HC Deb 01 May 1996 vol 276 cc1206-30

18B.—(1) This section applies to premises in respect of which a licence has been granted, whether before or after the coming into force of this section, under section 17 of this Act where no conditions have been attached to the licence in pursuance of section 18A of this Act.

(2) Where it appears to a licensing board that an event to which section 18A of this Act applies may be held on premises to which this section applies, the board shall convene a meeting for the purpose of attaching to the licence the conditions specified in subsection (1) of that section.

(3) The clerk to the licensing board shall, not later than 21 days before the date of the meeting to be held under subsection (2) above, serve on the holder of the licence and send to the chief constable a notice of—

  1. (a) the meeting;
  2. (b) where the Secretary of State has prescribed the terms of any prescribed conditions, such terms;
  3. (c) in the case of any other prescribed conditions, the terms proposed by the board; and
  4. (d) where the board proposes to attach any other conditions to the licence, the terms of such conditions.

(4) At the meeting held under subsection (2) above, unless the holder of the licence satisfies the board that no event to which section 18A of this Act applies will be held on the premises, the board shall attach to the licence the prescribed conditions and such other conditions as it considers necessary in the terms determined in accordance with subsection (5) below.

(5) In determining—

  1. (a) whether the board is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (4) above; or
  2. (b) what conditions (other than prescribed conditions) to attach to a licence or the terms (other than such terms as are prescribed) of such conditions,
the board shall have regard to any observations submitted by the chief constable and any other person or body mentioned in section 16(1) of this Act.

(6) Subsections (2) to (4) of section 16 of this Act shall apply in relation to any observations made under subsection (5) above as they apply in relation to any objection made under that section; and for the purposes of such application any reference in the said subsections (2) to (4)—

  1. (a) to an application shall be construed as a reference to conditions proposed to be attached to the licence;
  2. (b) to the applicant shall be construed as a reference to the holder of the licence;
  3. (c) to an objection shall be construed as a reference to an observation;
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  5. (d) to the proper address of the applicant shall be construed as a reference to the address at which notice is served on the holder of the licence under subsection (3) above,
and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly.

(7) The terms of conditions to be attached to the licence in pursuance of subsection (4) above are—

  1. (a) in the case of the prescribed conditions—
    1. (i) where the terms of any condition have been prescribed, such terms;
    2. (ii) where the description of any condition has been prescribed, such terms as the board considers appropriate;
  2. (b) in the case of any other condition notified under subsection (3)(d) above, such terms as the board consider appropriate; and
  3. (c) in the case of any condition not so notified, such terms as are agreed with the holder of the licence.

(8) Subsections (4) to (9) of section 18A of this Act shall apply to conditions attached to a licence under subsection (4) above as they apply to conditions attached to a licence under section 18A(I) of this Act.

(9) The clerk to the licensing board shall forthwith intimate to the holder of the licence—

  1. (a) where the board is satisfied that no event to which section I 8A of this Act will be held on the premises, that fact; and
  2. (b) where the board attaches conditions to the licence, such conditions by sending to the holder of the licence a copy of the licence with the conditions attached.

(10) In this section "prescribed conditions" has the same meaning as in section 18A of this Act.'.

Amendment (a) to the Government amendment, in subsection (4), after the first 'licence', insert 'or his representative'.

Amendment (b), in subsection (9), leave out 'forthwith' and insert ', no later than fourteen days after the meeting held under subsection (2) above, '.

Government amendments Nos. 11 and 12.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I welcome the all-party support for this Bill and the helpful suggestions made by Opposition Members, many of which are incorporated in the Bill. We wish to consider amendment (a) to Government amendment No. 15 further, because it may give rise to consequential amendments to other legislation. I therefore wish to take away that amendment with a view to considering whether it can be accepted without causing difficulty to other legislation. We are very sympathetic to the aims of the amendment, and we shall do our best to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Hon. Members who were present will recall that I said in Committee that I intended to bring forward an amendment on Report that would give licensing boards the power to attach conditions to existing licences in the same way as the boards would be able to attach conditions on the grant or renewal of a licence. Licences granted under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 usually last for three years, and it would in no small degree frustrate the object of the Bill if boards had to wait that long before being able to attach conditions to relevant licences, to protect the health and safety of young people.

