HL Deb 26 January 1982 vol 426 cc925-43

House again in Committee.

Clause 50 [Drunkenness]:

The Earl of Selkirk moved Amendment No. 57: Page 32, line 34, after (" place ") insert (" or on any property defined in section 61(3) ").

The noble Earl said: This amendment may be unnecessary in the view of my noble friend. Clause 50 deals with the question of how you handle persons who are drunk and incapable. That deals with persons drunk and incapable in public places only; but what I am suggesting is that there should be a perfectly clear connection between Clauses 50 and 61. Clause 61 deals with persons who commit offences on private property. I want to be quite clear that, if a person is drunk and incapable on private property, the person authorised—the tenant or any person including the owner or, as the case may be, the tenant/ occupier—who finds him committing an offence can use those powers not only in respect of Clause 61 but also in respect of offences under Clause 50.

That may be held by Clause 61(4), which makes reference to Clause 50. But the difference here is that the offence is in a public place—that is to say, under Clause 50—whereas in Clause 61 the offence is on private property. I think it important to be clear that offences in a private place are also offences in private property; and not only that, but the person committing that offence can be arrested by a private person. I want to be clear that that is the case. If it is the case already, then I am happy. If it is not, I believe that this amendment should be included. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

Under the terms of Clause 50, a person who, in certain circumstances, is drunk in a public place, with all that that implies, is guilty of an offence. I remind my noble friend that not only does it include under the terms of Clause 50(7) any place to which the public have unrestricted access, including doorways, entrances and the common areas of tenement buildings, but also includes any place to which at the material time the public are permitted to have access whether on payment or otherwise and any public conveyance other than a taxi or a hire car within the meaning of Clause 22.

What my noble friend is seeking to do is to make it an offence to be drunk not only in a public place but also on any private property. I am bound to say that we find this unacceptably wide. The Committee may recall our debate on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. It was then made plain, so far as the Government were concerned, that it was our intention to move towards the removal of simple drunkenness from the criminal calendar. The dreadful, trendy word is now " decriminalisation ", but I use that word under protest. As a first step, Section 56 of the Act abolished imprisonment for the statutory offence of drunkenness, so that the purpose of Clause 50(1) is to deal with a nuisance that can be created by persons who are drunk and incapable in public places.

If the Committee were to accept my noble friend's amendment, I think that would be a retrogressive step. It would widen the scope of the offence to make it an offence to be drunk and incapable not only in a public place but also on any private property—indeed, even in one's own house. I should point out that Section 7 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1903 covers only drunkenness in public places. If one considers that this clause of the Bill is one designed to deal with public nuisances—that is to say, people who are drunk and incapable in the street and other places to which the public have unrestricted access, and, indeed, public transport—then I think it goes far enough. I think that it would be going far too far to make the matter as wide as my noble friend suggests by virtue of this amendment. I hope, therefore, that on reflection he will agree to withdraw it.

The Earl of Selkirk

I understand the point that my noble friend is making. I want to put it the other way. Supposing somebody is in your property whom you do not want there and is drunk and incapable? Can you apprehend him as is stated under Clause 61(3) and hand him over? This is the point that I have in mind. If someone is in your property—however he got there—and makes himself drunk and incapable, what do you do with him? The remedy provided under Clause 61(3) is a perfectly satisfactory remedy which one can deal with; otherwise one can hand him over to the police and get rid of him out of the house. That seems a rational step to be able to take.

May I say that 1 do not know—if this is what my noble friend is saying—how he deals with Clause 61(4) which says: This section applies to offences under Sections 50, 59 and 60 of this Act ". That means that Section 50 offences also apply in the circumstances of private property which is referred to under Clause 61. I am not certain what those words mean if they do not mean that one can take action for an offence which is on public property. It may be on the strict drafting of this Bill that my noble friend is perfectly correct but I do not quite know then what is not correct. In other words, what does the term " Section 50 " mean there? Does it mean one can take action under the specific Section 50 which deals exclusively with drunkenness? If it is not covered, can he think of some way of covering it in the sense that a person uninvited—not the owner—can be excluded from the house if he is drunk and incapable in the house? What does one do in those circumstances? I should like to believe that one can take action under Clause 61(3), and one can apprehend him and hand him over to the custody of a constable. If it is not in the Bill already, I think there should be some provision of that character.

The Earl of Mansfield

Clause 61(3) gives the owner, tenant or occupier of any heritable property in which an offence under Clause 50 is being committed a power to apprehend and detain the person involved. Therefore, the position is clear. He can apprehend somebody who is drunk on his premises. Clause 61(3), which is the definitive part of the clause with which we are dealing, allows the owner of a public house, as an example, to apprehend and detain a drunk on his premises. Although Clause 61 relates back to Clause 50, the clause with which we are dealing relates to drunks in public. I hope, therefore, this is now plain to my noble friend.

