HL Deb 04 July 1988 vol 499 cc1-4

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they consider appropriate in the light of the report by the Association of Chief Police Officers which links youth and alcohol with the recent increase in rural violence.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, officials and representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers are now examining together the problems which are faced by the police in tackling the kind of disorder highlighted in the report and how best to overcome them.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. Does he agree that one of the most depressing aspects of many of the reported cases of attacks on police in rural areas by groups of youths, some under the influence of drink, has been the attitude of the public standing in the vicinity of the attack? The noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong, but is there not a common-law duty on every citizen to assist the police wherever possible? Is it not a sombre comment on today's society that often people in the vicinity of a callous attack —such as the recent attack on a woman police officer at Maidstone— offer no assistance but actual opposition to the police in the commission of their duty?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the noble Viscount is right; there is a common-law order whereby each and every citizen should go to the help of a police officer if he sees that that police officer is in trouble. However, I believe that I am right in saying that that is not the case should the citizen feel that his or her life is endangered.

The noble Viscount made another point which is right; namely, it is abhorrent to see such disorder taking place in the streets and the public not going to the assistance of the officer in question. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the Government have never held back from trying to stress to parents and schools the importance of teaching children at an early age the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of orderly and responsible behaviour and respect for their fellow citizens.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in the days of National Service there was far less hooliganism? Will the Government consider bringing forward some form of compulsory community service for youngsters so that they learn a little more after they have left school?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I believe I am right in saying that that point has been discussed previously both privately and publicly. I can make no comment other than to say that I shall bring that point to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Lord Soper

My Lords, will the Minister agree that one of the contributory factors to the suggested factual increase is what might be called the "mobility of alcohol'"? Alcohol consumed more or less in a sedentary condition and at specified times is one thing, but does not the carrying around of alcohol in beer cans, and the mobility provided by the motor cycle and the car, have a good deal to do with the vast increase, particularly in rural areas? Can the Government suggest a way of reducing the ability of young people to drink out of doors and to carry around the cans as a kind of status symbol? I have had a great deal of experience over the years and I believe that the increase has much to do with the increased opportunity of drinking during all hours of the day.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I do not think that I can make any particular apposite comment with regard to mobile drink or drinkers. However, at present licensing justices can refuse to renew licences at their annual review in the light of applications from the police and local residents. Under the Licensing Act 1988, they will in future be able to revoke a licence at any licensing session. In considering those matters, they will wish to take into account factors such as the amount of disorder associated with a licensed premise. That is a problem for the police and the licensing justices to tackle in concert. We plan guidance for licensing justices and the police.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, if Her Majesty's Government are seriously concerned about alcohol-related incidents, why do they not make strong representations to the Brewers' Society to bring down the price of non-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks? It is not ludicrous that such drinks are more expensive in public houses and clubs than are alcoholic drinks?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, in response to the noble Lord's question, licensees have the right to refuse to serve those whom they judge to have drunk enough. They also have a duty to ensure that their premises are properly and adequately staffed and supervised. Brewers can help by ensuring that good practice guidelines for landlords are prepared and circulated so that they have advice on how to prevent, avoid and deal with difficult customers and circumstances.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, will the Minister agree that farming has become much easier, that young people now sit in comfortable, heated cabs and have vehicles to drive around in and that. therefore, they do not use up as much energy as they used to do when they rode bicycles and had a much harder life? Will he also agree that often in rural areas there is nowhere but the pub to go to in the evening?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I believe that my noble friend makes a point that I cannot refute.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, the noble Earl referred to right and wrong. Will he bear in mind that the present generation of young people has a much greater problem than previous generations in knowing what is right and what is wrong? With the abandonment of religious belief by so many people and the decay of the Christian ethic in so many households, it is difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. So many things which were previously wrong are now right and so many things previously right are now wrong. Will the noble Earl bear in mind that young people have that problem?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, of course I will bear that in mind. However, as I said in answer to the supplementary question of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, I believe that the answer simply lies in Christian beliefs and Christian teaching, as the noble Lord pointed out.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the report also found that disorders were primarily caused by white, affluent, employed youths? Therefore, can the Minister say a little more about what the Government intend to do to enhance the respect of these young people for the community, in the light of the Prime Minister's comment that there is no such thing as society?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the ministerial group on alcohol misuse has been looking at how to encourage co-ordinated local action and disseminate examples of good local practice. The group is about to agree the terms of a joint Home Office, DHSS and DES circular on local action to tackle alcohol misuse. This will cover not only crime prevention but alcohol education, treatment and counselling. Interested organisations will need to be consulted, but we are looking to issue the circular as soon as possible.

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