Amendment No. 15, along with three consequential amendments, will make certain that licensing boards do not have to await the renewal of licences before attaching conditions. The amendment introduces new section 18B into the 1976 Act, which enables a board to attach conditions to an existing licence. Where a board proposes to attach conditions to an existing licence, it must convene a meeting and serve a notice on the licence holder.

We have taken account of the essence of concerns raised by hon. Members about the wording of the earlier version of the amendment. It was suggested that the licensing board might not provide enough information to the licence holder about when and where the meeting was to be held. New section 18B(3)(a) has been drafted in terms already used in the 1976 Act which, I hope, will assuage any concerns that hon. Members may have had about the information to be notified to the licence holder. The holder of a licence has the same rights of appeal to a sheriff in respect of conditions attached to an existing licence as are provided in relation to conditions attached on the grant or renewal of a licence.

I hope that hon. Members will appreciate the good sense of amendment No. 15, and the consequential amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12, noting that we have taken on board their point mentioned in Committee about the notification of the meeting. I therefore commend them to the House.

While it may not be appropriate for me to refer to Opposition amendments other than the one that I have agreed to take away and consider, I might assist the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) by saying that, although I am sympathetic to the aim of amendment (b), we would seek to cover that matter in guidance. It is not necessary to legislate. I hope that that assists the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

First, I thank the Minister for his co-operation during the evidence sessions on the Bill. It has been a co-operative and a listening exercise, and the Bill has gained from that. The Minister and the Government made considerable concessions after hearing the evidence. I accept that Government amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 are consequential, and that Government amendment No. 9 in particular is a paving amendment for amendments (a) and (b).

The reasoning behind the amendments is as follows. A meeting of the licensing board, as defined in new section 18A, will be held for the purpose of putting conditions on the licence. The licensing board will be required to give notification of those conditions and of the meeting date and location. Our amendments cover that, and make more specific the date and location of the meeting.

The amendments further provide for the licence holder or his representative, as laid out in the 1976 Act, to make representations, and deal with the word "forthwith". The Bill contains no qualification of "forthwith", and I was trying to make it more specific by referring to 14 days. But even at this late stage, I am happy for the Minister to take the amendments away and see what can be done.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

On amendment (b), I confirm that the word "forthwith" means as quickly as possible. We shall seek to confirm in guidance that "forthwith" means what it says, and that it should be well within 14 days. We accept the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

New section 18B(2), in amendment No. 15, states: Where it appears to a licensing board that an event to which section 18A of this Act applies". The licensing boards are bodies. How does the Minister envisage something appearing to them? Does he envisage a procedure to enable people to make objections to the board or to draw matters to its attention? How will the board come by the knowledge to set this worthwhile procedure in train?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The requirement is that the decision of the licensing board must be intimated to the licence holder forthwith. The hon. Gentleman is raising a different point, which I think we shall come to in discussing another amendment. I might return to the matter then.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McFall

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 1, line 10, leave out 'or'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 14, in page 1, line 12, at end insert ; or

  1. (d) a regular or occasional extension under section 64 of this Act.'.

Mr. McFall

Amendment No. 13 is a paving amendment for amendment No. 14, the effect of which would be to ensure that the provisions of new section 18A of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 applied to all licence extensions. The reason for it is that the provisions of new section 18A apply currently to licences, occasional licences and occasional permissions under the 1976 Act. Regular extensions and occasional extensions are omitted, and there seems no logical reason for that.

Accordingly, the amendment remedies that, because we could find a licensing board giving an occasional extension to premises for a 21st birthday party, and the premises getting that extension for up to one month. There is flexibility in the amendment, and I hope that the Minister will consider it seriously.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

With respect, I do not think that the amendments are strictly necessary and indeed, if introduced, they might cause confusion for the licensing boards, because they would create inconsistency between the new arrangements and existing procedures covered in the 1976 Act. I welcome the opportunity to explain the position.

The types of licence or permission to which the provisions of clause 1 will apply are listed in the new subsection. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the purpose of the amendments is to add regular or occasional extensions granted under the provisions in the 1976 Act, which enable alcohol to be sold outwith the statutory core hours, to the list in new subsection (1). That implies that conditions attached to the licence fly off during any occasional or regular extension of permitted hours granted in relation to the licence. I am glad to confirm that that is not the case. A licence holder would be required to observe the conditions attached to his licence, not only during the normal permitted hours, but where he or she has authority to extend the sale of alcohol beyond the normal permitted hours during such extensions.

In view of that explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) can agree that the matter is amply provided for and will withdraw the amendment.