There are two issues: first, the offence of being drunk and incapable of a public place. That is what we are considering in Clause 50. I have resisted my noble friend's amendment because it would widen the terms of the offence far too much in circumstances in which we are trying to narrow down the offence of simple drunkenness and trying to deal with those cases outside the ambit of the criminal law. What my noble friend is talking about in Clause 61 is different and relates to the power of people to detain—in the case of subsection (3)—people who can be on property which can be private. I hope this is clear.

The Earl of Selkirk

I am not entirely happy with what the noble Earl has said. I hope that he has taken the point and I hope that he will consider it further. If someone forces his way into your house—that is private property—and is drunk and incapable, what do you do? I am not wholly satisfied that the noble Earl has answered that. Perhaps he will think about it. This is an offence. In a sense for a non-invited guest a private house is a public place. He has wandered in and should be dealt with as if he had been outside the house. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendments Nos. 57A to 57C: Page 32, line 38, leave out (" 7 ") and insert (" 10 "). Page 33, line 2, leave out (" 7 ") and insert (" 10 "). Page 33, line 6, leave out (" 7 ") and insert (" 10 ").

The noble Lord said: These amendments deal with the offence of drunkenness, but not simple drunkenness. The last amendment related to being drunk and incapable. We are now dealing with any person who is drunk in a public place while in charge of a child. I do not know, quite honestly, whether it is worth having subsections (2) (5) or (6) in the clause. If you are drunk and incapable, then you are liable for arrest and the penalty is £50. If you are drunk in a public place, in charge of a child, the offence is punishable still by a fine not exceeding £50. The same is true about subsection (6)—a fine not exceeding £50.

If a person is drunk it is bad enough when he is incapable of looking after himself, but when he has a child with him or is carrying a loaded firearm, or a firearm, then that merits a much increased fine. It aggravates the original offence of drunkenness. Leaving that aside—because I am not dealing with it in Amendment No. 57A—the question arises about being in charge of a child. Is it right that the age should be seven? I think it is far too low an age at which to draw a line, and I have suggested in my amendment that the age should be 10.

Since I put down my amendment I have had correspondence from Glasgow and I think their age is much higher—under the age of 12. While there is something to be said for that, to my mind there is nothing to be said for putting the age as low as seven. I have seen many people in the street in charge of children who are over the age of seven, and they really should not be in charge of them in the state they have been in. I think it is a serious offence and merits more than the penalty for simple drunkenness, but I also consider that the age should be at least 10. My amendment and the two subsequent ones, which are consequential, would leave out " seven " and insert " 10 ". I hope the Government will see their way to accept that suggestion. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

The existing provision in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1903, which Clause 50(2) is designed to replace, make it an offence to be drunk in a public place while in charge of a child under the age of seven. It is not now known what particular significance, if any, the age of seven years had at that time. I have to confess that the only reason for putting " seven " in Clause 50 is that that is the age which is used in the 1903 Act. I do not know how the noble Lord alighted on the age of 10, but I confess that I should like to test the opinion of the Committee on this. If noble Lords feel there is now a case for extending the protection afforded by this section to children between the ages of seven and 10, I think I would accept the amendment; so I am in the hands of the Committee.

The Earl of Selkirk

May I just make one point. Supposing a man is drunk and he is with a girl of 15—I should think it is very improper to go around with a girl of that age, but I think that a girl of 10 with a drunken father, if that is the case, is improper and should be curtailed. I should have said that 10 was certainly not too high.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I should also like to support that. If we say 10 or 12, children pass on to secondary school, at any rate in the country districts, when they are 10 or 11 and therefore have more experience. But I certainly think that 10 is the absolute minimum and I would not mind if it were 12.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I would agree that 10 is a much more reasonable age than seven.

Lord Drumalbyn

I share that view, too.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The Minister of State has heard the views of the Committee from all parts and from both sexes. I think it is quite clear. However, there is one other danger: if you arc going to put the age as low as seven, you will get to the point where you will say: " the child is 10 and the child is in charge of the father ". Therefore, subsection (1) becomes very dangerously defective.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

It could be a mother.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Yes, it could be a mother, but it is most unlikely. Scots mothers are not like that, as I am sure the noble Lord will fully appreciate.

The Earl of Mansfield

The Committee is clearly of the opinion that this is an amendment which should be accepted, and I therefore invite the Committee to do just that.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57CA: Page 33, line 8, leave out (" loaded ").

The noble Earl said: The offence of being drunk in a public place while in possession of a firearm is essentially a public nuisance offence. The proposal is to delete the adjective " loaded " and that is in recognition of the fact that the person who is drunk in a public place while in possession of a firearm, and it is unknown to the persons present whether it is loaded or not, is no less a nuisance than a person who is drunk in a public place while in possession of a firearm which is loaded but which fact is equally unknown to the persons present. So, in effect, the amendment seeks to protect the public from both types of nuisance by making it an offence to be drunk in a public place while in possession of a firearm, whether or not it is loaded. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think the important thing is that you have a person in a public place with a firearm and people do not know whether it is loaded or unloaded. The other important thing is that the person is himself loaded.

