HL Deb 11 July 1989 vol 510 cc209-39

10.20 p.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This is a very short Bill. It consists of only two clauses. It is designed to tighten controls on the sale of alcohol to under-age persons from supermarkets and other premises covered by an off-sale licence in Scotland. It might be useful, even at this late hour, if I briefly outline the background and the reasons why it was felt necessary to introduce the Bill.

In October 1986 the Scottish Home and Health Department issued a consultative document seeking views on possible amendments to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. Apart from a reference to "children's certificates" for public houses, no views were sought or expected in regard to under-age drinking. At that time there was discussion about the public house being made into a family environment and about children's facilities. At that stage the department did not ask for and did not expect to receive comments on under-age drinking.

However, it soon became clear that that was the issue of most concern throughout Scotland. About 70 community councils in Scotland and many thousands of members of the public wrote to the department expressing the view that there was a need for more stringent control of the sale of alcohol from off-licences to help combat the problems of under-age drinking.

At about the same time the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys carried out a survey of adolescent drinking. About 2,000 adolescents in Scotland aged between 13 and 17 were surveyed and the report was published in December 1986. The report's findings indicated that among 14 year-olds in Scotland 32 per cent. of boys and 28 per cent. of girls who drank said tint if they purchased drink for themselves they usually purchased it at off-licences. Twenty-one per cent. and 28 per cent. respectively said that they usually bought drink from shops or supermarkets. In other words, out of each 100 surveyed 32 boys said that they drank and 21 got their liquor from supermarkets or other off-licences. For girls the figures were 28 and 18.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord this question. The statistics that he quoted relate to shops and supermarkets. In the Bill are shops included or just supermarkets?

Lord Stallard

My Lords, both. The report also provided evidence that most adolescents in Scotland who buy alcohol appear to buy it unchecked and most of them from supermarkets. I cannot go into the details at this time of night; I wish that I could.

A working party on young people and alcohol was chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. She apologises for not being present; she would have liked to have spoken on her report but she had to be elsewhere. The report was published in 1987 and made recommendations in relation to under-age drinking. It noted that off-licences were cited as a major source of supply for teenagers and, in particular, the self-service section of licensed supermarkets. The group recommended that the law should stipulate that all sales of alcoholic liquor should be made by, or at least effectively supervised by, persons aged 18 or over.

In November 1988 the Daily Record, a well-known Scottish newspaper, began a campaign for action to be taken against what it called "teeny tipplers". That campaign aroused countrywide support from the Scottish public. There was a tremendous amount of support for it. District councils took up the issue and joined in a campaign to persuade the Government to take positive steps to curtail drinking in public places as a crime prevention measure.

I ought to mention here in order to save time later that drinking in public places is the subject of consultation with CoSLA and the police about the possible introduction of by-laws. As far as I am aware, the Government are awaiting CoSLA's proposals as to where experimental by-laws might be introduced. That dealt satisfactorily for the time being—until we see the government proposals—with that aspect of the problem.

A great many examples were given of the social problems caused by under-age drinking and its attendant features, particularly in Committee in the other place. I should like to mention many more examples than is possible. However, to show the concern that was felt by Members of Parliament, I shall mention one example that stood out to me. It was mentioned by Dr. Reid who is the Member of Parliament for Motherwell, North. At col. 19 of the proceedings of the Commons Second Scottish Standing Committee on 10th May he said that a public meeting called to discuss the issue had been attended by 450 parents. It is a rare event nowadays, with all the other distractions, for a public meeting to be attended by 450 people. That fact alone shows the concern of those parents who attended a meeting organised by local councilors—

Lord Henley

My Lords, I think it is probably incorrect that the noble Lord should quote from proceedings in another place. It would probably be better if he paraphrased what was said.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord says. I am in fact paraphrasing rather than quoting exactly.

As I said, Dr. Reid said that the meeting was attended by 450 people. That shows the importance attached to the subject and the concern felt by parents and expressed to their councillors in that part of Lanarkshire about what were becoming no-go areas between the hours of five and six o'clock at night—even, later at night, for grown men. Those people were not killjoys. They wanted to make sure that the balance of leisure activities was contained within a legal framework. The one does not preclude the other. That is only a brief illustration. There are many others that I could give about the concern felt by those people.

We are only too familiar with the relationship between crime and alcohol abuse. There have been scores of reports, documents and committees on the matter. I shall not list them all. But according to one recent survey almost 66 per cent. of inmates in a Scottish young offenders' institution in 1980 said that they had committed their offences while under the influence of alcohol. A frightening thought about that statistic is that if that was the situation in 1980, how much worse is it now, given the increase in drinking generally, in under-age drinking in particular, and in all kinds of crime? It certainly frightens most people when they think deeply about it. There are many more statistics that I could quote to illustrate the extent of the problem in Scotland. I hope that I have said enough for the moment to establish the extent of the concern.

Against that background, in December 1988 Mr. Jimmy Hood, Member of Parliament for Clydesdale, introduced a Bill to deal with under-age drinking in public places. While sympathising with that Bill, the Government pointed out a number of flaws. Mr. Hood was persuaded to rethink his proposals. Because of the time limitation on Private Members' Bills—all parliamentarians understand that restriction—it was not possible to have wide consultation. However, consultation did take place with a number of people. The Government intimated support and the Bill now before us was introduced.

The Bill provides that, in any off-sales premises, sales of alcohol may be made only by or under the supervision of an adult person. It also provides that in any licensed premises with three or more till or sale points—call them what one will—the intending purchaser will require authorisation of the sale at a separate wrapping and pricing point manned by adults before proceeding to the check-out.

The first provision—that the sale of alcohol must be made or supervised by a person over 18—should not cause supermarkets or anybody else too much of a problem. Indeed, many of them already operate a similar procedure. I am impressed when I read about some of the practices that are in existence in some of these supermarkets. It was pointed out during the Committee proceedings in another place that this procedure itself is open to abuse by collusion between an under-age purchaser and a co-operative friend employed on check-out duties. That is not apparently unknown or even uncommon in some parts of Scotland. So the imposition of an additional check at the authorisation point makes such collusion that much more difficult. It does not totally abolish it, but it makes it more difficult.

Critics have said that the necessity to have the purchase authorised would cause great inconvenience and annoyance to consumers.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I should be extremely grateful if the noble Lord would give way. He has touched on one of the points which cause me and I know some others a certain amount of anxiety. He said that the additional authorisation point would make it more difficult for adults to buy alcohol on behalf of juveniles. Could he explain why that should be so, compared with the position of a juvenile who wants alcohol and persuades an adult to go into the shop and buy it for him? It will be the adult who gets the authorisation, and then when he goes out of the shop he will hand over the product to the juvenile. I think that the noble Lord owes it to the House to explain why the authorisation point will make that process any different at all except to add an extra stage.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, first of all I did not mention that point at this stage. I said that the procedure that exists now is open to abuse by collusion between an under-age purchaser and a friendly operator at the check-out. It is not the same point as that mentioned by the noble Lord, but it is the point that I am making. It makes it more difficult for that kind of collusion to take place if the under-age person has to be checked. He has not now to be checked but if he has to be checked in the future there will be less likelihood of that kind of collusion. And of course there will be the force of law with its penalties and so on to back that up. So it must be more difficult. Probably it will deter most under-age drinkers who have been getting away with this practice because of a friend. They will find that the friend will now lose his job and all sorts of complications will arise. That is the point that I was making. We may well come to the other point later on, but at this stage to save time I am bound to say that the fact that the adult has to be checked—and indeed the whole operation has to be checked—puts some kind of responsibility on those who do not have it now. There is the force of the law behind it and they know that it is there. Young people will be less inclined even to try some of the practices that they have attempted up to now. So I believe that there would also be some kind of restraint on those practices.

I was saying that the critics have said that the necessity to have the purchase authorised would cause great inconvenience and annoyance to consumers. I go on to say that I can understand that because I am one of those people who use supermarkets quite frequently. I could say too frequently because I do not like the chore of shopping, but I have to do it.

But why should it be more inconvenient or disruptive than the other special counters? We all know and use the special counters for cheeses, bacon, fresh meat or fish and a whole range of other items including, invariably, tobacco. All those commodities are dealt with at separate counters. One has to queue up and have one's purchases authorised. One has to ask for, say, 1¼ lb. of cheese, which is priced at £1.69 or so; a piece of paper then has a stamp put on it and it is clipped to the purchase, which must be taken through the check-out point. One has been authorised to purchase it at that separate counter. That happens now and I have never heard anybody complain about that course. In fact people like it. They like the choice. Most people at heart do not really like supermarkets and hanker after the old times when one could pick and choose and be served by an assistant. That was an aside; nonetheless people still like to choose from a selection of cheese, bacon or whatever. They like to be able to say, "I'll have half a pound off that piece".