7.30 pm
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

The Minister seems properly to have stated the position. The foundation for any regular or occasional extension under section 64 of the 1976 Act arises only once a licence has been granted under section 17. Therefore, if a condition attaches to the original grant of licence, it inevitably follows that the condition must attach to any regular or occasional extension of that licence. Therefore, on this occasion, perhaps much to the Minister's surprise, I find myself in agreement with him. His analysis of the effect of the amendment is entirely correct and I join him in suggesting to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) that it be withdrawn.

Mr. McFall

The forces of the law are closing in on me. I take the advice that has been given to heart and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'conditions' and insert 'the prescribed conditions and such other conditions as the board considers necessary'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 20, in page 1, line 19, after 'attach', insert 'the prescribed conditions and such other necessary'.

Government amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 4, at end insert '(3A) The Secretary of State may, by order, prescribe the conditions which are to be attached to a licence or permission under this section, and an order made under this subsection may prescribe—

  1. (a) the terms of any such condition; or
  2. (b) the description of any such condition, the terms of which shall be specified by the licensing board, and such an order shall be made by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.
Amendment (a) to the Government amendment, in subsection (3A), after 'Secretary of State' leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Amendment (b), in subsection (3A), after 'subsection' leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

Government amendmento. 3.

Amendment No. 23, in page 2, line 13, at end insert— '(4A) The conditions referred to in subsection (3A) above shall without prejudice to any other provisions which the Secretary of State may consider necessary include the following—

  1. (a) the number of persons who may attend the event;
  2. (b) the number of stewards who shall attend the event;
  3. (c) the training and qualifications of the stewards who shall attend the event;
  4. (d) the number, training and qualifications of medically qualified persons who shall attend the event;
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  6. (e) that the premises should have a soundproofed, ventilated area not used for dancing; or
  7. (f) that the licence holder should provide without charge fresh drinking water to those attending the event.'.
Government amendment No. 5.

Amendment No. 27, in page 2, line 31, after 'music', insert medically qualified person" includes any person qualified as a doctor, nurse or paramedic;'. Government amendments Nos. 7 and 8.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

This group of Government amendments deal with the proposed introduction of a power to enable the Secretary of State to prescribe conditions which licensing boards must attach to licences in relation to premises at which relevant events are to be held. The amendments fulfil undertakings that we gave in Committee to bring forward on Report the changes required to provide for this.

The amendments address concerns raised in debate that boards might not implement the provisions in the Bill with the same consistency or rigour. We are of course committed to issuing guidance on the nature and form of conditions that may be attached to licences.

We cannot guarantee that that guidance will be followed consistently by each board. As hon. Members who were present recognised when we debated this issue in Committee, the health and safety of the young and vulnerable are important enough to require certain minimum standards to be applied across the country as a whole. We therefore agreed that the Secretary of State should have available a power which he can exercise, if required, to prescribe minimum conditions which boards must attach to relevant licences. That will ensure that the basic policy underlying clause 1, which has received support from all sides, will not be undermined through inconsistency of approach.

Amendment No. 2 introduces the necessary order-making power and amendment No. 1 imposes the duty on boards to adhere to the terms of any order made by the Secretary of State under it.

As the intention of the amendments is to ensure that there is, if necessary, a core of minimum conditions to protect young people attending relevant events, amendment No. 5 provides that the attachment of the Secretary of State's prescribed conditions to a licence may not be appealed by the licence holder. However, the terms of the conditions imposed by the board, where the Secretary of State has simply described the type of condition which must be applied, will be subject to an appeal to the sheriff in the same way as any other condition imposed at the board's discretion.

Amendment No. 8 ensures that "prescribed conditions" are defined for the purposes of the Bill. The other amendments, Nos. 3 and 7, are consequential drafting amendments.

I hope that hon Members will welcome the amendments which introduce a mechanism, arising out of representations in Committee, whereby minimum conditions can, if it proves necessary, be set for the whole of Scotland.

I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. McFall

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I accept his arguments on Government amendments Nos. 7 and 8.

With regard to Government amendment No. 5, the Minister said that the right of appeal to the sheriff cannot apply when the Secretary of State has made his decision. That is why consultation on the Secretary of State's conditions is paramount. The Bill removes the right of appeal on the Secretary of State's conditions. We need the agreement of all parties regarding the tenor of those prescribed conditions. I seek the Minister's further comment on that.