Lord Drumalbyn

There is just one point here. The firearm may be covered and may be in a sling. Surely that would not be an offence?

The Earl of Mansfield

Yes, it would.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment 57D: Page 33, line 10, leave out (" £50 ") and insert (" £100 ").

The noble Lord said: I think we have all agreed that being in possession of a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, is a serious matter. Your Lordships can well imagine what would happen in a crowd, for instance, if a person started brandishing, as a drunken man is much more likely to do, a firearm. Now we come to this question of penalties. This surely is not the same thing as someone being drunk in a public place. If being drunk in a public place commands a penalty of £50, surely these special circumstances mean that the offence is more serious and indeed that the penalty should be greater. My amendment suggests that we should remove £50 and replace it with £100.

The Earl of Mansfield

This offence, although it has grave connotations, is essentially what is described as a minor nuisance offence. If the offender's actions constitute more than a minor nuisance there are several other much more serious offences which can be charged either in addition to or by way of substitution of an offence under Clause 50. Examples which spring to mind are breach of the peace, assault, reckless discharge of a firearm—and of course it is a separate offence under the Firearm Act 1968 to be in possession of a loaded firearm in a public place without lawful authority. So for these reasons I do not think it would be appropriate to impose a more severe penalty than the other minor nuisance offences involving drunkenness.

The other matter is that a tine of £100 would be at variance with the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill, which is now going through its stages in another place. That Bill seeks to rationalise tines for summary offences by placing them on the appropriate point of a five-point scale; that is, £25, £50, £200, £500 and £1,000. The amendment would put the maximum fine for their particular offence at complete variance with the attempted rationalisation.

The important part of this is that if somebody does anything with a firearm in a public place, whether it is loaded or not and whether they are drunk or not—which in effect is, shall I say? a nuisance or worse so far as the public are concerned—there are far graver offences with which they could quite easily be charged than this offence. It is for that reason that I would resist the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am sorry about that. I think that there should be degrees of nuisance as well. In relation to drunkenness, what is outlined in subsections (1) and (2) is fairly obvious. To be drunk in charge of a child is more serious and, to my mind, should merit a heavier penalty. The same is true of what we are addressing ourselves to now. The Minister of State cannot have it every way. He has already persuaded us to leave out the word " loaded ", so that all we are talking about is a firearm. I still think, despite all he said, that it is far better, when we are legislating in this way, to be rational and to put our degrees of nuisance in here. If the Government want to make any consequential changes in another Bill that is going through the House, they can do so. But I still think that this merits a fine greater than £50.

The Earl of Mansfield

If the noble Lord really thinks that, he should go up the scale to £200 and, at least, he consistent, and do that at a later stage. I have tried to explain why £100 is quite inappropriate.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

In this case, I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, because, if no worse occurs, to be drunk in charge of a firearm is not as bad as being drunk in charge of a child. As there are penalties for being dangerous thereafter, I rather agree with the Minister in this case.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, agrees with the Minister at the same time as he agrees with me, that it is more serious to be drunk in charge of a child than it is to be drunk in charge of a firearm, and it is only £50 for each of those. I originally drew attention to this anomaly in logic. There is another stage, and the Liberals and we shall together, I hope, press upon the Government the need to do something more than is being done here. Meantime, in view of the impeccable logic of the Minister of State on this occasion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.12 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 57E: Page 33, line 11, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: We now come to what is probably the most important amendment of the night, which has to do with being drunk in charge of a horse or cattle. This is 26th January, and 1 had to cancel one or two very important engagements to be here tonight because I thought that this was so important. At one of those engagements, I was to recite a poem by Robert Burns called Tam o' Shanter. If noble Lords remember, Tam had got planted unco right, Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely; And at his elbow, Souter Johnny, His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony; Tam lo'ed him like a very brither; They had been fou for weeks thegither. This was no exception, according to the poem, for, Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

So he was drunk, but what did he proceed to do? He got on his horse: Weel mounted on his gray mare, Meg, A better never lifted leg, Tam skelpit on". It is such a wonderful poem that you begin to wonder where he will stop. But there is no doubt that there was Tam o' Shanter and, without the benefit of fines or an Act of Parliament, he managed to proceed towards Alloway and there he saw some terrible things: Warlocks and witches in a dance! Nae cotillon brent new frae France, But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels, Put life and mettle in their heels. A winnock-bunker in the east, There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast "— and all because he was drunk in charge of a horse. We must try to save the Scots from this terrible fate. Your Lordships will remember what Burns said: Now wha this tale o' truth shall read, Each man and mother's son, take heed; Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd. Or cutty-sarks rin in your mind, Think! ye may buy the boys o'er dear; Remember Tam o'Shanter's mare. After this Bill goes through, we shall need to change that to, Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd, Remember now you may be fined.

