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Peter Bottomley: One of the changes made by the House a few months ago was the introduction of the rectification procedure, suggested, I think, by the former commissioner. Under that useful procedure, if a Member thinks his or her entry should be changed, that can be done without the need for a report from the commissioner.
Sir George Young: Many of the changes that we are introducing are welcome. It would have been wrong to postpone them, especially that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown).
Of course we will keep these matters under review, and of course there will be a dialogue with the Wicks committee. The hon. Member for North Cornwall described the proposals as provisional and transitional. That implies a degree of mortality to which I would not subscribe, but they will be kept under review. It is rather like painting the Forth bridge.
I understand what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said about limits. In paragraph 2 of the report, we point out that wherever the line is drawn there will be an argument for drawing it somewhere else. But there is a line in regard to gifts, which concerned him, along with the rules on hospitality and earnings. The £125 rule had not been reviewed for some time, and we felt that 1 per cent. was right.
Mr. Levitt: I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that there used to be a number of de minimis rules in different parts of the code. Is it not much more consistent to apply a 1 per cent. threshold to all the different categories?
Mr. Tyler: It may be rather early to ask this question, but can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, now that he and other Chairmen of Select Committees are apparently to receive additional remuneration, the 1 per cent. will apply to that extra money?
Sir George Young: The 1 per cent. is 1 per cent. of the parliamentary salary. If the hon. Gentleman reads the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, he will see that my Committee was excluded from the benefit of additional remuneration for its Chairman. That is quite right, and I do not seek such remuneration myself.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold for making the case so eloquently, and for helping us to make a change to the advocacy rule. That will benefit not just those caught by it but the House, in allowing us to gain from their wisdom.
(1) this House approves the Ninth Report from the Committee on Standards and Privileges, (House of Commons Paper No. 763), A new Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules;
(2) the Resolution of the House of 6th November 1995 relating to Conduct of Members shall be amended, at the end, by adding the words 'or any approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown';
(3) the Resolution of the House of 6th November 1995 relating to Employment Agreements shall be redesignated 'Agreements for the Provision of Services;' and shall be amended, as follows:
(a) by leaving out the words 'up to £1,000, £1,000£5,000, £5,000£10,000' in each of paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) and inserting the words 'up to £5,000, £5,001£10,000';
(b) after the word 'inspection' in each of paragraphs (1), (2) and (3), by inserting the words 'and reproduction';
(c) at the end, by adding the words
'Provided that the requirement to deposit a copy of an agreement with the Commissioner shall not apply
(a) if the fees or benefits payable do not exceed one per cent. of the current parliamentary salary; nor
(b) in the case of media work (but in that case the Member shall deposit a statement of the fees or benefits payable in the bands specified above)';
(4) the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (House of Commons Paper No. 688 (199596)) shall be amended as proposed in Annex 2 to the Report; and
(5) the registration forms submitted for the next published Register of Members' interests shall comply with the new rules on the registration of Members' interests; and any requirement under the new rules to register an interest which is not registrable now shall come into force on the publication of the next Register.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire): I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise the issue of binge drinking and its effect on youngsters, and to share with other hon. Members my experiences and concerns.
Binge drinking is a problem with proven links to many of the more serious aspects of antisocial behaviour in our communities. The debate is important because it will consider many issues associated with binge drinking, such as teenage drinking. As we know, our teenagers are tomorrow's policy makers. A recent report on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, by Communities That Care, covered some 14,000 secondary schools throughout England, Scotland and Wales. It stated that the widespread misuse of alcohol among under-age drinkers
The following figures from a survey show the scale of binge drinking among British teenagers. Up to 25 per cent. of 13 and 14-year-olds claim to have downed at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session. That figure rises to 50 per cent. of all 15 and 16-year-olds. Some 27 per cent. of 15 and 16-year-olds reported going on three or more binges in the past month. The survey also found that 9 per cent. of boys and 5 per cent. of 11 and 12-year-old girls describe themselves as regular drinkers. Those figures rise to 39 per cent. of boys and 33 per cent. of girls aged 15 to 16. The majority of children surveyed stated that their parents would think it wrong for them to steal or to use illegal drugs, but the proportion who said that their parents would object to under-age drinking declined significantly.
Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): I should point out to my hon. Friend that most research shows that young people do not regard themselves at as risk from alcohol. According to various surveys in Scotland and the rest of the UK, education for children about alcohol is almost non-existent in some schools. Perhaps some attention can be given to that in this debate.
The national picture gives cause for concern, given the association of binge drinking with criminal activities committed by teenage drinkers. Some 10 per cent. of schoolchildren admitted that they had committed burglary, and 25 per cent. of 15 to 16-year-olds admitted to carrying offensive weapons. The report's findings simply replicated the conclusion of earlier reports that British teenagers are more likely to get drunk than their European contemporaries. Some researchers would claim that that is attributable to a more relaxed attitude to alcohol use in Britain.
In a recent case in Stirling, three boys aged between 10 and 12 were admitted to Stirling royal infirmary, suffering from the effects of alcohol. The two boys aged 12 were described as suffering from drowsiness and vomiting. The condition of the 10-year-old boy gave greater cause for concern. His body temperature had to be raised, as it was dangerously low. Coupled with severe vomiting, his condition could have led to cardiac arrest. Police in Stirling are still trying to discover who supplied the boys with alcoholand therein lies another problem.
Consumer advocates and anti-alcohol groups have recently called for regulations to place stricter controls on the marketing to teenagers of fruit-flavoured alcoholic drinks. Such drinks are known as alcopops and are designed to appeal to the younger drinker. The groups say that the new hard lemonades and other fruit-flavoured malt beverages are primarily targeted at teenage consumers. Alcopop drinks are clearly child-oriented products that are designed to get children to consume alcohol at an early age. The complaint called for an investigation into whether labelling and marketing of fruit-flavoured alcoholic beverages could be construed as unfair marketing practice under law. In response to the complaints, drinks manufacturers and distributors stated:
The British Entertainment and Discotheque Association, a representative body for late-night venues with more than 1,000 members across the UK, has been heavily involved in the debate on binge drinking and the impact that alcohol discounting has on the late-night environment in our communities. It is calling for a solution to the problem that still gives operators some freedom to offer promotions while removing the ability to offer the deep discounts and irresponsible promotions that cause so much trouble in our communities.