The Opposition's amendment No. 20 takes into account the effect of the Government's amendments. Amendment No. 20 corrects a Government error. The Bill currently refers to: The duty of the licensing board under subsection (1) with regard to the conditions of a licence. The Government's amendment of that in their amendment No. 2 should contain a reference to the prescribed conditions in new subsection 18A(2).

Perhaps the most important Opposition amendment in the group is amendment No. 23, which states that the Secretary of State shall prescribe conditions. We remember back to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 when local authorities were allowed the power to prescribe byelaws. If I am correct, only 44 out of 57 local authorities undertook that. Therefore, it is important that there is an obligation on local authorities to have the conditions. The Minister kindly sent me a copy of the model licence conditions which have gone out to local authorities, but I still feel that there must be an obligatory element.

The Government are not laying down in concrete exactly what will apply in each and every area. They should be setting the outcomes so that there is a consistency of approach throughout Scotland and throughout different local authorities. On Second Reading, a number of right hon. and hon. Members said that such lack of consistency in the original Bill was a matter for concern. I should like the Minister to consider that issue closely.

Amendment No. 23 suggests that the Secretary of State may consider it necessary to include the number of persons who may attend the event". Under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 a number of authorities prescribed conditions at dances and, as we had, raves. I should like to see that adopted throughout Scotland. I think that the authorities were Stirling, in the Secretary of State's constituency, and West Lothian. The number of persons who may attend an event is extremely important. When we look back to the Hangar 13 incident, we find from police statements that the number of young people at the event exceeded the desirable number.

There is also the issue of stewarding. We have had representations from a number of local authorities—for example, in Glasgow—for stewards to be properly qualified. The training and qualifications of stewards who attend such events is extremely important. We have quite a distance to go yet to ensure that we have that standardisation of approach to training and qualifications.

The Opposition have also sought to define a medically qualified person. The Government have attempted that in another area, but it is important specifically to determine a medically qualified person and the number of such people who should be at these events. If individuals or organisations put on the events, they have certain obligations, and it is important to have in the Bill exactly what those obligations are.

I do not think that there is any disagreement, other than perhaps from the Glasgow licensing board, that the holder of the event should provide, without charge, fresh drinking water for those attending the event. That is a commonsense approach to a contemporary situation in which society finds itself. The Opposition have always gone along with the Government on that issue. However, we would like it to be more specific and to be obligatory.

Although the model guidelines issued by the Scottish Office are comprehensive in their approach, without that obligatory element, there could be variation between areas which would defeat the purpose of the Bill for which there has been almost unanimous approval. Will the Minister consider that?

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the way in which he has responded to some of the points made in Committee. I fully endorse the amendments and welcome the fact that he sent to us his suggestions for model licensing conditions. In Committee we used the word "flexibility" a great deal with respect to applications in different parts of the country. The amendments allow for that flexibility.

Having said that, there are one or two words in the model licensing guidelines to which I take great exception. It is unfortunate that the phrase "chill-out areas" has been used, because it is associated with the world of drugs. As we said in Committee, the licensing conditions apply to venues that could be, and hopefully are, drug-free, but there is still a need for quiet areas and cool areas. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that when he puts together the final draft of the guidelines.

Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)

Like the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) I believe that the Minister has incorporated into the guidelines most of the things that we asked for in Committee. I am a little concerned that there are a few loose ends that need to be tied up. There must be some obligation to ensure that the conditions are laid down stringently.

I am concerned particularly about stewarding and the lack of a definition of what constitutes a steward. What sort of person will be employed as a steward? Will it be someone whom the licence holder will draft in for the night or will it be someone who is permanently employed? There does not seem to be any need for accreditation. Training is referred to in the model guidelines, but it is very loose in-house training. I would have preferred to see the stewards checked out and accredited by the police. All too often in the past, some of those doing the stewarding seem to be bigger thugs than those whom they were trying to escort from the premises.

We would not get into a taxi if the driver did not have a licence to carry passengers, but we often put our young people into the hands of stewards who have no expertise and who are just drafted in and paid by the night. We owe it to the young people attending these raves to ensure that the stewards are properly qualified.

We also have to apply that principle to whoever is in charge of providing medical attention. Again, we need to lay down more stringent guidelines. I know that some of the licence holders who came to see us talked about getting in paramedics on a regular basis, but we must tighten that up a little bit.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

I should like to reiterate the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) about stewarding and the need to set guidelines. I know that there are some proposals from the CU Jimmy university to offer a degree in bouncing which may be helpful. I believe that one can obtain a degree in most things there. [Interruption.] Caledonian university is known in Tom Shiel's diary as the CU Jimmy university. I think—[Interruption] The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) just accused me of academic snobbery. That is a shocking accusation since we went to the same university.