Do we really want this penalty of £50 for being drunk in charge? I do not know how many people have been charged with being drunk in charge of a horse. As in the case of Tam, when the rider is drunk the horse very often takes him home. It is well-known in farming circles, probably around the Aberdeen area. It has even been known in Ayrshire for the horse to take the rider home. I am just wondering whether we should go ahead with it.

So far as cattle are concerned, there was a case in Stornoway a few weeks ago when somebody was drunk in charge of a cow. I do not know exactly what happened, but, again, for that the fine would be £50. You could charge the man with being drunk and still fine him as in this case, which the Government designate as being specially serious and which I have my doubts about. This may have been needed when there were far more people like Tam o' Shanter going to market on horses and creating trouble, not just in Alloway but in other places as well. I doubt very much whether it is worth putting this in now. In view of the fact that we already have the warning from Burns about the danger of being drunk in charge of horses, we should rest on that, rather than on this new-found piece of poetry that comes from the Scottish Office draftsmen. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

One of the disadvantages of a brief is that one cannot compete with the noble Lord, although I dare say that the shorthand writers will be grateful—

Lord Ross of Marnock

I assure the noble Earl that I warned them to have their Burns ready.

The Earl of Mansfield

The fact is that this is an offence which does not figure too highly in the calendar. The noble Lord was perfectly right when he said that in Stornoway last month a man was convicted of the offence of being drunk in charge of cattle, and in July 1981 there was what I might call a Tam o' Shanter situation, when a person was reported for being drunk in charge of a horse. When we were consulting with various authorities as to the contents of this Bill, the Association of Chief Police Officers made representations that, although they expected the powers to be infrequently used, there would be some advantage in retaining the offence. That is why subsection (6) finds its way into the Bill.

I suppose that, particularly in the country areas, it is irritating for the local citizenry to have stockmen drunk in charge of their beasts and, perhaps, in those circumstances it is sensible to keep this provision. What I think the noble Lord, Lord Ross, must show, if he wants to exclude subsection (6), is that there is some good reason for deleting it. I appreciate that there are not too many cases, but there are a few. I am glad to say that Scotland is still a reasonably agricultural country, and I suppose that we must so frame our criminal law that we take cognisance of that fact. So in spite of the infrequency with which the law is to be used, and the fact that one may have a certain sympathy with people who are drunk in charge of animals, I think the noble Lord may agree that we should retain the offence for the time being.

Lord Ross of Marnock

If " for the time being " is between now and Report stage, I shall agree with the Minister of State. But, if a person is drunk, you can charge him anyway and fine him £50. For some reason or other, the Government are not going to change that, unless we convince them that this should have been dropped along with some of the other things which were in the now obsolete private legislation of the old burghs. However, I shall not press the amendment now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 57F: Page 33, line 19, leave out (" taxi or ").

The noble Lord said: The intention of the amendment was to leave out the words " taxi or ". It could be argued that some protection ought to be afforded to taxi drivers from people who are drunk in taxis. This can be a nuisance for taxi drivers. However, it is a matter which we can take up later. Therefore, I do not propose to move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 57F not moved.]

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [Obscene material]:

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57FA: Page 33, line 25, leave out (" subsections (3) and (4) ") and insert (" subsection (5) ").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting amendment. The opening words of subsection (2) of Clause 51 state that the provisions of subsection (2) are subject to the provisions of subsections (3) and (4). Subsection (3) merely fixes the penalty for offences under subsections (1) and (2). So subsection (2) should have referred to subsections (4) and (5) which provide a saving for persons who distribute obscene material otherwise than for gain and provide a " due diligence " defence in respect of offences under subsection (2). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57FB: Page 33, leave out from the beginning of line 26 to (" any ") in line 28 and insert (" publishes, sells or distributes or, with a view to its eventual sale or distribution, makes, prints, has or keeps ").

The noble Earl said: Clause 51 does not penalise simple possession of obscene material. It only penalises possession where such possession is with a view to sale or distribution. However, if one makes or prints some obscene material in one's own home simply for one's own possession and with no view to sale or distribution, one is guilty of an offence under Clause 51 as presently drafted. There is an inconsistency. We feel that Clause 51 should be amended to provide that the making and printing of obscene material are, like possession, only offences when they are with a view to eventual sale or distribution. It is really a matter of consistency. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Marnock had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 57G: Page 33, line 36, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: There have been alterations to subsection (2) since I put down this amendment. I should like to have a look at them and then see how the subsection reads. I am not terribly happy about it. I do not know whether or not there is any inconsistency in the fact that the word " prints " is still there as against what is elsewhere. For that reason, I do not propose to move the amendment. Nevertheless, it is a subject to which I shall return, probably at an earlier time of the day, because it merits the consideration of the House.

[Amendment No. 57G not moved.]

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57GA: Page 34, line 5, leave out from (" above ") to end of line 7 and insert (" the court may, if satisfied that the person accused is guilty of an offence under section 1(1) of the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981 (offence of public display of indecent matter), convict him of a breach of the said section 1(1).").

