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Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I am grateful to the Minister for his clear and informative reply. However, I still believe that the word "reasonably" should be inserted in the subsection. I shall not divide the Committee. However, I hope that the Government take further advice on the matter. I am not sure that Section 39 of the 1976 Act meets the observations made by the Minister.

I declare that I have no connection with the licensing trade apart from the fact that I have a pint from time to time in the Bishop's Bar. I have no vested interest in the issue. We seek to achieve a measure of fairness in the administration of this difficult area of life in the community.

I am sure that all noble Lords who have an interest in ensuring that young people in particular are protected from themselves--I believe that that is what the Bill is about--will note with interest what the Minister says. No doubt if representations are made from appropriate bodies those may be brought before your Lordships' House on Report. I thank the Minister for his explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 7, at end insert ("or that alcohol may be consumed to excess or consumed by people who are under age.").

The noble Earl said: I propose the amendment in the belief that licensing committees will want positively to introduce health and safety measures to young people's events. The amendment seeks to extend the duty placed on the licensing committee when it considers an application for a rave or, more strictly speaking, an event with music and dancing. The amendment is designed to bring the illegal use of alcohol within the scope of the legislation.

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The reason for my proposed extension of powers is based on the even greater chance, statistically and numerically, of a young person having a serious accident or dying from the misuse of alcohol. Such accidents and deaths are caused by alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning--that is, drinking a pint of whisky too quickly with the encouragement of friends--alcohol-induced aggression, fighting, and the chance of a road accident while the inner ear or balance mechanism is temporarily inoperative. The youngster or adult is paralytic, staggering about on the way home, or, even worse, trying to drive home.

Further, alcohol, which is normally a legal recreational drug, can easily become an illegal drug. It is obviously illegal for young people under the age of 18 to possess alcohol in a public place. It is illegal to possess alcohol which has been stolen--for example, shoplifted on the way to the party. It is illegal to possess illicitly distilled alcohol; and it is illegal for an unaccompanied person to be drunk and incapable of looking after himself in a public place.

I accept that the thrust of the Bill is to make the licensing board focus on the extra health and safety conditions that it should attach to a licence for a dance when it anticipates the misuse of controlled drugs. I have absolutely no problem with the imposition of health and safety measures when cannabis or MDMA (Ecstasy) is likely to be used. But I want to ensure that similar health and safety measures are required when the misuse of alcohol is anticipated.

During Second Reading I spoke of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and Ecstasy as all being recreational drugs, and I stand by that. I have not sought to include tobacco in the amendment as I feel that the Bill focuses on sudden deaths and immediate accidents from overdosing. Therefore slow death from nicotine poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver do not fall within the scope of the Bill and are omitted from the amendment.

Perhaps I may say a few words about MDMA (Ecstasy). Unlike alcohol and cannabis, which are depressants, MDMA is a stimulant with the characteristics of an amphetamine. The Ecstasy user seeks the drug to extend his or her day time to allow vivacious all-night dancing and to give him or her good feelings about others around them--the love drug effect. I accept that that ignores the damage now believed to be done by Ecstasy to the serotonin producing brain cells. Noble Lords do not need a lecture from me about the pleasurable effects of alcohol with its disinhibitor effect and subsequent inoperation of the inner ear balance mechanism and loss of sense of place. But I hope that the different characteristics of MDMA and the more popular depressant group of drugs--alcohol or cannabis--will be recognised. Noble Lords will be happy that I consider the hallucinogenic use of drugs such as LSD to have an even more unhelpful effect than the recreational drugs that I believe we are discussing.

I believe that the Bill will be of even greater use to Scotland and its fun-loving people if the anticipated misuse of alcohol can be included in the health and safety measures proposed. I beg to move.

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Lord Macaulay of Bragar: With respect to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, his discussion seems to be slightly outwith the terms of the amendment before the Committee. The amendment is specifically related to alcohol but in terms of the Act it is related to controlled drugs. I do not make an issue of that. We are at one in that everyone in the Chamber seeks control as regards this issue.

As it stands, I believe that the amendment would be unenforceable in the courts. We do not have a Richter scale of excess to apply to someone coming through the door to a dance saying, "The chances of your getting an alcohol level of between one to 10 is"--whatever the odds might be. I took the opportunity to ask the noble Earl what the word "excess" means in the amendment. I shall not go into the question of drugs, rave places and drying-out places, because they represent another issue. Dealing purely with the amendment before us, I find that the words "to excess" make it extremely difficult to put this into legislation. Once the Government changes and we are on the other side of your Lordships' Chamber, I would certainly not wish to be asked to implement this particular piece of legislation. I support it in principle but feel that the wording would give rise to difficulty.