So in my view there is no substance in the criticism that it will cause great disruption. What causes a great deal of disruption and complaint is that when customers reach the check-out there is a long queue. But six or seven checkouts are not manned for long periods of the week. Nobody is there. They complain about such queueing; and I think that they are quite justified.

I therefore could not see any basis for the criticism, especially in the context of the Scottish scene where we know the tremendous amount of support that already exists among the shopping public for the Bill and for the measures that are attached to these new procedures. I believe that the critics are wrong, and will be proved to be wrong.

There has also been some predictable opposition from trade interests. It was inevitable. They feel aggrieved. They say that there was no wide consultation and that this is an additional burden which will bring them no benefit but will increase their costs. People think hard when they hear of that objection. I have studied the Official Report of the proceedings in another place. There was no serious attempt to argue these points at any stage in those proceedings, although trade interests were represented throughout. It was generally accepted that the potential benefits that would accrue from the attempt to control the problem far outweigh any inconvenience. These interests were prepared to put up with any inconvenience and the small cost in relation to their turnover on alcohol. It seemed to have been accepted, however reluctantly.

The question of consultation has always been a problem, in particular on Private Members' Bills. One cannot produce a Green Paper, with a consultative period during the procedure on Private Members' Bills. It has never been possible. There has always been a difficulty on consultation. But the position is well understood, not only by us but by all those consultants who operate in the field—the PR firms and the researchers. It is a big industry. I have not seen these people lacking in this respect. Usually they are able to ensure that their interests are well stated and represented at all stages of a Bill.

I can honestly say that I have had no correspondence from anyone or any organisation, big or small. I have had nothing except one telephone call from Gateway asking for a meeting. I met representatives yesterday. We discussed the Bill. Although we did not reach complete agreement, at the end of the meeting I promised to take away some of the points that they raised and consider them between now and the next stage. That is the only approach that has been made to me by anyone. I am therefore inclined to consider that consultation did not worry these people too much.

My noble friend Lord Graham kindly showed me a letter that he had received from the Scottish Consumer Council. Probably some other Members have received this letter also. In it the council raised the question about lack of debate. On 6th July it stated: Moreover, there has been little or no debate about the details of the proposal. The Scottish Consumer Council only became aware of it two weeks ago". Two weeks from 6th July takes us well into the third week of June. This Bill was presented to Parliament on 26th April. It had its Second Reading in the other place on 28th April. That is 10 weeks ago. It went through its Committee stages on 10th May. That is eight weeks ago. Here is a consultative organisation—a consumer council—which states in another letter that I have read that it is constantly on the look-out for issues that affect its members and consumers and that it never lets an opportunity go by without commenting. It heard about the Bill only two weeks ago; that is about eight or nine weeks after it was introduced in the Commons. It complains about lack of debate. I do not think that there is any substance in that complaint. In fact there is a question mark about the whole organisation, to my mind. If I were connected with it I should want to know why it had not heard about the Bill and why it had not carried out its function as a lobbying or a research organisation.

I am sorry that I cannot deal with any more correspondence because of the time, but as I have said, apart from Gateway, no other organisation has made any approaches to me. I imagine that the others have concentrated on selected Members of your Lordships' House. I understand that and am not complaining. I have not been selected; that is all; but it says something about the publicity industry generally.

However, although the trade has some reservations, most have now been accepted, as I have said, with some reluctance. The Bill has merit in its attempt to control teenage drinking and the trade is prepared to give the proposals a fair wind. The Bill had all-party support in another place; it has massive public support in Scotland. It had a great deal of positive newspaper and other media support, and it also has Government support.

I again refer to the Committee proceedings and the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton. I am being careful in referring to his name so that I am not out of order, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, will not be too vexed. The Under-Secretary of State gave it his wholehearted support. He even said that there were two simple points in support of the Bill. He welcomed it as a crime prevention measure. He regarded the Bill as a significant part of an overall package of measures, because there is a package of measures. I have mentioned another one, that the Government are in consultation about bye-laws. The Government have also announced their intention to bring in some licensing legislation in the next Session of Parliament. These things are all going on. There are constant discussions about the crime wave and so on. The Bill, according to the Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office and the Government, is a very useful addition and, a significant part of the overall package. In the view of the Scottish Horne and Health Department, the Bill is a useful measure in that context". The Minister ended by giving the Government's unreserved support for the Bill and he congratulated the honourable Member for Clydesdale on it. He commended Clause 1 and hoped that it and the whole Bill succeeded. I do not think I can add to those sentiments in a way that satisfies me. That will do me. I look forward to a useful and constructive debate. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Stallard.)

10.43 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I think I probably speak for your Lordships' House when I say that I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for his explanation of the Bill. I do not have any quarrel with what he had to say and what the Bill attempts to do in terms of curtailing the purchase of alcohol or drink by under-age people. I do not have any complaint about any measure that goes some way towards stemming alcohol abuse. Indeed, the noble Lord will recall our very long debates in March 1988 during the passage of the English licensing Act. There is concern. What there has to be is a balance of concern and practicality. I will come to that in a moment.

It may be thought outside your Lordships' House somewhat impertinent of me to object or to become involved in a Bill the content of which is essentially a Scottish matter. But I submit to your Lordships that it is not only of concern in Scotland because of the 14,000 alcohol drink outlets in Scotland, but that just over 1,000 are affected by the proposals contained in the Bill. Those affected are mainly English multiples. It seems manifestly unfair that out of some 14,000 outlets fewer than 10 per cent. should be singled out for a piece of legislation.

I am advised by Messrs. Hill Brown, the specialist solicitors in Glasgow dealing essentially with licensing matters, that there is no great body of objection to supermarket applications. That is what we are dealing with in the Bill: supermarket sales premises with more than three sales points. Only in June this year a big national multiple was granted a licence, oddly enough, in the Clydesdale district court, without any comment, question or condition. Indeed, it was in the constituency of the honourable Member for Clydesdale who is promoting the Bill. That appears to be most odd because I understand that in Scotland the licensing boards are made up of locally-elected district councillors. Yet the application was granted without comment, question or condition.

The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, referred to consideration in another place; just 100 minutes in the second Standing Committee. It was unfair of him to say that the Bill had its Second Reading in April. The Second Reading went through on the nod, as did every other stage other than the second Standing Committee. I must ask rhetorically: is it good enough to put forward a Bill which has not been accorded the opportunity of being discussed fully in another place? Is it fair that the honourable Member in another place should say, as he did, that there is no great objection and only the retailers are objecting?

Sadly, he said that before the Scottish Consumer Council issued its report and before its views were known. Those views are now known and the council opposes Clause 1(3). It sets out its arguments fully and cogently in a widely distributed document. I shall not quote from it, but perhaps other noble Lords might. It is a very good document.

The Bill before us this evening assumes that supermarket wine and spirit sales are a primary source of liquor bought or consumed by those under age. The noble Lord draws in support a number of statistics which have been produced by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. I do not quarrel with them. However, I draw your Lordships' attention to the only independent report on drink of which I know. It was published in 1985 by Exeter University. It identified the home, and not the supermarket, as being the primary source for the acquisition of drink. If I remember correctly, the tables put the supermarket fairly low down. Pubs, clubs and discos account for the largest number of under-age people acquiring drink.

Let us look at some aspects of the Bill in relation to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. Already the sale of alcohol in on-licensed premises with a bar must be by a person over the age of 18. The proposed legislation appears to ignore the separate off-sales department in a pub or hotel. Those off-sales may not be designated as special areas and that is in terms of Section 119 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. Whether or not designated, the Bill does not attempt to bridge the apparent gap created by those off-sale parts of pubs and hotels where the sale of liquor does not take place over the bar. It appears that the off-sales are not covered by the Bill and that such sales would not require any authorisation whatever. Therefore, there is a gap between these proposals and the existing law.

Another apparent omission in the proposed legislation is the wholesale purchase. A licence is not required to sell alcohol in wholesale quantities and, as no reference is made to wholesale quantities in the Bill, presumably such sales would continue to be unauthorised on non-licensed premises.