The noble Earl said: As presently drafted, subsection (6) of Clause 51 provides that where a person is charged with the offence of displaying obscene material under subsection (1) he may be convicted of the offence of displaying indecent material under the Indecent Displays Control Act 1981. This provision is designed to cover cases where a person who is charged with the offence of displaying obscene material in a public place is found not guilty of that offence on the grounds that the material displayed was merely indecent. It allows the court in such circumstances to convict the accused of the offence of displaying indecent material. It is not, however, entirely clear from the wording of subsection (6) that a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) can be found guilty of an offence under section 1(1) of the Indecent Displays Control Act only if the display was an offence under that Act. So there could, for example, be circumstances where a person who has been charged with an offence under subsection (1) is found not guilty on the grounds that the material displayed was merely indecent and where the material was displayed in circumstances where the display of indecent material is permitted by the Indecent Displays Control Act. In such circumstances, it would not be appropriate to find the accused guilty of an offence under the 1981 Act. This amendment therefore simply makes it clear that a person charged with the offence of obscene display under subsection (1) can be found guilty of an offence under section 1(1) of the Indecent Displays Control Act only if the display was an offence under that Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Earl Cathcart)

In calling Amendment No. 57H, I must say that, if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 57HA.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No.57H: Page 34, line 8, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: I suggest that we should have another look at this subsection. Nothing in it applies to any matter relating to television and sound broadcasting. All this might have been relevant when one could argue that the BBC, with their standards, would do something about it and that this would cover the whole country and would not be a matter for a district authority. The same could be true of the Independent Television Authority. The new factor is that commercial radio stations now cover limited areas. Radio Clyde covers the Glasgow area while Radio West Sound covers the Ayrshire district area of Kyle and Carrick. Are we to suggest that one gets nothing obscene or indecent from them? I should like to think that that was so, but how are we going to deal with it if it arises? Some people may have objected to a programme which went out last night on Radio West Sound. They may have had to listen to 20 minutes of Ross of Marnock on the subject of Robert Burns. But I do not think that because I was broadcasting I should be allowed to say what I like and offend people by saying something which they might consider to be offensive.

I am wondering whether the new situation regarding local radio is amply covered by the exceptions. I am not sure. I do not know whether the Independent Broadcasting Authority transmits; they do not produce programmes. It may be a different matter for the BBC; they actually produce and transmit programmes. It may be argued that the Independent Broadcasting Authority provide the facilities for transmission, so that covers it. There are many people who are worried about the kind of things which are broadcast on radio and television. I would have said that some of the broadcasts were indecent. This kind of exception should be explained to the Scottish public. It should be explained to them that their broadcasts are covered by some other procedure. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

The noble Lord's speech, as opposed to the content of his amendment, dealt with obscene material in broadcasting, and I shall therefore confine myself to broadcasts rather than plays. This exemption in respect of television broadcasts by the BBC or IBA—or indeed radio broadcasts, because the two are exactly similar—or by way of a diffusion service (that is to say, local community cable television or subscription television) is similar to that contained in Section 1(3) (b) of the Obscene Publicatons Act 1959. Indeed, the exemption in that Act also extends to sound broadcasts by the BBC or IBA, but unfortunately the words " or sound " have been omitted from the Bill. That I intend to rectify by way of a Government amendment.

The noble Lord will be aware that successive Governments have stuck to the policy that the responsibility for programmes broadcast by the BBC or IBA must rest with the broadcasting authorities themselves, who act as trustees for the public interest in broadcasting. The exemption for the BBC and IBA from the provisions of Clause 51 is in line with this policy. The BBC under its charter and the IBA under its statute have an obligation to maintain proper standards and they take this obligation very seriously. To that extent, the noble Lords' amendment is unneccesary. There are other matters which the amendment envisages, such as video cassettes and closed circuit television as well as plays. But as the noble Lord has confined his remarks to broadcasting, I shall do likewise.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57HA: Page 34, line 9, after (" television ") insert (" or sound ").

The noble Earl said: Subsection (7) of Clause 51 exempts television broadcasts from the provisions of Clause 51. As I have said, this is in line with the policy of successive Governments. The extension of this exemption to cover sound broadcasts by the BBC and IBA accords with that policy and brings the exemption in the Bill in line with that in the Obscene Publications Act 1959. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57HB: Page 34, leave out lines 28 to 31.

The noble Earl said: The definition of " publishes " in subsection (9) of Clause 51 is designed to bring within the scope of the offence provision in subsection (2) the playing of obscene records, tape recordings and video tapes and the showing of obscene films and so on. However, in its reference to material which " if played or projected … would be obscene " the definition implies that material which is designed to be played or projected is only obscene if it is actually played or projected. That, of course, is not the intention. It is intended that obscene records and films should be caught by the provisions of Clause 51 at the point of making and distribution and not only when they are played or projected, and so on. The amendment therefore removes the unwanted implication while retaining the intended effect of the definition. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 57HC: Page 34, line 33, at end insert ("; and the reference to publishing includes a reference to playing, projecting or otherwise reproducing.").