Viscount Thurso: Having sat next to my noble friend Lord Russell until the early hours of this morning and having greatly enjoyed his tutelage of how to perform when the House is in Committee, I believe this amendment is what he might describe as a probing amendment. My noble friend does raise a very important question; that of under-age drinking and the effect it has on young people. As a former licensee in England and the owner of licensed premises in Scotland, I believe that the vast majority of those in the trade are as concerned as all citizens are with this evil. In that respect, I thank my noble friend for having brought up this point to which we should have regard. However, I have to say to him that when I consulted with my publican friends in Scotland and particularly when I spoke to the British Hospitality Association's representative, who is also the convenor of the Licensing Committee of the Scottish Law Society, they were extremely dubious about this amendment and the effect it would have. I think it goes far wider than my noble friend might possibly have thought. While I clearly support his sentiments, I do not think I can support the amendment as it is.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour: I should like to raise just one question in respect of this amendment. I am under the impression in connection with the licensing laws that a person must be over 18 to purchase a drink, but I thought that a person as young as 16 could consume a glass of wine or beer on licensed premises. If I am correct then this amendment would prevent anybody from obtaining an alcoholic drink under the age of 18, whether they bought it or they were given it.

The Earl of Lindsay: On behalf of the whole Committee perhaps I may thank to the noble Earl,

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Lord Mar and Kellie, for the way in which he has set out, I assume from his observed experience rather than from his actual experience, some of the recreational drugs taken by younger people today. I also realise from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, that the purpose behind this amendment is one that we would all agree with. However, the practicality is questionable, as the noble Lord himself stated.

Clearly we want to ensure that the excessive consumption of alcohol is, as far as possible, prevented and that under-age drinking is not encouraged. Indeed, both objectives are already covered in law and that law will continue to underpin the new arrangements which we are seeking to introduce in this Bill. The express purpose of Clause 1 is to protect the health and safety of young people attending certain events on licensed premises against drug misuse. In that respect it is, as your Lordships all know, a direct response to concerns expressed by Sheriff Neil Gow, following a fatal accident inquiry into a tragedy caused by drug misuse at an event at licensed premises, that there was potentially inadequate legislative provision to enable licensing boards to take appropriate action to regulate such events.

The provisions in Clause 1 put beyond doubt that licensing boards now have all the power they need. If necessary, the boards will be able to impose stringent conditions to help protect the health and safety of those attending the events which will be covered by the provisions of Clause 1. However, there may be other events held on the same licensed premises where clearly it is not necessary to impose conditions such as the provision of alternative rest areas, first aid or paramedic cover or stringent controls on numbers. The noble Earl's amendment would have the effect of bringing those events within the parameters of Clause 1.

I am not suggesting, of course, that other events should not be regulated appropriately. What I am suggesting is that other events should not be regulated excessively. We should not prevent responsible people from enjoying themselves at other events, be it in the Bishop's Bar or wherever, on licensed premises; nor should we restrict unnecessarily the licensee in the operation of his business. Licence-holders are already subject to strict controls by licensing boards in the general operation of their business, and if these are breached the licensee faces not only criminal sanctions but the threat of losing his licence and therefore his livelihood.

We have already heard concerns expressed both in this Chamber and in another place that the present definition of "events" in the Bill is too widely drawn and could mean that boards, taking a liberal interpretation of it, would impose conditions on innocuous events. We are not persuaded that this will happen. Licensing boards have enormous experience of dealing with liquor licensing and we feel that, with the assistance of Scottish Office guidance, they will bring that experience to the successful implementation of these provisions. I am afraid, though, that the noble Earl's amendment would put licensing boards into a position which gave them no room for manoeuvre or the exercise of their discretion and force the conditions to be applied where it might be quite clearly unnecessary.

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I stress again that the motives behind this amendment are motives which we could all share, and I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, made a telling comment when he pointed out that this amendment, if it became part of the Bill, would be unenforceable when the Bill was enacted. I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for giving us the benefit of his own experience and of the contacts he has within CoSLA and the licensing organisation.

My noble friend Lord Balfour was inquiring whether a person over 18 could buy a drink for someone who was under 18 but over 16 and that the younger person could then drink it legally. The answer is yes. A person over 16 but under 18 can drink alcohol on licensed premises but this is only legal when the drink is taken with a meal. No one under 18 can purchase alcohol legally.

I hope that on the basis of the explanations I have given, the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment. I would also draw the noble Earl's attention to issues which we have raised in the recent White Paper on crime and punishment as they hinge upon the areas that he is concerned about.

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