The new Bill introduces a step prior to the sale of alcohol in a supermarket or another place with more than three—and I quote the noble Lord—"till points or call them what you will". I shall return to that in a few moments. Again, so far as I can see, that does not affect the absolute offence and responsibility contained in Section 68 of the Scottish Act of 1976, which is not to sell liquor to a person under 18 years. Therefore, even if a sale is authorised, the authorised liquor could then be passed, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding attempted to say earlier, to a person under 18 years old and then it would presumably be the responsibility of the check-out operator or the person at the sales point, till or "call it what you will" point; I do not know. We must look at that if we reach a later stage.

Since the new Section 97B(1)(a)(i) uses the term "authorised", one assumes that there has to be a separate authorisation point or counter and I suppose that has to be manned by an authorising officer. Again, there is no link between this point and Section 68 of the Scottish Act to which I have already referred. I said that that Act already provides for the sale of liquor in licensed premises to or by persons under the age of 18 years to be an absolute offence. Perhaps, in parenthesis, I may ask the question raised by my noble friend: should there be collusion between the would-be purchaser, because he is only the would-be purchaser at that stage, and the authorising officer or even later between the authorising officer and the sale point, cash point or "call it what you will" point, who is, or is anybody, guilty of aiding and abetting the wilful buying or attempt to buy alcohol? There is nothing in the Bill about that and the noble Lord opposite said nothing as regards that matter.

Everybody is reasonably happy about Clause 1(2). That refers to shops with more than three check-outs, till points, sale points or "call it what you will" points, which is fairly clear. The noble Lord opposite laughs but those are his words and not mine. That merely indicates that there is no definition in the Bill of what is meant by a "sale point". One is assuming a number of matters. I merely ask why the language in that clause, which we welcome, is different from Section 18 of the 1988 English Act.

Perhaps I may turn to the question of the sale point and ask what it actually is. Is that a cash register or at the check-out queue? Is it operative whether it is manned or not manned? Is it operative if it is a till that is plugged in or not plugged in? Must it be working or can it be out of commission? All those questions will have to be answered sooner or later because there is a gap in the proposed legislation.

Referring to Clause 1(3) again, when does a criminal offence take place? Is it when the product is selected from the shelf? Is it when the would-be buyer joins the queue at the check-out or till, or is it when the sale is made by the passing of cash? Is there a defence for a customer who inadvertently finds himself in that position and is charged with wilfully attempting to buy the product? The Bill does not say anything about that matter and I cannot trace anything about it. It seems to be manifestly unfair. Who decides when this criminal offence takes place? How will he or she decide? When will he or she decide? Whose responsibility is it—the licence holder, his employee, duly authorised, or his agent? Do they have any discretion? What are they supposed to do—make a civil arrest or call for the police? It really is a nonsense.

In the Second Scottish Standing Committee proceedings, these questions were asked: who has the duty to report the offence? Is there a defence for a licence holder who fails to report an alleged offence? Nobody in the Standing Committee—and I have read the whole 100 minutes of the proceedings—gave an answer to that. We need an answer.

I turn to a matter which has concerned this House on innumerable occasions—low alcohol products. The Bill unwittingly makes it more difficult to purchase de-alcoholised or low alcohol wines and beers because of the definition of alcoholic liquor. I shall not go into that matter now but may do so at a later stage. It strikes me that in our great endeavours—and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, in 1988 gave encouragement to the wider distribution and sale of low alcohol and non-alcohol beverages—we shall block that.

There are only a thousand outlets or so in Scotland which will be so disbarred. The double queues argument to which the noble Lord opposite referred is a specious argument. If he looks across the whole range of technology that is being introduced into retail store operations, he will know that double queues are fast disappearing with the introduction of the bar scanning system for loose products as well as pre-packaged products. That is apparent, and as stores are up-dated and modernised the compulsory double queue is disappearing. One can opt in a store to buy a pre-packed item. The double queue argument is specious.

The problem of the illegal sale and purchase of alcohol by minors is a matter of concern to society, parents, licence holders, authorities and Parliament. However, I suggest that the need for adequate controls must not be allowed to cloud common sense. Clause 1(3) falls into this trap. It will establish a procedure patently fraught with difficulties, which will be ambiguous and burdensome to those who will have to operate it. I have tried to illustrate some examples. Sadly, it will have an insignificant effect on the problem. The Scottish Consumer Council described the Bill as a "guddle"—and that it is. I seriously urge the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and—dare I say it?—my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate to think again about Clause 1(3).

11 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I shall be extremely brief because my noble friend Lord Stallard has admirably outlined the purpose of the Bill in moving the Second Reading. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was a little unfair on the other place because the Private Members' Bill procedure there is very sophisticated. The fact that a Bill receives a Second Reading on the nod means that there is not one out of the 650 Members of Parliament who wishes to raise an objection. A Bill can only receive a Second Reading, on the nod if there is no objection at all. One Member shouting "Object!" is sufficient to block its further progress.

The fact that the Bill has been through the other place with Second and Third Readings on the nod should not inhibit us from discussing it on its merits. On the other hand, I agree that it is a more onerous responsibility on this House in terms of its revising and scrutinising function. My noble friend said that he was prepared to listen to suggestions for improving the Bill.

In terms of licensing laws Scotland has been ahead of England for some time. Indeed it would be a very unwise Englishman who did not concede that Scotland is ahead of England in many other ways as well. The Scottish licensing laws were liberalised in the mid-1970s and it is only recently that England has caught up. I hope that at a later stage it will be possible to consider, as the merits of the Bill become clearer, whether it can be extended to England through a fairly straightforward amendment.

I know that my noble friend will be receptive to suggestions for improvement as the Bill proceeds. I wish to congratulate him on taking on the promotion of the Bill in this House. I hope that it has a successful passage and that it is improved in such a way that it gains support in all parts of the House as it did in the other place.

11.3 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, when I first heard of this Bill I greeted it with enthusiasm because I recognise that teenage drinking is a major social evil in Scotland. Anything that is designed to curtail or limit alcohol consumption among teenagers is to be welcomed. Since the Bill reached this House I have received representations from the Retail Consortium, a large supermarket chain in Scotland and one or two other bodies in the retail distribution business.

I was not seriously affected by those representations. I was mindful of the experience of this House and of the pressure of the brewers in the last week or two. Therefore, I tended to say "All right, they are rather special interests who are pleading their case". But when I received a representation from the Scottish Consumer Council, a body for which I have the highest regard, I began to examine in greater detail the full implications of the Bill.

It is not enough to say that we are dealing with a major social evil. The question that this House has to answer is whether this major social evil will be seriously affected by the provisions of the Bill. It is easy for the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, to say that there is massive support in Scotland for the Bill. Of course there is massive support in Scotland for anything that will limit teenage drinking, particularly when that support is whipped up by the most popular Robert Maxwell tabloid in Scotland which has adopted this as its cause. And which MP can resist the pressure of the Daily Record in Scotland?

In this House, however, we have a rather different task. We have to examine seriously whether the Bill will cure a social problem about which we are all concerned. I feel just as deeply about the problem of teenage drinking as the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and Members of this House and of another place. I very much regret the terms of an interview given by Mr. Hood, the sponsor of the Bill, to the Glasgow Herald today in which he castigated the Scottish Consumer Council. He said: It appears that the hurried response of the Scottish Consumer Council in supporting big business interests indicates that the interest of the large supermarket chain is more important to the Scottish Consumer Council than the interests of thousands of young Scottish kids who are victims of alcohol abuse". That is a distortion of the situation. The Scottish Consumer Council has played a prominent and admirable part in examining consumer legislation in Scotland in a detached and objective manner and is certainly not the product of the big business interests in Scotland. That is a complete distortion of its role. I hope that Mr. Hood will think again when giving interviews of that kind.

What does the Scottish Consumer Council say about the Bill? It has already been said that the legislation would affect only the larger shops and supermarkets with three or more points of sale. There is no evidence that the sale of alcohol to minors is a significant problem in the larger supermarkets. As has been stressed, the teenage drinker can acquire alcohol at the disco or at some of the less reputable distributors. Between now and the next stage of the Bill I invite any Member of the House to go into any of the large supermarkets and test for himself whether he can get through the check-out with an under-age person buying alcohol. I have made that test myself; I find that control at the large and reputable supermarkets is taken seriously. I believe that the Bill attacks the wrong target. It attacks the large supermarket and ignores the small and less reputable distributors in the trade. To that extent the Bill is faulty.