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this amendment, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

8.35 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 57J: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause:

" Solvent abuse

. The inhalation of any chemical substance or combination of substances for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication, elation, euphoria, excitement or irrational behaviour shall be an offence.").

The noble Lord said: This is a new clause that I consider should be considered by your Lordships, dealing with glue sniffing. It is something that has come more and more to the fore in recent years, not only in Scotland but elsewhere in the United Kingdom. We have had quite a few cases, not least one in December of last year, when a young Scots lad aged 14 was found dying in a wood in Stirlingshire. The post mortem, it was suggested, would give the cause of death as glue sniffing.

There have been quite a few deaths and the argument has been made, how on earth can one make this an offence? Would such action be effective? Would it be better to try to deal with the question of supply? One appreciates that the supply comprises an amazing number of substances which are quite innocent and useful in the home and to tradesmen. Then there has been the suggestion that shopkeepers should be persuaded not to sell this glue to young people. There have been voluntary arrangements made in some places and in other parts of the world. I believe there was one place in America where they persuaded shopkeepers not to sell this glue to minors unless they were accompanied by an older person. That had some effect.

The position at the moment was outlined by police in, I believe, Strathclyde: that all they could do if they found someone sniffing glue on several occasions was to take him home and get the parents to warn him. That has not been effective. I believe the police would also suggest eventually that they should try to bring the children before a children's panel and try to get treatment. Whether we can get this measure of agreement and co-operation from parents without glue sniffing being an offence is very doubtful indeed. My suggestion is that we make it an offence. I have not put in any penalty because I believe that that is a matter for further consideration. The answer may well be to give the police the power to bring the children before the children's panel and, because it is an offence by young people, let the children's panel decide what kind of treatment ought to be given. But something must be done.

I believe that, according to the Scottish Sunday Standard, it was Tampa, in Florida, which succeeded in bringing in legislation prohibiting the inhalation of any chemical substance for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication, dizziness, exhilaration and the rest of it. It was also reported that a police inspector from the community involved in Strathclyde visited Tampa early last year to assess the impact of that development. He said that it had not stopped glue sniffing altogether but there was no doubt that it had had a deterrent effect. Even if the proposed clause achieved that, that would be something. If we go on doing absolutely nothing in respect of this problem and find it worsening, then we shall be blamed. This is an appalling thing, where youngsters from 8 to 15 years of ageschoolchildren—are mainly involved. It occurs where there are housing schemes and where there are high rise flats. I am told that one can even tell where it is being done from the marks on the walls.

So far the Scottish Office have made noises, but most of the time they have been saying, " This is no use, that is no use, and the next thing is no use ". We have never discussed the matter in this House, and I am sorry that we should be discussing it at such a late hour, when we should be thinking about the difficulties which Members are going to have because of the problems of transport at the present time. I think it is serious. I think we have to do something about it quickly. If the Government cannot accept this amendment, can they tell us what they are going to do and when they are going to do it? I beg to move.

Lord Drumalbyn

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has said about this. I wonder whether he has gone quite far enough. I wonder whether it would not be better to say, " the inhalation of, or causing another person to inhale, any chemical substance ". It might be worthwhile adding those words.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

I should like to support this proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. It is, so to speak, a fairly new offence with young people. It is quite inexplicable, so far as I am concerned; I simply cannot understand why it has caught on as it has. It is extremely dangerous. People do it encouraged by other people. It grows all the time, because young people encourage their friends to do it. I think it is something we should try and stop at once. I entirely agree with both noble Lords that this is the moment when we ought to look at it really seriously and see whether something can be done. I agree with Lord Drumalbyn that you could add something to the amendment and make it even more powerful. I entirely support what Lord Ross has said.

The Earl of Mansfield

Noble Lords in the Committee have shared the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Ross, about the very serious problem of solvent abuse. The Government equally share his concern. He is no doubt aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State recently issued a consultative memorandum, which discusses various possible ways of approaching the problem and, in particular, the role which the children's hearings system might play. Members in another place had a very full debate on this issue in the Scottish Grand Committee on 3rd December. So far as the memorandum goes, among the matters upon which views were invited was the suggestion that inhalation of solvents should be made a criminal offence, and comments on these matters have been sought from a considerable number of bodies. We have asked that, if possible, the comments should reach us by the end of next month. It would be premature of me to try to give any indicaton of our thinking before the comments on the memorandum have been received.