We cannot leave this completely unregulated. This is an important method by which we will regulate what goes on. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North said, we would not let anyone drive a taxi without some form of licence and we stipulate various regulations for the person offering medical attention. Yet, for the bouncer, there is nothing to be done. The Minister should take that away and look at it.

7.45 pm

Having said that, I welcome the amendment and what it is trying to do. I understand that part of the reason for it is the position taken by the Glasgow licensing board, which said that it would not lay down stipulations, for various reasons. That is wrong. The licensing authorities are not there as our moral guardians—that is a position for us to adopt—but they are there to regulate public order. They must not let their personal views interfere with the conditions necessary for good public order.

It is important to try to maintain some rational debate. I will take this opportunity to support the director of social work in Glasgow, Mary Hartnell, who tried to lay out the facts. We might not agree with some of the conclusions, but we should not dispute the facts. I do not blame those who condemned her because I know what it is like. Representatives from the press phone up and say, "So and so has said this." One gives a short, outraged, how can it possibly be, end-of-the-world-is-nigh response, only to find out that the person did not say anything in the first place.

It is important that there is uniformity across the country. We cannot have conditions in one area which mean that the problems shift elsewhere. In that respect, public opinion and other pressures might, of necessity, force licensing bodies to adopt some sort of uniformity because, if an area is lax, the raves will simply move in. The days of variation in regulations are over.

I remember when Glasgow and other councils had the right to ban certain films. It is preposterous that they should have been allowed to make such moral judgments. I remember that Glasgow banned a couple of films and we trooped down to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North to watch them. That was great business for Paisley, but we cannot have that.

I hope that the Minister will take on board the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), which ensures that there is an obligatory aspect.

There should not be too much variation; absolute conditions should be laid down and rigorously enforced. In particular, I refer to the availability of drinking water and to the cups for drinking it. I can envisage a situation where a rave party takes place in a hangar, hundreds of people attend and the plastic cups run out—I suspect that they may be used for other things. These conditions have to be rigorously enforced. That brings me back to the licensing of stewards. If the conditions are not enforced, the stewards may have their licences withdrawn. With those caveats, I welcome the amendment.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)

I support the amendment of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), particularly with reference to changing "may" to "shall". The House must clearly show that it wants to introduce the model licensing conditions that the Minister has circulated. I am particularly interested in chill-out areas, notwithstanding the argument of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) with whom I agree on this point. I am also interested in the availability of drinking water.

I believe that there will be a financial temptation for people who run these social events to let the water run out and to have no cups available. Young people will then be obliged to buy drinks at exorbitant prices. Quite often, they have only a limited amount of money and they will choose to do without. For medical reasons, it is essential that they continue to take in fluids in considerable quantities.

Clearly question of public safety will operate in direct contradiction to the financial interests of the operators of the centres. In those circumstances, the local authority—which will come under great pressure from the licence holders—should not have the discretion to waive the facilities that we believe should be provided. Therefore, a "shall" rather than a "may" would be a much clearer way of stating the opinion of the House in this matter.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

As I understand the purpose of the amendments moved by the Minister, they are to ensure that a common set of standards apply to events that are held in Scotland and covered by the Bill. With the creation of that common set of standards, the Secretary of State will have the discretion to lay down the standards. It leaves a substantial amount of discretion to the Secretary of State, and I do not normally encourage that, because I think discretion can be abused as easily as it can be properly implemented.

Against that, the amendment of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) would prescribe certain provisions that the Secretary of State has to incorporate willy-nilly in the guidance that he issues. I am not persuaded that that is the appropriate way to proceed. I believe that leaving this matter to the common sense of the Secretary of State is a much more effective way to realise some of the objectives that hon. Members are anxious to achieve.

I understand the enthusiasm for prescribing the number of persons, the number of stewards and their training and qualifications, the number of medically qualified persons the soundproof ventilated area not used for dancing—a soundproof ventilated area in the Chamber might be of some assistance to us from time to time—and the fresh drinking water. The latter issue came up when the Bill had its Second Reading in the Scottish Grand Committee. Some hon. Members expressed doubt as to whether a provision of that kind could be introduced by a Bill dealing with safety. We had an interesting debate as to whether health and safety was necessary in order to provide a proper statutory foundation.