Perhaps the Minister will confirm at a later stage tonight that the Government intend in the next Session to bring in new legislation affecting licensing in Scotland. It would be more appropriate to introduce this kind of measure within that new, legislation and perhaps devise something more effective in tackling this social problem. Anyone who visits large supermarkets—I used to be, but am no longer, in the supermarket business—will find that few minors line up at the check-out to buy merchandise. The Bill attacks the wrong target.

For those reasons I hope that our friends who wish to tackle this social evil will look again at the Bill and examine how far the real problem is being dealt with in the legislation now before us.

11.10 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I should begin by declaring an interest as I speak as a non-executive director of Marks and Spencer. However, at this late hour I shall be brief in what I have to say. I agree with the points which have been made by my noble friend Lord Lucas and by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe.

I should like to make just three points. The first and most important is that no one could quarrel with the purpose of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard. In my life I have had a great deal to do with education, and I am well aware of the fact that today many teachers are extremely concerned about under-age drinking, and about children who have been able to obtain alcoholic drinks during the lunch hour and who come back to school unfit to take part in lessons. I am also aware of the concern of the parents and the public. Therefore, no one could quarrel with any measure which is designed to try to address that particular social difficulty which we face today.

My second point is that I unconditionally support the provisions in the Bill which seek to ensure that the sale of alcohol on off-sales premises should only be made by adults or under adult supervision. As I understand it, that would bring the law in Scotland into line with that which now operates in England and Wales. I think that it is a very useful measure and one which deserves support.

My third point—and here I very much agree with what has been said by other noble Lords—is that I am most unhappy about Clause 1(3). I have been greatly impressed by the evidence which has been produced by the Scottish Consumers' Association. At this late stage there is not the time, nor would it be appropriate, to go through in detail the many points which the association has made. However, I shall touch upon three of them.

First, the legislation affects only larger supermarkets, and supermarkets with three or more points of sale. That is a very small proportion of all the stores which sell alcohol. In fact, there is no evidence to support the contention that it is in the larger supermarkets that alcohol is sold to minors, or that it is a problem. Indeed, it is quite the contrary.

The Scottish Consumers' Association has published most valuable statistical information showing that this is not the case. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, quite rightly made clear, this particular subsection is aimed at the wrong stores; it is the small shop where this situation is much more likely to take place.

Secondly, the legislation is quite impractical in relation to a large supermarket and really would not work. Thirdly, it would cause great inconvenience to customers because they would have to queue twice. Further, as the Scottish Consumers' Association makes quite clear, queueing is one of the things which customers most dislike and supermarkets make tremendous efforts to try to make their check-outs more efficient.

We would find ourselves faced with the absurd position where someone who was perfectly entitled to buy alcohol would be risking a very heavy fine through not having gone to an authorised point, and then going through the check-out point, and therefore is caught by the provisions of this Bill—whereas the young person who is most unlikely to be in a supermarket would not be affected.

Therefore I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, will take a long hard look at this subsection as the Bill proceeds through its many stages. I think he said that he had not had the opportunity to talk to the retailers, but I hope that he will discuss with them these very real concerns. I am sure that they would be prepared to meet him and explain to him the real problems which they face and that this section of the Bill will not help on the one issue which the noble Lord wishes to address.

Perhaps I may conclude by putting a very important point. It would be a great pity if it were thought that somehow those who were against Clause 1(3) represented a group which had no interest at all in trying to deal with the problem of under-age drinking. Indeed, my experience shows that a great deal of trouble is taken rigidly to enforce the law as it stands in England and Wales and to ensure by training that everybody is well aware of the law; to ensure by notices that customers have the law brought to their attention and that there is a supervisor to whom they can appeal if there is any doubt about the age of a person purchasing alcohol. But also there is every possible interest not only in complying with the law but in complying with the spirit of the law. No one wants to see this very great social evil of under-age drinking helped in any way.

There is a great sense of responsibility. I can speak on behalf of Marks and Spencer, but that view would be shared by all the supermarkets affected by this. It would be a great pity if it were thought that the case was otherwise. With those remarks, I hope very much that the noble Lord will look at this section again.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask her to point out where in the Bill it is made a necessity on the part of the supermarket to have a separate authorisation point where a queue would form.

Baroness Young

My Lords, as I understand it that is how this part of the Bill would have to work in order to achieve its objective.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, if I may say so, that is perhaps the imagination of the large stores at work. If the noble Baroness cares to look at Section 97B(2)(b), the only requirement is that the authorisation has to be made other than at a point of sale. The point of sale is obviously the check-out. Therefore there is no need to have any special expenditure in order to build 15,000 authorisation points.

Baroness Young

My Lords, at this late stage I do not wish to become involved in something which is clearly a point for the Committee Stage. In order to fulfil this section of the Bill it would be necessary to have some other point in order to make the situation quite clear. I do not think it would be right to take up the time of the House on Second Reading with considering precisely how that takes place. I am concerned only about the practicalities. I am quite certain that the noble Lord would not wish something to reach the statute book which would bring the law into disrepute because it was unworkable and would not deal wich the problem which both of us would like to see dealt with in an effective manner.

11.18 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, first I must apologise to the noble Lord for not being here at the beginning of his opening speech. I am afraid that it was largely due to the disorganisation of business which happened today.

Perhaps I may start by supporting what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has been saying. As I understood it from reading the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, the promoter envisaged that Clause 1(3) would work through authorisation points. I think that was made quite clear.

I agree with and wish to support everything that all the speakers before me—the noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Cocks and Lord Taylor of Gryfe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young—have said. In addition I wish to point out that some youngsters get round the very stringent efforts made by the supermarkets to prevent them buying alcohol by getting an older friend to take the alcohol through the till. In the same way, if we have authorisation points, as I think the promoter of the Bill envisages, there will be nothing to prevent a 17 year-old getting an 18 year-old friend to get his bottle authorised and then having it back and paying for it at the till. The onus will no longer be on the girl at the till to question his right to be buying it.

For these reasons and those given by previous speakers, subsection (3) will not have the beneficial effect that the sponsors of the Bill believe and hope that it will. I am afraid it will have an effect which I do not think they have seriously thought through. Certainly no one mentioned it in Committee in another place. I read the whole of the Committee stage carefully last night to check. I also checked the matter with my lawyer in Scotland this morning. The Bill creates a new criminal offence—that of wilfully buying or attempting to buy alcoholic liquor without the sale having been authorised.

Let us take the case of a busy person, perhaps a bachelor or a working wife, who is in a hurry, as busy people are, with many other things on his or her mind. It could be one of your Lordships or one of your Lordships' wives. He or she goes round the supermarket, picks up a bottle or two of wine or whisky, sensibly putting them at the bottom of the trolley lest the weight should damage other goods such as cakes and soft fruit, and then joins the queue for the till. At the bottom of the trolley, hey presto, there is the bottle. As I understand the matter, looking at the Bill, that shopper is guilty of a criminal offence and liable if convicted to a fine at level three on the Richter scale of fines which I understand these days is £400. Thereafter, he or she has a criminal record with all that that entails. That can affect a person's credit rating and possibly the chance to acquire a mortgage, a firearms certificate and other things.

The honourable gentleman who sponsored this Bill in another place stated in Committee on 10th May at col. 10 of the Official Report of another place that the Scottish public support the Bill and that that is proved by the response to the Daily Record campaign. There are a vast number of Scots who do not read the Daily Record. The first inkling my husband and my lawyer had of what was afoot was upon reading page two of the Press and Journal yesterday morning. The first inkling a great many other people had was when they read The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald today.

When the general Scottish public—I do not honestly believe that they have any idea of what is afoot—discover what is in store (or perhaps I should say what is in supermarket) for them they will be up in arms, and justifiably so. Apart from anything else they will be furious that a draconian and ill-thought out law which will have almost no effect on the evil which it is intended to cure should be foisted on them and not on England and Wales where the level of under-age drinking is far worse than it is in Scotland. And who will get the blame? The Government, of course, for no one will remember that this was not a government Bill. They will only remember that it was passed in the time of the present Government; and the government of the day will get the blame, as they always do—for the weather and every other evil which befalls.

I believe that if any action needs to be taken with respect to supermarkets the way to achieve what the promoters of the Bill want is to insist that all supermarkets sell alcohol only in a shop within a shop, with a separate till, as do William Low and Presto in Scotland and Waitrose in England. That has the added advantage that if you only want to buy a bottle of whisky and are in a hurry you do not have to spend ages queueing at the general till behind people with trolleys piled high with household goods.

