much about premeditation. There may be cases, for example, where people are drinking to break down inhibitions and to give themselves Dutch courage; for instance, in organised football violence. The Government have made successful attempts towards curtailing that problem over the past few years. Often the reaction is off the cuff. That is when a person finds himself in a situation of stress where the inhibitions are broken down and there is over-reaction. The young male who is over-reacting goes from punching someone on the nose to trying to use a knife or he is socially geared to carry a knife or use a piece of broken glass. Many crimes take place in that way, leading to a level of violence involving the taking of life.
In order to try to break down that situation, the Government are placed in a very odd situation. One of the great problems which the British have is that they are renowned as speed drinkers. We drink very fast: we are renowned for that abroad. Indeed, our licensing hours restricting the amount of time that one can spend in bars have often been pointed to as a contributor to that situation. Someone goes home from work, gets changed and goes out. Possibly that person does not go out until nine o'clock. The bar he is socialising in will be shut by eleven. Often it is a case of, "We must drink something to relax ourselves". We are creating a situation which encourages the over-consumption of alcohol over a short period of time, possibly on an empty stomach.
It is very odd to think that one might be actually easing the situation and reducing the tension by extending the amount of drinking time. I suggest in some situations the breaking down of the licensing hours after lunch. If people are not forced into a bar to
As regards sporting occasions, if people involved in those activities are sent out at certain hours when they have reached a certain degree of intoxication, one is again creating a cauldron. The behaviour also depends on culture. For instance, soccer crowds are made up predominantly of young men and there has been most trouble with them in the past. If one cuts down the amount of alcohol drunk on trains travelling to and from games and at the grounds, the amount of violence is reduced. Scotland showed us the way forward and that it is possible to tackle and to deal with such situations. We now have to think hard about allowing the consumption of alcohol on journeys to and from soccer matches and other sporting events. Boxing has had a very bad press, with possibly the same tribal instincts being stirred up, leading to similar results when alcohol is involved.
We are talking about the drug of choice for the whole of our society. There are very few situations in which, traditionally, people do not drink alcohol. It is still unusual to find people who do not drink alcohol. The most intelligent way forward would be to teach people about consumption patterns and about what happens to them when they consume alcohol. We have already made a huge cultural step forward in terms of drinking and driving. My noble friend referred to that. Drinking and driving is now regarded as idiotic by many members of our society. We must try to get people to realise that they must act responsibly for the good of themselves and those around them. If consuming too much alcohol is no longer socially acceptable, people will probably try to restrict their consumption.
Ultimately, unless we try to ban the sale of alcohol altogether, which will not work--indeed, the only part of the Western world which tried to do that created vastly more crime and far more alcoholism than was the case previously--we must try first to change the way in which we regard alcohol and, secondly, we must change the way in which we encourage its consumption. That is the only way forward with this problem.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we must be grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for tabling this Unstarred Question and for bringing to the attention of the House the excellent all-party group report, of which he was the vice-chairman, which I have read with a great deal of interest. The speeches that we have heard have a common basis although they have all been very different in emphasis. That common basis is the well-established link between alcohol and crime. That was shown clearly in the all-party report and has been confirmed by all of the agencies which are concerned with this serious problem.
As I understand it, the distinction between whether or not alcohol is a factor to be considered in judging a crime is whether the crime is one in which the state of mind of the accused--that is, the intention--is an essential part of the crime. Murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent are such crimes, but manslaughter and other crimes which do not involve intent are not such crimes. This is difficult to define. I know that the definitions derive from a House of Lords judgment in 1977 in the Majewski case. The subtlety which I still find a little difficult to understand is the concept of "Caldwell recklessness". I am still not quite clear what that means.
Basically what the Law Commission was saying--the Law Society and others who have responded probably agree--was that although there will always be difficulties around the edges, if we stick to the concept of "intent" to cause a particular result, it is possible to rely on the intoxicated state as being evidence that the defendant had no such intention. However, a drunken intention is still an intention at law. Therefore, the law will never be entirely clear on this point. If, on the other hand, the allegation is only that the person realised that there was a risk that a particular result might occur, intoxication would not be a defence. The conclusion that one draws from that is that if there are changes to be made in the law--I believe that the Law Commission has a draft Bill--they will be relatively minor and therefore we should not expect too much change.
I move now without too much difficulty to the social issues raised by the noble Viscount. The conclusion that I draw from the all-party report is that a wide variety of people have to be responsible if any progress is to be made. I do not think that it is a matter of saying, "The Government must do this"--although perhaps one may wish that the ministerial group which existed between 1987 and 1991 could be revived--although the involvement of local authorities, magistrates, the police, the prison service and sporting authorities will be necessary. We shall have to chip away at the problem because we are never going to solve it.
Perhaps I may refer first to local authorities and, to a lesser extent, health authorities. Coventry and some other places have introduced a by-law prohibiting street drinking in certain areas. There is a lot to be said for that. I am sure that all of us find it personally offensive to see people (not only in shopping areas but elsehere, and particularly on public transport) going around even early in the morning with beer cans in their hands from which they take a glug from time to time. It appears from the Coventry experience--evidence was given to the all-party group--that there are things which can be done which have some effect in reducing certain kinds
It is also important to be much fiercer than we are about requesting proof of age in pubs. I know that my sons all started drinking in pubs long before they were legally allowed to do so. I am sure that that is the experience of most Members of your Lordships' House and of most people generally. If there were an effective system of requiring proof of age, as there is in most of the United States, perhaps we could get rid of another aspect of alcohol-related crime. However, in order to do that local authorities have to have responsibility for crime prevention in conjunction with police authorities. We regretted very much the fact that the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act of a couple of years ago did not put crime prevention at the core of collaboration between local authorities and police authorities.
I turn briefly to the sporting events to which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred. I agree with what he said, but when he spoke about football violence I thought that he was being a little selective in class terms. Surely alcohol violence at Varsity matches and the Boat Race, if not at Test matches, shows that alcohol-related crime applies just as much to the upper classes as to the lower classes. I can see the noble Viscount, Lord Long, recalling his long past and no doubt raddled youth. I recall Evelyn Waugh in Decline and Fall describing the sound of the upper classes baying after broken glass. Perhaps that is what he is remembering.
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