§ 1. Mr. Donald Thompson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusions he has been able to draw from the experimental byelaw banning public drinking in parts of Coventry.
§ The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. John Patten)
The information available so far from the experiment in Coventry suggests that the byelaw is going extremely well. Research is in hand to assess the impact of the byelaw as fully as possible. Later this year we shall be studying analyses of results of the experiments in all the trial areas before deciding on the next steps.
§ Mr. Thompson
When my right hon. Friend is considering the evidence, he will remember that most drinking takes place on convivial occasions. However, there are times when that is not so. Will he consider allowing magistrates to have a little flexibility, so that they can ban outside drinking for an hour or two hours on a specific day, at a specific occasion, at a specific time and For a specific purpose?
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend's suggestion does not surprise me, in the light of his distinguished service to the ministerial group on alcohol misuse. He has made a very interesting suggestion, which had not occurred to me. There is a power already in section 188 of the Licensing Act 1964 for magistrates to take emergency action of that sort when there is a threat of public disorder. However, we shall need to take account of my hon. Friend's constructive suggestion. In addition, it is true that, from time to time, drinking can be very convivial, as I remember with my hon. Friend in his constituency at the Hebden Bridge constitutional club.
§ Sir Dudley Smith
In view of the Government's sensible liberation of the licensing laws, would it not be prudent to consider banning open air drinking in open spaces in the towns adjacent to Coventry and in inner city areas throughout the country?
§ Mr. Patten
I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes our new licensing legislation. We have in hand seven experiments that are examining the possibility of banning drinking in public places. As soon as the experiments are completed towards the end of 1991, we hope to be able to bring forward further suggestions, There may well be room for a radical extension of the scheme, provided that it proves successful.