11.25 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, when he said in moving the Bill, and giving a very full explanation of its contents, that a Bill which had had comparatively little debate in another place deserves very thorough scrutiny in this House. I was a little shocked when he told the House that the Bill had its unopposed Second Reading—no doubt on Friday—two days after it had been published.

I believe that part of the opposition that the Bill has run into has stemmed from the fact that it is permissible for a Bill to be published and debated in such a short space of time. The noble Lord gave the dates; I did not write them down but I think that they were two days apart. Part of the trouble is due to the fact that the Bill had its Second Reading in another place when virtually no one had had a chance to read it. I doubt whether more than a tiny handful, apart from the promoters of the Bill, were aware of what was in it when it had its unopposed Second Reading. I think that in those circumstances we have a duty to look at the Bill very carefully, and no doubt we shall wish to do so in Committee.

Perhaps I may point out to my noble and learned friend and my other noble friends on the Front Bench that the Second Reading of the Bill in this House started after ten o'clock in the evening. It is now half past eleven. The television cameras are already covered up. We are in danger (are we not?) of repeating the problems which the Bill ran into in another place, where it had less than a couple of hours' debate in a Standing Committee, by this House giving it a Second Reading at this time. I understand the difficulties of the business managers, but we are entitled to ask when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill would should be invited to discuss it at a more reasonable time of the day and that we should be under no constraints of time in order to do justice to the Bill.

I do not wish to repeat what other noble Lords have said about the Bill. I start from the fact that last autumn I was asked by the Economic and Social Research Council to chair a one-day seminar on the problems of under-age drinking. The seminar was set up in order to publicise some of the research work that had been done at a number of university centres with grants funded by the ESRC.

Reading the reports that had been published prior to that seminar, I was astonished to discover how prevalent under-age drinking has now become, and how overwhelmingly the drinking habit is acquired in the young people's own families.

It has now become acceptable in the family context for 13, 14 and 15 year-olds, by perhaps starting with half a glass of wine, to become more regular drinkers. There is a major social problem there. I do not need to be persuaded of the need to try to make it more difficult for under-age people to acquire their own drink, whether or not drinking in the context of the family and with the supervision of parents.

I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, my noble friend Lady Young and others who have made the same point that, in Clause 1(3), the Bill hits the wrong target. It does so for two reasons. First, the overwhelming evidence is that the young do not shop in large supermarkets. I am told by the Retail Consortium that fewer than 1 per cent. of the customers of large supermarkets for all products—not just for drink—are under the age of 18.

One will therefore see every purchaser of drink of whatever age, when trying to buy it at a supermarket with three or more check-out points, being subjected to the new procedure of queueing twice: first, to be authorised at somewhere other than the point of sale—the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, read out the clause that requires the authorisation point to be other than at the point of sale—and, secondly, at the check-out. I find it impossible to believe that, in order to attempt to check the tiny number of teenagers who buy alcohol at the larger supermarkets, it can be right to impose that substantial additional burden on the vast majority of supermarket customers who will have to go through that double procedure.

The second reason why the procedure will not work is that it immediately removes from the point of sale and from the check-out girl—that was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe—the obligation not to sell drink to those under the age of 18.

I have been impressed by the evidence of the very clear and firm procedures for their check-out staff from many of the major supermarket chains. If there is any suggestion that an under-age person is presenting himself at the till with alcohol, the managers must always be called. If one attempts to off-load that responsibility on to someone else at some prior stage, one removes the obligation from where it primarily rests; namely, on the person who effects the sale at the check-out point.

Clause 1(3) entirely misses the target. My noble friend Lady Young made the point that, according to the evidence, it is at the smaller, perhaps less reputable shops and supermarkets with fewer than three tills that there are positive policies of being prepared to sell to under-age drinkers. They are the people exempted from the Bill, so one must ask: what is to be done about it?

We all support Clause 1(2). It makes the selling of alcohol through a sales assistant under the age of 18 an offence. Surely that provision should be carried into law. I hope that no one in the House will dissent from that. However, try as I might, I cannot see how Clause 1(3) can be rendered sensible as an additional safeguard. It hits the wrong target in a way that imposes enormous inconvenience on the vast majority of supermarket customers. I believe that it will be ineffective. As the Scottish Consumers Council recognises, by removing the obligation from the salesgirl at the point of sale, it may make it easier for teenagers to obtain drink.

I therefore wish to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, his noble friends and perhaps the promoter of the Bill in another place that the right answer is more drastic reform. It may well be necessary, in fact, to await the results of the review which the Scottish Office has been undertaking into the licensing laws under the 1976 Act; to enact the Bill with Clauses 1(1) and 1(2); to drop Clause 1(3); and to recognise that it must be part of the Government's review to examine this and other possible alternatives and come forward with their proposals in the next session. Otherwise, it seems to me that there is a serious risk at this stage of the parliamentary year—we are virtually half way through July and it is thought that the House will recess at the end of July, and then have a modest and, I fear, rather overcrowded overspill in October—that even Clause 1(2) will not make the statute book when everybody would like it to do so.

So my suggestion is that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and his noble friends and honourable friends in another place might like between now and the Committee stage to ponder whether half a loaf is not better than no loaf at all. There is no doubt whatever that the comments of the Scottish Consumer Council on Clause 1(3) have a devastating force, not least coming from that source. Those comments very strongly reinforce the fears which have been widely expressed by the retail trade in Scotland. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, will feel able to accept that he and his colleagues should ponder this question very carefully before the Committee stage.

11.36 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, as one who has had a lifelong involvement in the youth work scene in Scotland and who is still currently involved in that scene, I do not need convincing of the alarming trends in young people's drinking that we are experiencing. I think that I would give a little more credit than many speakers have to the promoter of the Bill in another place and to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for the publicity which the Bill has brought to these problems, at any rate in part of Scotland. I think that the Daily Record campaign, too, has been beneficial in that respect.

The problem is not in question; it is the contents of the Bill itself, which have not had proper publicity, that we should be seriously considering this evening. I agree with my noble friend Lord Jenkin that subsection (2) of Clause 1 is wholly welcome. It is important to tighten up the supervision of employees under 18 whose job is to sell alcoholic drink, wherever they are selling it. If a boy or girl under 18 wants to sneak in and buy a bottle of wine or can of lager, it is natural to pick a shop where there is a 16 or 17 year-old sales assistant, whether or not he or she is a friend, who might find a sale difficult to resist.

That part of the Bill is supported by the Scottish Consumers Council and by the large supermarket chains which have written to me. I believe that everybody wants young shop assistants who are selling drink to have the backing of more experienced authorisation of the sale which will become mandatory under the Bill. That is wholly good.

Like other noble Lords who have spoken, it is when we come to the next part of the Bill—subsection (3) of Clause 1—that I have doubts. As has been said, this part of the Bill is aimed not at small shops or small or larger supermarkets which sell drink at a totally separate counter. It is aimed at large supermarkets with three or more check-outs in which one selects for oneself a bottle of wine or sherry and, as the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has graphically described, takes it in the trolley along with one's other purchases and pays for everything together. What the Bill imposes on those of us who shop in those large supermarkets has been clearly explained several times in this debate, and of course I shall not go over it again. However, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, that everyone who wants to buy a bottle of sherry or wine, however old, infirm or rushed he or she may be, will have to go to a separate authorisation point—separate from the check-out. If there is more than one person there it will become a queue. That is where the queue occurs. It will be a queue that is not voluntary, as it is if one goes to buy fish or cheese, but one which you will have to join because it is a legal requirement. Shoppers may also find, as the supermarket chains have told us, that the procedure is not only lengthy and a little risky but that it puts up prices in the supermarket.

People in Scotland are so worried about under-aged drinking that if the scheme in the Bill were likely to have a significant impact on the problem they might be prepared to put up with the extra nuisance and expense and having to remember to do the right things in order to buy their bottle of sherry. The supermarkets might well accept the extra work and costs. But will the scheme have an impact? Will it work?

Noble Lords have already pointed to the evidence that large supermarkets are the least likely place for young people to go. Those of us who shop in supermarkets know from our observations that one sees very few young people in them. Any noble Lords who are involved in Scottish licensing courts or who read the reports in the press will know that when large supermarkets apply for licences there is almost never an objection from the general public. I think the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, made that point. The objections come in plenty when smaller shops apply, especially those small corner shops at the foot of high-rise flats or adjacent to housing schemes. That is what one would expect. It is the small shops where under-18s buy drinks, because it is more difficult for such shops to organise themselves to supervise every sale properly. The great bulk of offences are the result of sales, innocent or otherwise, in small shops.