Noble Lords should be aware that Ministers in England as well as in Scotland have expressed strong reservations about the creation of such an offence, because among the considerations which I think are relevant are that to make somebody who inhales glue or some other solvent a criminal is likely to drive the practice further underground and therefore make detection and treatment, which perhaps in this instance is more important than conviction, that much more difficult. Furthermore, the Committee should be aware that a sheriff in December last year conducted a fatal accident inquiry into two deaths resulting from such inhalation. He recorded that the senior police officer and the reporter to the children's panel, who had each given evidence, had both indicated that if solvent abuse were to be made a criminal offence it would greatly hamper the work of their respective departments to help children and their parents. So thinking on this particularly difficult matter is by no means one-sided. I hope, therefore, that the Committee, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will accept that the Government are thinking very seriously about this very serious problem and how it is to be tackled, and we shall take stock of the situation once the comments on the memorandum have been received and then see what, in the light of those comments, is the best way forward. In the meantime, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ross, for bringing this to the attention of the Committee, but I ask him, for the moment at any rate, to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I thank the Minister of State for his response to the concern that has been expressed, not just by this side of the Committee but by his own side as well. The fact is that we have not got legislation to deal with it and we need legislation of some kind to deal with it, even if we are going to bring it into the panel system. As the noble Earl probably knows, the police are having to bend existing legislation, framed before glue sniffing became the problem it is, in an effort to deal with it. He says he has asked for comments by the end of next month and then he is going to consider them. It may well be during the passage of this Bill—it will be a month or maybe two months before it is finished, because it has to pass all its stages in another place. I hope that the Government will not delay in respect of this. After they receive the comments I hope they will take the opportunity of the presence of this Bill to take action. Otherwise, we may have to wait another two or three years, and that means another two or three deaths of young people from this. I do not think we should shirk it; if we have got to make it an offence, we will make it an offence, because it is something that can spread very quickly indeed. Anybody who knows anything about the activities in schools and among children will appreciate that it becomes very much a thing you have got to do and it is doing harm to a great number of children at the present time. But, in view of what the noble Earl has said, I will not press the new clause at the present time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 52 to 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Dangerous games, etc.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

In calling Amendment No. 57K I should point out that Amendments Nos. 57L and 57M have been wrongly marshalled under Clause 56 and should be marshalled under Clause 58. I shall, of course, call them in the proper order.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 57K: Page 35, leave out line 38.

The noble Lord said: This is one of the most serious offences and one which has been so prevalent in recent weeks. I wonder how many people were charged under the existing legislation—and it is existing legislation in those burghs where it applies—with making or using a slide upon snow or ice. I saw children sliding. I never saw a policeman stopping them. It was very difficult not to make a slide with every footstep, during the past six or seven days. I think this is really a bit of bureaucratic nonsense. The Minister of State has said before that, if we want to deal with some of these troubles, we deal with them as a question of creating a public nuisance. I do not think we should put this in. It does not mean a thing; not a single person will be prosecuted for it. It will never be used, and to my mind has not been used. So let us forget it. I beg to move.

Lord Lyell

As always, at this stage in the evening I shall be brief. I must admit to the Committee that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, both with his amendment and with his explanation of it tempts me very sorely. He, and I am sure your Lordships, will note that Clause 56 deals with what we call " dangerous games, et cetera". It may appear fair enough to your Lordships in the Committee. It is a question of any person making or using a slide on ice or snow. This offence is not any draconian measure which is designed to deprive hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people, and particularly young children, of a great deal of innocent pleasure. Although I might say that this pleasure of young children, watching their elders and betters, and especially Members of your Lordships' House, slithering, perhaps to their personal injury, upon a slide in snow or ice, may not be quite so innocent when seen by the victim.

Clause 56, like the provisions of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892 which it replaces, does not make it an offence to make or use a slide on ice or snow in any circumstances; it only makes it an offence where—and we can see this in line 39—it is done in such a way as to cause, or to be likely to cause, danger or obstruction to other persons or to give other persons reasonable cause for alarm or for annoyance. Let me give a quick example. The kind of situation which this provision is designed to catch is where a person, be they old or young, makes a slide directly outside an old person's front door. Perhaps it might give the watchers or the makers of the slide innocent pleasure, but certainly it will not give the old person any pleasure at all if he or she slips or falls, or perhaps if the slide is made deliberately or actively on a narrow pavement on a steep hill in the town.

I would hope that Members of your Lordships' Committee would agree that people, especially the elderly and the infirm, have the right to be protected from these dangers which can arise from the indiscriminate and active making and use of slides on ice and snow in the wrong circumstances. I believe that the safeguards are specifically spelled out in lines 39 and 40 and, therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will come to see that he is making something of a mountain out of this rather minor ice slide. I invite the noble Lord to leave the Bill as it is.

Lord Drumalbyn

I wonder whether my noble friend would agree that, even taking his examples and the instances which he has given, there are some cases where it would not be appropriate to make it an offence to make or use any slide upon ice or snow. I wonder whether it would not be better to make it more precise and to say: makes or uses any slide upon ice or snow on a pavement ", or words to that effect, because that is really what is dangerous. Personally I have never been able to stand up on ice anyway and I find it, myself, pernicious. I am particularly concerned about the places where pedestrians go and that should be made clear instead of having such a very wide definition in the clause. I wonder whether my noble friend would look at that again.