All those are highly desirable objectives, and I understand the motives of the hon. Members who wish to have them on the face of the Bill. However, I am not convinced that it is necessary in this case. There is a strong argument for leaving this to the discretion of the Secretary of State. For the second consecutive occasion, I find myself agreeing with the Minister. For the moment, I am not convinced that amendment No. 23 is necessary to bring about the entirely laudable objectives that hon. Members who spoke in support of it clearly wish to achieve.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I agree with the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) that there should be consultation before any order is made. It is important for us to have a consistent policy that is applied throughout Scotland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) raised the issue of the model licensing conditions and mentioned certain drafting improvements that can be made. We shall look at the improvements, as the guidelines have not been finally approved.

We shall look at the guidelines in relation to what the hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) said and revise them as appropriate. At this stage, the guidelines merely give an idea of the conditions that may apply—they will not be finalised until we have consulted widely.

The hon. Members for Paisley, North and for Dumbarton raised the issue of stewards and training. The power that licensing boards will be given to set conditions can well accommodate a requirement for adequately trained door stewards. Indeed, we would expect the boards to consider such a condition as one of the minimum requirements, and it will be highlighted as such in the model conditions. A new Scottish vocational qualification in door supervision will soon be available. This has been prepared in partnership with the security industry training organisations. Such training initiatives should have a positive effect in improving the standards and the public image of door stewards.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their comments about the conditions being obligatory. We should try to get the provisions right, and I believe that we have done so. We were concerned—Opposition Members shared our concern—that some licensing boards might not apply the requirement to impose the conditions properly. Therefore, we felt it necessary to put down the Government amendments as a precautionary step. At present, we have reason to believe that licensing boards will act responsibly and implement the policy fully. That is surely the correct basis on which to proceed.

We shall monitor practices closely, and if that does not happen, the Secretary of State can step in. We should not pre-empt the decision making of local licensing boards at this stage, as it would be undesirable to undermine their responsibility. However, if difficulties arise, we shall be in a position to do something about it. In view of the strength of feeling expressed, I am willing to reconsider our attitude on this subject.

I shall give an example of why we have dealt with the matter in that way. I refer to the issue of numbers. We believe that a certain amount of local discretion is appropriate in determining the numbers. It is difficult for the Secretary of State to prescribe an obligation on numbers. We shall review the matter closely in the light of what happens and take further action if necessary. At the moment, we believe that the other amendments are not necessary. The Government amendments are necessary to give the Secretary of State the necessary powers. I am grateful for the support of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell).

Mr. McFall

It was worth waiting to hear about the Government's initiatives in higher education—a certificate in door supervision. I look forward to the Minister presenting the certificates. I refer to the empirical evidence. The City of Glasgow Licensing Board recently wrote to me in relation to training staff and stewards. The letter stated: Glasgow Licensing Board considers that it has been at the forefront of promoting the responsible management of licensed entertainment premises by licenceholders within its jurisdiction. The board's experience has led it to the conclusion that the training of staff and stewards employed in licensed premises is an extremely important factor in providing a well-run and trouble-free environment. The board has already introduced its own initiatives in regard to training. More recently, in a well-publicised move, it introduced a five-point plan intended to eradicate drugs in licensed entertainment venues.

The board states: To a large extent…these initiatives are supported by the licensed trade", but concludes that the licensing of stewards employed in licensed premises is an issue which the Scottish Office should take on board. However, to date the Scottish Office have resisted the Board's repeated requests in that regard. I hope that the Minister will pay attention to evidence from a licensing board that has had daily experience of the present circumstances.

8 pm

The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) mentioned chill-out areas. The Glasgow licensing board has said that it has spoken to the Scottish Drugs Forum about the issue, and that the forum considers the term unfortunate. The concept of a quiet lounge area outwith the discotheque environment, already in place in many establishments, is apparently what was intended by the reference. The Scottish Drugs Forum seems to be content to withdraw the term "chill-out area". I ask the Minister to consider the issues involved.

We speak of model licensing conditions. We do not want a missive to be sent from St Andrew's house saying exactly how many individuals should be allowed into a venue at any one time; that can be prescribed locally. The people concerned should be obliged to take the necessary action, however. The filling in can be done at local level—discretion can be given for that—but the Scottish Office should issue an order for that to be done. That would provide some consistency.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall be happy to examine the matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. McFall

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, it is a Government amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. McFall

I beg to move amendment No. 17, in page 1, line 16, after 'of', insert '(i)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 18, in page 1, line 17, after 'health', insert ', welfare'.