Therefore the Bill is targeting the kind of shop where young people are least likely to try to buy drink. That being the case, is it right to ask every single customer of those shops to queue up an extra time so that a special person can look him in the face to see whether he might be under 18 years and, if not, to authorise the bottles by a system of labels or stamps that can easily be dodged or abused? If anyone has any doubt about the matter, we should explore it at Committee stage. Is it right also to expect assistants at check-outs to be vigilant about their legal responsibilities in asking themselves whether customers are under 18 years when the bottles are assumed already to have been checked at a special authorisation point?

The Scottish Consumer Council is worried about this part of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and the promoter of the Bill in another place are clearly displeased. It has been suggested that the council is in the pockets of the supermarkets. I am not in anyone's pocket. I am simply a regular shopper. As a shopper I agree with the consumer council. I am sorry that it did not spot the detailed implications of the Bill earlier, but nor did I, and nor, I suspect, since nobody objected at Second Reading, did Members of another place. At the Committee stage, they discussed the problem of teenage drinking, not the details of the Bill. I was interested to hear that the clerk of at least one of Strathclyde region's licensing courts spotted the implications of the Bill only the other day.

I am sorry that up to now the Government have apparently supported the Bill. But the purpose of the House of Lords is to tell the other place and the Government when a Bill seems unlikely to work. I hope that that is what we shall do. I hope that we shall give the Bill a Second Reading because its first part is extremely good.

I hope at Committee to put down amendments and to support amendments by other noble Lords to alter or delete the part of the Bill which seems flawed. Should the Bill fail altogether I intend to press the Government, when they complete their review and bring forward legislation on the licensing laws in Scotland, to ensure that the problem of teenage drinking is confronted by them.

11.45 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I feel somewhat diffident in talking about a Scottish Bill, because although I am a Scottish Peer I am resident in England. However, I have a great deal of admiration for the way in which in Scotland, in the field of alcohol abuse, there is perhaps even more support for detoxification treatment than there is in England, particularly for young people. In this country I am a trustee of a foundation which runs two treatment centres for alcohol and drug addicts. It is one of the most alarming and saddening things to see the ever lower age of those who are admitted for treatment. As other noble Lords have said, I am absolutely behind the motivation for this Bill, somehow to attack the enormous evil in our society of the growth of under-age drinking and the misery that that causes.

Nevertheless, one of the points which several noble Lords have brought up is the fact that this Private Member's Bill should be introduced at this time. We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for introducing it this evening. I apologise for being several seconds late for his opening speech. I find it curious that the Bill is with us at this time, because I understood that the Government have been taking a close look at the working in Scotland of the 1976 Act. I was expecting in the very near future some new innovative action to bring that Act up to date. I should have thought that Clause 1(2), which all noble Lords have welcomed and which I welcome, would have been part of that legislation, with suggestions for other better thought out methods of sale or purchase of alcohol by under-aged people in whatever outlets they choose.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe and with the noble Baroness Lady Young. I have an interest in where young people buy their drink and, in my observations from supermarkets in England, Wales and Scotland, it seems that the training and the steps that the large supermarkets have undertaken to make sure that young people do not get past the check-out, have been extremely responsible and effective. I have a particular knowledge of Marks and Spencer, with which the noble Baroness has a connection. There one can see the training that has gone into recognising people who are under age.

It would appear that young people are deterred from going into the large supermarkets because of the difficulty of purchasing drink there. They are more likely to have been funnelled into the smaller outlets. To that extent I agree absolutely that the Bill, although well intentioned, is aimed at the wrong target. The whole drinking scene has changed in this country over the past five years. There are various contributory factors to the growth of under-age drinking and the extent of under-age drink abuse. One must mention the decrease in family support for young people and the example set by parents in some areas of society.

When I had a daughter at school I was most shocked on one occasion. One of her friends, aged 11, returned from a half-term break with a bottle of vodka concealed in her case. It was undiscovered by the teachers. She shared it with another girl aged 11 in her dormitory, who was taken out of the school in a coma. The school did not know how to cope with the situation. Of course the girl received medical treatment. The two girls were rusticated for a week, which seemed to be extremely inadequate. Some kind of rustication should have taken place in respect of the parents. It appears that private-sector schools have inadequate ways of dealing with and advising young people when such sad events occur.

I was particularly interested in the remarks made by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. I entirely agree with her. I should much prefer to see shops within shops, because that is a more effective way of dealing with the matter. One can use well-trained personnel, and all the aspects of a shop within a shop achieve all that the Bill intends but in a better targeted way.

I am not a reader of the Daily Record as is my noble friend Lord Taylor. I understood from the tone of his remarks that the paper does not have a good reputation with him. However, one should welcome the organs of the press taking the line that they take about under-age drinking. In this country some of the papers do so admirably. Some papers which we criticise for the quality of their journalism in other aspects take a responsible stance in this area and we should welcome that. After all, it is the culture of British drinking which must be partly responsible for the sad concentration among young people.

As yet no one has mentioned drinks advertising targeted towards young people. That area deserves much closer attention. There is too much advertising and people are getting round the standards. Advertising drinks for young people, whether on T-shirts, through subliminal advertising in cinemas or whatever, is extremely damaging to our efforts to counteract the trend.

Nowadays young people have more mobility. They travel around the place and can avoid the law more easily. I have noticed that in Scotland there has been an enormous increase in drinking among young women. I do not know why that should be so. Perhaps it is more frequently reported, but it is extremely worrying. We are all now well educated about drink. I am glad to see that the Brewers' Society has published informative and interesting pamphlets which inform people about the amount of alcohol they can drink. Young women are extremely vulnerable. In the treatment centres with which I am connected the young women are the saddest patients who are admitted. Often at the age of 16 or 17 they have reached a stage of advanced addiction.

Assuming that the Bill becomes law and subsection (3) is effective, who will police it? I cannot visualise many supermarkets taking somebody who had offended to a policeman, whether they had not gone to the right authorisation point or whether they had tried to pass alcohol to an under-age person or whatever. I wonder whether the supermarkets will not merely attempt to deter, to give warnings and to let the offender go in the hope that he will not return. He probably would not return, which would mean an even greater concentration on the smaller outlets. It is on that point with which I particularly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

That one should have to queue twice does not seem to me to make much sense. That is a cumbersome way of dealing with the problem, and I hope that the noble Lord and the promoters of this Bill can think of a less clumsy way of coping with that matter.

Having said that, I am sure that there are alternative or additional ways in which the Government and school institutions can raise the tempo of the fight against under-age drinking. After all, that end has been achieved as regards smoking. I know that young people are more resistant in regard to the campaign against smoking. However, a change of culture seems to me necessary rather than taking a particular measure against supermarkets. The reputable, larger supermarkets seem to be the target of this Bill in Clause 1 (3). That seems to me inappropriate. I have seen a number of supermarkets throughout the country, and I am satisfied that they look after that area extremely well. I hope that that will be taken on board I hope that this Bill does not reach the statute book because if it does, I believe that we may come to regret it.

11.57 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, initially I put on record my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Stallard for introducing this Bill. Up to this point, we have had an interesting and valuable debate on what is behind the Bill and how it would be operated if it became law.

It has become clear in the course of this debate that the Bill is heading for a Committee stage. If that is so, then I have reason to believe that the future of the Bill will be seriously jeopardised, and the likelihood is that it will not pass into law in any shape or form. That is a matter of serious concern to the people of Scotland who are interested in reducing the access by young people to alcohol, whether from a small shop or supermarket.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, mentioned that Clause 1(3) would only apply to 1,000 out of 14,000 outlets. I noted that he did not define what he meant by an outlet. Is that 14,000 small shops or a mixture of small shops and supermarkets because, if regarded as a single outlet, a supermarket may be the equivalent of 10 small shops. Accordingly, perhaps I may say that the noble Lord, on the face of it, was not comparing like with like. No more is it helpful to take the research of Exeter University and apply that to what is happening in Scotland. We have our own particular problems in Scotland and it is to those problems that this Bill has been addressed.