Lord Lyell

I should like to reply briefly. I hope that my noble friend will agree that there is not very much between what he is seeking and what we believe is the reasonable interpretation of lines 39 and 40 of the Bill. Clearly my noble friend gave the example of making a slide, or whatever might be defined as a slide upon ice or snow upon the pavement. Presumably the police would enforce this measure if it were likely to cause danger, and indeed it could, or obstruction, to any other person or give them reasonable cause for alarm. I believe that that catches the particular dangers which were described by my noble friend in that it leaves young people and children who might wish to make a slide to do so in the park or recreational area, where they are not going to cause danger or obstruction to any elderly or infirm persons who are not likely to go and wander deliberately on ice or snow. I hope that my noble friend might agree that lines 39 and 40 of the clause achieve very much what he seeks to achieve, and possibly trying to draw ice or snow any narrower might leave slides to be made in wintry conditions to be open too widely.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not want to prolong this debate too long, but the noble Lord should have come here armed with the number of offences that have been created and the many lives that have been saved by having this provision on the local authority statutes for over 90 years, because that is what he is implying. He is saying that we have had this for over 90 years and we cannot do without it.

In answer to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, " public place ", as it is defined, goes way beyond streets and thoroughfares." It says: any place (whether a thoroughfare or not) to which the public have unrestricted access and it includes doorways, entrances of premises, common passage, close, court, stair, garden or yard. They cannot do it even in their own back yard. It is not just a question of limiting it to the pavements in front of the old folks' home. I think that we do not need it. Indeed, very often during the past weeks we have, just by walking down the streets, created a slide. This provision has never been put into force by the police—never. I defy anyone to come and tell me of a case where this has been used. It is a matter of common sense and I think that it should be dropped. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Mobile advertisements]:

[Amendments Nos. 57L and 57M not moved.]

Lord Airedale moved Amendment No. 58: Page 36, line 18, after (" a ") insert (" European Parliament or ").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 58. My noble friend Lord Mackie has been caught up in travelling difficulties and has asked me to move this amendment in his place. Clause 58 prohibits, in general terms, advertising from vehicles, but subsection (2) specifically exempts parliamentary and local government elections. In my noble friend's view, it must have been intended also to exempt European Parliament elections, and my noble friend thinks that the need for this amendment is self-evident. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mansfield

I am with the noble Lord in spirit as regards the principle of his amendment, but I am not with him in the way in which he has drafted it. I think that we have to make one or two inquiries to see what the European Parliament is in law. So, if the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment in the meantime, I shall consider the matter further and table my own amendment to a similar effect at a later stage.

Lord Airedale

I am much obliged. I shall report to my noble friend that there are hopes of ultimate success and, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 58 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Underhill

I am sorry to detain the Committee at this hour, but there is a very important point which should be raised. Incidentally, the clause as it stands at the moment is a great improvement on that in the consultation paper, because subsection (2) was not in the consultation document. Can the noble Lord tell me—it may be due to my lack of understanding of grammar—as regards the last line whether " local event " stands on its own or does, local event or activity for charitable purposes ", all read as one? If so, then we could find ourselves in some difficulties, because there are organisations which do not run events for charity, but voluntary organisations as such—political parties and sports organisations which run events. They would be debarred from advertising, as I have done many a time for meetings and other activities with what used to be called double crown posters on board on a vehicle. Therefore, I would like to know whether what I am saying is correct. Would this debar the advertising on a vehicle, in the way in which I have suggested, of any event which is not organised for charity?

I know that there is the interpretation clause, which says that charity shall be construed at large. Not being a lawyer, I do not understand what " at large " means and whether it would cover the sort of point that I am raising. It seems to me that, as it is here, it could exclude quite a number of events which might use a vehicle for advertising purposes which are not for charitable purposes.

The Earl of Mansfield

I think that one has to take the English as one finds it. It says the use: relating to a local event or activity for charitable purposes ". Therefore, the local event, in the same way as an activity, must relate to charitable purposes. That is the exception which Clause 58(2) presupposes. I am reinforced in that by the information that I have received.

Lord Underhill

Does the Minister think that there is any validity in the point that I have raised? Surely we do not wish to exclude the voluntary organisations which may run sports events, discos and all sorts of other events and which want to advertise them on a vehicle, which, as I said before, I have done many times in my life, by attaching a poster to the wheel, the side or the rear of my car in order to advertise a particular event. As I see it, that would be excluded by this particular clause.

The Earl of Mansfield

This discussion would really be very much better carried on under the mantle of an amendment than an ad hoc argument into the meaning of the subsection under a debate on clause stand part. Here one has to consider the charitable purposes part of it. By that I assume—and I am speaking without having given the matter any consideration—that the purposes are not those for private profit. Therefore, many of the purposes which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has illustrated would be perfectly proper in the context of subsection (2). But if I may, I shall take it away and think about it. If I have not told the noble Lord the true position, then I shall write to him. In any event, both of us might like to consider the matter before the next stage.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Lord Denham

I think that this is probably the time of the day when we should make a break in the proceedings. I beg to move that this House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.