No. 19, in page 1, line 17, after 'event', insert ';and

  1. (ii) promoting knowledge among such persons about the effects of the misuse of alcohol and drugs.'.

Mr. McFall

Amendment No. 17 is consequential: it is a paving amendment for amendments Nos. 18 and 19. We consider that the conditions that the licensing board is obliged to provide under new section 18A should safeguard the health and safety of those attending raves; but health and safety are not the only matters with which the board should be concerned: it should also be concerned about the welfare of individuals. That might not include all types of provision that a licensing board can make, however. The welfare category could include the hours during which such an event takes place, the physical environment and, perhaps, the volume of the music.

Amendment No. 19 imposes a new obligation on licensing boards to promote knowledge of the effects of misuse of alcohol and drugs. The duty on licensing boards in respect of promoting the health and safety of those attending raves needs to be tempered by information that allows people to make informed decisions about their health. The Minister will note that we have included alcohol as well as drugs in the amendment. We think it important to educate people about that. We welcomed the all-party approach to drugs adopted by the Government and the Opposition parties in Scotland, but people must be educated at local level. Licence holders organising such events should be obliged to disseminate information about the misuse of alcohol and drugs.

As the Minister knows, many young people are abusing alcohol to an unacceptable extent. Some brewers and other companies have produced "alcopop", which I believe is aimed specifically at very young people. A local educational programme should be provided to counter that. Yes, we are placing an obligation on licence holders, but they are dealing with young people who may be vulnerable, and it is important for them to have obligations.

Mr. Galbraith

I support amendment No. 19 in particular: I am in favour of the concept of continuing education. I do not intend at this stage to deal with the question of how to prevent people from taking drugs, which is wide and difficult, but I am encouraged by the fact that the amendment refers to alcohol as well as drugs. There is some equivalence between the two.

We often forget that alcohol is a drug, in the sense that many other substances are drugs. We should not seek to distinguish the different kinds of drug for historical or social reasons. I am only disappointed that the amendment does not include tobacco. People who find that they have to smoke are addicted to nicotine: they are nicotine drug addicts, and in that sense they are no different from any other addict, although it is socially less acceptable to admit. Those who indulge in tobacco do not want to admit that they are physically dependent.

When we consider the number of people who die as a result of drug taking, we tend to go by the generic terms. We think of heroin and cocaine, for instance. In 1994, 247 people in Scotland died as a result of using drugs defined in that way. More people—335—c1ied of illnesses directly related to the ingestion of the drug alcohol, while 3,000 died from diseases associated with alcohol.

In 1991, 10,600 people died as a result of using the drug nicotine, obtained through nicotine. Let us keep the figures in proportion. A total of 247 people died as a result of what are commonly and popularly known as drugs; 10,600 people died as a result of the drug nicotine. That does not excuse the use of any of the other drugs, but it does mean that we should see the matter in perspective.

I welcome the amendment, and hope that the Minister will take it on board. If he does, I hope that, by whatever method, he will include nicotine in its provisions.

Mr. Wallace

I share the sentiments and good intentions behind the amendments, but I am afraid that I cannot support them, because I do not honestly think that they are capable of being translated into action by licensing boards. Although matters such as health and safety may be susceptible of an objective approach when a licensing board attaches conditions, to impose responsibility regarding welfare is to impose a duty that is so wide that I am not sure how the board could, in all conscience, discharge it. Welfare may differ considerably from one person to another, and, given such large crowds, it would be very difficult to discharge such a responsibility.

Amendment No.19 speaks of promoting knowledge among such persons about the effects of the misuse of alcohol and drugs. Again, we do not object to that idea—much more should be done generally to promote knowledge of those effect—but how is a licensing board to discharge that responsibility? What will be required? Must adverts be placed or must there be a period during the evening when a lecture is given or do leaflets have to be distributed? If leaflets have to be distributed, I think that all hon. Members would agree that how one promotes information and explains the effects of such actions can often be a matter of debate and dispute.