There has been much said by Members of your Lordships' House about separate authorisation points. Indeed, that seems to be the centre point of arguments against the practicality of the Bill being brought into operation. For myself, I appreciate that in another place it was said and envisaged that there may be a separate authorisation point, but the Bill does not require that. The proposed new Clause 97B(2)(b) requires that the sale should be approved. It reads: Subject to subsection (3) below, the sale of alcoholic liquor is authorised for the purposes of this section if a person appointed for that purpose by the licence-holder, his employee or agent"— in other words, there are three categories of people who can authorize— being reasonably satisfied that the person seeking authorisation is aged 18 or over, approves the sale"; and paragraph (b) states: does so"— that means "approves the sale"— other than at a point of sale. There could be a system in a supermarket where no separate point is required to be built. Members of staff over 18 years of age can be the approved agents of the owners of the supermarket for approving the sale on the floor. To envisage one way of dealing with it, a person could go to an identifiable member of the staff and ask for the approval to be put on the particular—

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Is he seriously suggesting that rather than having—as the Bill appears to provide—some designated point where they can queue and be authorised, customers have to go chasing round the shop to find somebody who is over the age of 18 and say that they are authorised purchasers? If so, he is digging a very large hole for his noble friend's Bill.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, the noble Lord is stretching my suggestion beyond the area that I am envisaging. It is easy in large shops to identify members of staff. Emphasis has been placed on the expense and the building up of a queue by those with the supermarket's interests at heart, but they are exaggerating the problem. They are creating a problem that does not need to exist in the operation of this Bill. Nowhere in the Bill does it say that there has to be a separate authorisation point. All that has to be done is for the sale to be approved before it reaches the point of sale. There is no reason why members of staff should not do that. It is for the supermarkets to put their own house in order. If they wish to build a separate authorisation point and create queues—

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? How is the purchase going to be authorised before it reaches the point of sale?

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, there are various ways in which it can be authorised. For example, a suggestion was made that a piece of sticky paper could be attached or a rubber stamp used to mark the bottle. In that event the person has an approved sale within the store. I do not want to get bogged down in the technicalities of this matter. It is for the stores to work that out if the Bill becomes law.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. I do not think that he should get away with that. Where is the customer going to find the sticky label? How is the customer to know where to find it if it is not going to be at the authorisation point? The noble Lord cannot get away with that.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, the sticky label is only one suggestion that has been made. Members of staff would have access to it. All one has to do is identify the member of staff and ask for him or her to approve the sale, and it is done either by a sticky label or a stamp. That does not seem to be an insuperable difficulty.

The Bill has received all-party support in another place. I respectfully suggest the Bill should receive the same support in your Lordships' House. It has been criticised for leaving out small shops in so far as the authorisation procedure is concerned; but it catches the small shops in Clause 1, which has not been subjected to any criticism, in that the person selling alcoholic liquor will need to have persons over 18 years of age supervising the sale. It goes without saying that to have an authorisation point in a small shop, perhaps run by one man and his son or daughter, would be ludicrous because the customer is under immediate supervision in any event.

This Bill is the result of a long campaign run by the Daily Record newspaper and perhaps the Glasgow Evening Times. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested that that was not a well-thought-of newspaper. I do not carry any brief for the Daily Record, though I must declare an interest in that I worked for it many years ago. I understand that it has a circulation of 650,000. If one assumes an average family of four we are talking of about 2 million people behind this campaign—at least nominally. The people of Scotland are looking carefully to see how this matter is dealt with in your Lordships' House. If the Bill falls in your Lordships' House, that will be noted.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I do not comment on the quality of a tabloid like the Daily Record. But does the noble Lord believe that such a newspaper will present the arguments produced in this House concerning the detail of the Bill rather than mounting a campaign against teenage drinking in general? Everyone supports the campaign, but what we are discussing is the detail of a Bill and examining it in an objective and less emotional manner than it is presented in the Daily Record.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's view on the matter. I am saying that the Daily Record has sparked off the interest which has resulted in the presentation of the Bill. Of course one does not expect a tabloid to go into the minutiae of it. I suggest to your Lordships that the second part of the Bill is aimed at the supermarket because it is there that the devious purchaser can best hope to get away with the purchase of alcohol, in contrast to the small shop, where he may very well be known to the shopkeeper.

In any event, I believe that there is a miguided approach to the subject by some of your Lordships. No one is pretending that the Bill is going to cure anything or that it will make a significant impact. All that it is setting out to do is to tackle part of this very serious problem that we have in Scotland.

Much has been said about the small shops. Not so long ago we had a problem with shops selling glue kits to young people. It took a great deal of work on the part of the legal authorities finally to prosecute people who were selling them. The High Court in Scotland created a new crime to enable people who were doing so to be prosecuted. As regards older people getting liquor for younger people, there are persons, for example, who are stupid enough to buy a bottle of whisky and give it to a 14 year-old child. They might very well find themselves in the same situation as the people selling glue kits to youngsters of that age. But that is another matter which is not immediately before the House.

I speak with the experience of over 25 years in the civil and criminal courts of Scotland. Drink is almost invariably the common factor in crime and spans all ages and classes. When it brings ruin to a young life, and sometimes brings death, and when violent crimes are created, it is a major blot on society. Anything that can be done to lessen the access of young people to alcohol at an early age should be welcomed by your Lordships' House. As the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, has indicated, consumption at an early age is habit-forming and to some extent it is apeing adult behaviour.

Society accepts alcohol as a legitimate social pastime and in moderation it may do good. In excess it does evil and mischief to society. We have a duty to ensure that it does not get into young hands at the stage when young people are physically and mentally unable to cope. As we all know, it is hard enough for adults to cope with alcohol. As the noble Viscount indicated, putting it into its social context, we are living in an age when young people are bombarded by the media with the delights of drinking. It is socially acceptable. Just as advertising for the services ignores the fact that by joining them you might get killed, so advertising for alcohol ignores the pitfalls of its use and abuse.

In sport we have the ridiculous picture of major clubs and tournaments being sponsored by brewers, with their logos being carried on the club jersey. Children are found on the streets of Scotland, and no doubt on the streets of other towns, and in play parks as walking and running adverts for alcohol and wearing their favourite team's jersey, which usually has to be the latest edition that they pressurise their parents to buy. The psychological pressures to experiment and to try drink build up, perhaps subconsciously, but they are there through advertising and adult example.

To some people the supermarket is a boon for shopping but to others it is a menace. I regard it as a striking example of what Robert Burns called man's inhumanity to man. It is a place that I take great care to avoid if possible. Whatever view is taken on supermarkets, they cultivate the art of enticement and the commercial seduction of the shopper. Everything on the shelves must be made attractive to the shopper to encourage his or her willingness to buy.

Drink has insidiously crept into the main shopping areas and has therefore become a ma in selling item. It is not surprising that young people want to buy and try. Others who have tried drink may want more and will go to great lengths to get it. The supermarket perhaps represents the best chance of not being spotted, particularly on a busy day when a young check-out assistant who puts the bar code through the machine does not have the time or the interest to check. That is why authorisation,It another part of the shop is important.

We all know that young people are maturing earlier these days and that it is not always easy to gauge the person's age. That is why it is important to have adult supervision to ensure that young people do not have access to alcohol as and when they wish. That is why the prior check is needed.

The reaction of the larger shops is, to say the least, rather over the top. Phrases such as "enormous disruption and annoyance to customers" and "imposition on and inconvenience to customers" are being used. They exaggerate the problem facing supermarkets, which undoubtedly use alcohol as an enticement to get a person onto the premises. Only two days ago I heard of a shop—this story is anecdotal—where one has to go through the licensed part to reach the main shopping area. If that is happening, there must be proper control over young people going into supermarkets.

The Bill would make the supermarket a no-go area for the devious purchaser of alcohol. One wonders why alcohol has crept onto the shelves. I agree with noble Lords who suggested that perhaps the best plan for supermarkets would be to operate under the terms of new Section 97B and have the shop within a shop. The facility is there if they want to use it. If they want to have alcohol on sale in the main part of the shop, they must accept the restrictions that go with that.

I cannot see any sensible adult in Scotland objecting to the minor inconvenience of having a bottle or a purchase stamped prior to going to the check-out if it assisted even a little towards the lessening of this problem. It happens already in supermarkets. I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Before purchasing goods in a supermarket people are directed to authorisation points for cheques and credit cards. The public does not complain about that. People queue up quite willingly.

Alcohol is a poison. It is high time it was recognised that selling alcohol is a privilege which should be exercised with great care. I have no doubt that supermarkets do their best to do that but mistakes will be make. Alcohol poisons the mind. It poisons the judgment, it can lead to untold misery and it can have disastrous effects on health, particularly among young people. If society is to license the sale of poison, it should be properly controlled. We go to great lengths to control drugs, from cannabis upwards. I cannot see why people should object to reasonable steps being taken through this Bill to control the sale of alcohol to young people.

