HC Deb 11 July 1962 vol 662 cc1462-5
Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 13, line 6, to leave out "in a bar".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

With this Amendment it will be possible also to discuss the following three Amendments to page 13. in lines 11, 15 and 17.

Mr. Ross

That would be agreeable, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

This Amendment is moved in the forlorn hope that the Government will give protection to young persons. We have had representations from the Scottish Temperance Alliance and also from the Scottish licensed trade on this matter. I find it difficult to think that protection for young people should be limited to the consumption of exciseable liquor in that part of the licensed premises which is in a bar.

The Clause says: Subject to the provisions of section fourteen of this Act, in licensed premises the holder of the certificate or his servant or agent shall not knowingly sell exciseable liquor to a person under eighteen, or knowingly allow a person under eighteen to consume exciseable liquor in a bar, … Why limit the protection in this way to this particular part of licensed premises? If there is danger in a bar there is danger elsewhere in licensed premises. I should prefer a much more comprehensive approach to this matter.

We should bear in mind the new type of licensed premises which we now see, and which we shall see in future, in which the bar recedes more and more into the back room. There is the business of making drinking more respectable and civilised so that people sit in saloons and lounges and are more fastidious in their decorative tastes, but the danger to young people remains the same. The danger is the actual drink itself. I do not think that drink for young people in expensively decorated, curtained and well-furnished lounges is any less a danger than it is in a bar. It may be even more dangerous because the places may be more attractive.

I should like to see an up-to-date attitude adopted to the protection of young people. As in so many things, the Government have been content to take a sort of mechanical attitude by readopting and vamping up old legislation. They have made no attempt to project their thought into the future about developments of licensed premises in Scotland in five, ten or fifteen years' time. I do not think that anyone can look with joy upon or take great credit for the amount of drinking which goes on among young people and the amount of drunkenness among young people.

During the course of the Bill I have never tried to pose as a teetotaller and I have not said that we should take restrictive steps in relation to people of mature minds. But we have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything possible to protect young people from an early addiction to alcohol and all the dangers which ensue. Our consideration in giving protection in this respect ought to have gone far beyond that in the Bill.

I do not want to elaborate the point, because we dealt with it at length in Committee, but I hope that the Government will adopt a much more constructive and realistic approach to the problem than they have hitherto.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Brooman-White

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) feels that we have not been constructive about this. We have fairly recognised the need, and have taken substantial steps in the Bill, to tighten the law in relation to the sale of drink to young persons where we feel the main danger lies—not only now but looking ahead—in off-sales to them.

The definition of a bar is any place exclusively or mainly used for the sale or consumption of excisable liquor". We have always felt that it was undesirable for young people to be brought into that sort of atmosphere, but it has long been the case that when of a suitable age they could have a drink of some sort provided by an adult if they were in another part of the premises. That has been the law for many years, and it has not given rise to any abuse of which we are aware, nor have we received any representations about it. We therefore feel that we should not change it. We do not want to be restrictive in circumstances in which the existing position has not given rise to abuse of which we have knowledge. In those circumstances, we prefer to resist the Amendment.

Sir M. Galpern

The hon. Member says that he has had no evidence on the subject. What sort of evidence would he like either authorities or hon. Members to adduce? Is it insufficient when we tell him that the incidence of drinking among people under 21—as he well knows—has trebled since 1946? What lesson are we to learn from those figures except that all these blandishments persuading young people to go into beautifully decorated lounge bars are leading to more and mare people under 21 taking to drink? Is that not sufficient evidence?

Mr. Brooman-White

If I may reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), with the permission of the House, I would say that if there had been drunkenness in those circumstances, we assume that it would have come to the attention of the police and that we should have heard about it. Representations have been made by the police and others about the danger of off-sales to people of this age group in view of their present financial circumstances, and we have dealt with that. If there had been juvenile drunkenness to any marked degree along the lines mentioned by the hon. Member, action would have been taken and it would have come to our notice.

Amendment negatived.