The Bill may be criticised for its wording, and all kinds of imaginary prosecutions can be envisaged. But I remind the noble Baroness who referred to the inadvertent purchase that the word "wilfully" appears as an essential part of that type of behaviour. We like to think that a little common sense is applied to prosecutions. We can all imagine situations that may be initially embarrassing. One hopes that the application of common sense would ensure that there would be no prosecution in appropriate cases. Accordingly, I support the Bill.

12.15 a.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, the Government's stated objective is to seek means of closing off avenues through which alcohol is supplied to young people who are under age. The noble Lord who introduced the measure is absolutely right in saying that there is very widespread concern in Scotland regarding under-age drinking. Indeed, as he suggested, that may be best evidenced by the "tiny tipplers" campaign run by the Daily Record, whether or not that newspaper finds favour with all noble Lords.

However, that is not the only source from which one can ascertain that there is concern. For example, when the Government sought representations on the various aspects of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976, without request being made over 70 community councils and individuals responded on this very issue. Therefore, I say to noble Lords that it would be wrong to under-estimate the degree of concern which exists about the general problem. I accept, however, the noble Lord's point that we have a particular provision here with which we must deal.

The Government had hoped that this Bill would be a significant step towards the achievement of the goal of cutting off the avenues. By tightening controls on the sale of alcohol and thus restricting its availability to young people it is hoped that it will be more difficult for them to acquire it and that such measures will serve to reduce the anti-social behaviour and, I regret to say, crime which is often associated with under-age drinking. That, in itself, imposes a substantial burden upon law enforcement, health and social work agencies.

As this interesting debate has developed this evening, many statistics have been bandied about and, not for the first time, one's conclusion depends upon which statistics one looks to. Perhaps I may try to strike a balance by saying that if one looks to the OPCS report of 1986—which has already been referred to—Table 217 shows that as regards 14 year-olds 21 per cent. of boys and 18 per cent. of girls who said that they bought alcohol usually did so through shops and supermarkets. However, for reasons which I do not understand, if one then looks at the column in respect of 17 year-olds, the relevant figure for boys has dropped to 12 per cent. and that for girls has dropped to 4 per cent.

However, before I suffer any intervention on that aspect, I readily accept that the OPCS report deals only with a classification of shops and supermarkets. Moreover, there is no attempt in the report to subdivide the types of shops or supermarkets and certainly not to subdivide them to deal with a supermarket which has three or more sales points.

In another place the Government supported the Bill in principle and in detail, as your Lordships have heard. But, in the welter of criticism which there has been in regard to Clause 1(3) in the course of this evening's contributions, I have noted that there has not been a single word of criticism of the measure contained in Clause 1(2)—that is, the new Section 97A.

I am grateful to my noble friends Lady Young, Lady Carnegy of Lour and Lord Jenkin for being emphatic and unequivocal in their welcome for that particular provision of the Bill. It would be most unfortunate if the message went from this House that what is a very welcome and sensible measure in England and Wales is not to be extended to Scotland.

Of course, any legislation which we introduce cannot be foolproof. However, we can, and do, encourage and educate. We seek to point young people towards a healthy lifestyle. But that message will only carry conviction if we who have responsibility for legislation have done all that we can to constrain those who want to drink and if we can constrain them and set their opportunities within a tight legislative control.

At the same time, however, we must seek to ensure that the controls which we impose are sensible and no more than is required to achieve the ends at which we aim. I had hoped that before this debate began your Lordships would immediately accept that what is contained in the Bill does not step beyond that. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lucas that there has to be a balance between proper concern and practicality. The question is only this. Where does that balance lie? I should have hoped that what is on the face of the Bill at the moment might have met with noble Lords' approval. But I acknowledge that a substantial volume of letters has been received from traders and traders' organisations who are worried about the possible impact of the controls.

However, the measures proposed are, it is believed, no more than is necessary to achieve a real and effective barrier to the purchase of alcohol products by under-age customers. I cannot disguise that many remain unhappy since they feel that the voluntary controls that are already in place are sufficient. I pay tribute to those supermarket chains and organisations which have, without the compulsion of a legislative requirement, already put in place certain voluntary controls.

I know that a number of such organisations are concerned that the authorisation requirement imposed by the new Clause 97B would involve additional cost and inconvenience to customers. We are given to understand that the requirement for a separate area for authorisation of sales would result in an average non-recurring cost to stores of about £13,000 to £14,000 and that the additional staff costs might amount to something like £25,000 per annum for the average supermarket caught by this provision. While these amounts are not negligible, neither are they excessive when measured against the average store's turnover in alcohol products of around £1 million annually.

I have indicated that I recognise that the restrictions of the nature proposed are not welcome in some quarters, but I hope that those who have put forward their objections to what we support will recognise that we are trying to achieve a measure of proper social responsibility. The Scottish Consumer Council, at a late stage—and I make no criticism of that—have entered this debate. I think it was my noble friend Lord Jenkin who described it as an intervention of devastating force. Perhaps I may make it clear that I certainly would not accuse the Scottish Consumer Council of being in anyone's pocket. Indeed, there are occasions when I wish it was. For that reason, I am not surprised that the representations that it has made have impressed a number of your Lordships.

I do not wish to engage at this time in any detailed analysis of what the council had to say. But I share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, about the observation it makes with regard to the "forgetful grandad" who buys his can of McEwan's and fails to get it properly authorised. The suggestion is that, simply by arriving at the point of sale he commits an offence. I shall go away and look at the drafting again, but on the face of it I do not see that he has committed an offence there. It would be a wilful attempt to purchase without the authorisation that would be an offence.

The provisions proposed are no more than a socially responsible government would support and I believe they would have at most a limited impact on the average store's turnover.

As regards the contributions from the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, as I understood them, both were more inclined to support the concept of a shop within a shop as concerns alcohol products. That might be a way forward. However, if the figures I have mentioned with regard to the cost of what is proposed in the Bill are considered to be great, I have little doubt that those who run supermarkets would find that to adopt instead the shop within a shop concept would cost significantly more.

The noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, made a good point. It is unfair to criticise the promoter of the Bill in the House of Commons for his failure to have a Second Reading debate. I commend him for his political skill in managing to get it through the House of Commons without a single voice expressing objection. I do not think that therein lies a valid ground for criticism, and there was only a short debate in the Scottish second Standing Committee. Nevertheless, I trust that at any further stage in this House we shall treat this Bill in the constructive manner that it properly deserves.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, thought he saw a way through our difficulties by reminding the House that there appeared already to be an indication from the Government that there would be some future opportunity for the matter to be more sensibly considered. He is certainly correct to the extent that the Secretary of State for Scotland in a parliamentary Answer has indicated that there are a number of provisions within the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 which he would like to amend. In the time honoured phrase, he will introduce them when an appropriate legislative opportunity presents itself. The noble Lord will appreciate that he will get nothing more from me on the date of that.

I conclude by saying that although there might be, at some future date, a further amendment of the 1976 Act, it would be wrong of this House to fail to treat this Bill with the greatest care and concern. That care and concern has been shown in all the contributions that have been made this evening. I only urge that at any further stage the same careful scrutiny be given to it.

12.26 a.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, we have had an exceedingly interesting debate, albeit a bit truncated. I do not suppose noble Lords would expect me at this time of night to be able to reply to all the points that have been raised in the course of this debate, without at least studying the report of the proceedings in the Official Report tomorrow. I intend to do that.

I hope I shall be able to be in touch with the normal channels to see whether some arrangements can be arrived at that might smooth out the further progress of this Bill. To me it is imperative that it gets onto the statute book as soon as possible. We owe it to the people concerned to do everything we can to facilitate its progress. I shall do my part, and I hope I can rely on others to do theirs.

There is not a great deal between us on this matter. I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. He expressed the matter a great deal better than I could ever hope to do, but he has said all that really needed to be said about the general approach to this matter. We all agree on the need for more education, better legislation and other matters, but we cannot do all that in a Private Member's Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in the only real point one has to make, laid great stress on the timetable in another place and the timetable in your Lordships' House today. But that is nothing that can be laid at the foot of the promoter or on the Opposition in another place. If he is criticising the Government's management teams in both Houses, I cannot reply to that or get involved in it. However, there was a clear and quite unambiguous criticism of the way the matter has been handled by the Government so far. I am only too pleased that the Government have supported the Bill and maintained their support in your Lordships' House tonight. I look forward to the constructive discussions we shall have on the next stages of the Bill. I end by asking the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. My Lords, I beg to move.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.