During our debate on an earlier group of amendments, the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) mentioned the furore sparked off by the remarks of the director of social work in Glasgow. I shall not go into the merits of what was said, but the incident illustrated the number of differing views that can be held on the subject. A person who is granted a licence may distribute leaflets seeking to promote knowledge, but others might say that the leaflets do nothing of the sort and, indeed, encourage such actions. When criminal sanctions are attached to a breach of the licensing conditions, it is incumbent on the board to be precise so that the person who has to comply with the conditions knows exactly what he is required to do. I do not think that that is possible.

There is an important task to be done in promoting knowledge. The Liberal Democrats have supported the all-party initiative, Scotland against Drugs, and we shall be taking to the buses on Tuesday to take the message around Scotland. We must not stop there; we must promote information through our schools and through health education. As the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden rightly said, the message must also include alcohol as well as drugs and nicotine. I do not believe that the responsibility can adequately be discharged by he licensing boards when dealing with such applications.

Mrs. Adams

I support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall). While I recognise that it would be difficult to put the provision into practice, it would be remiss of us to miss the opportunity at least to try to promote some of the health messages that we have heard from the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith).

In the midst of our discussions, we may have lost the message of the dangers of alcohol and nicotine. We are aware of the dangers of drugs. All hon. Members have desperately tried to promote the message that drugs are exceptionally dangerous. We must not lose sight of the fact that many people are dying of alcohol and alcohol-related diseases, and of nicotine-related diseases. No end of organisations are willing to come to venues such as raves and clubs to promote good health practices and to mix with young people. Whether leaflets are used or information is circulated via anti-drugs and anti-alcohol organisations, we must try to put some of the measures into practice, not simply leave it to chance. If we do not take the amendments on board, we shall be missing an opportunity.

8.15 pm
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

New section 18A spells out the purpose for which boards, having concluded that an event is a relevant one, attach conditions to the liquor licence. Following debates in Committee, that purpose was extended to safeguarding the health and safety of people attending relevant events. The change was warmly accepted by hon. Members.

As the hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams) said, amendment No. 18 would extend that purpose still further. That would be a praiseworthy aim if it achieved any further benefit. However, like the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), I do not believe that it does. Protecting the health and safety of young people is an all-embracing objective that must reasonably imply the inclusion of welfare, so a specific reference is unnecessary.

Amendment No. 19 would introduce a second purpose for attracting conditions to licences. While I agree with the essence of the point, the change is unnecessary.

Of course alcohol and drug misuse is detrimental to health and safety. Under new section 18A, a board is empowered to attach appropriate conditions to a licence to achieve the objective. A board is surely best placed to gauge how to achieve that aim in any particular circumstances, which is why it should be provided for as a condition.

The terms and conditions that boards should attach to licences will be fully covered in the guidance to be issued by the Scottish Office following consultation. Boards will be fully aware that informing people about the dangers of drug misuse is part of the Bill's purpose. As we have already debated and confirmed, if boards do not attach appropriate conditions to licences, the Secretary of State will have the power to prescribe the conditions that boards will have to attach.

Amendment No. 17 is simply consequential on the other two amendments. I trust that I have explained why the amendments are unnecessary, although their purpose is praiseworthy. The terms of the Bill cover the points raised.

Mr. McFall

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. McFall

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 2, line 1, leave out 'at which it appears to the board' and insert' 'in respect of which the board has received specific information'.

The amendment is concerned with specificity rather than vagueness. The Bill states that the appearance of the possibility of the misuse of drugs at events is a sufficient basis for a licensing board to act. The amendment requires the board to have specific intelligence that offences may be committed. The Minister knows that we have raised the issue with him before. I believe that he has said that the Government consulted the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and it was content with the provision, but it is important to specify what the licensing board has to know.

Under the Bill, the so-called information could be a rumour—one member of the board could hear it and decide to act. That member may have listened to a chief constable or another person's competitor. The wording is too vague, and it would be better if it were stated in the Bill that the board had received specific information.

I am aware that, if a chief constable gives information, it could be confidential. The amendment allows for that information to remain confidential, but it must be specific. The amendment is aimed at tying down the information to being specific rather than vague. The Minister is aware of our concerns.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth and Kinross)

I support the amendment. I am uncertain about its precise wording, but the tenor is right. I have been concerned that this part of the Bill has insufficient legal clarity and that licensing boards will be laid open to challenges if they take decisions on the basis of how matters appear to them, without having anything much to back up their decisions.

I understand the Government's position—they do not want to narrow the board's flexibility too much and introduce a standard with which, until now, they have not had to deal. If the Bill is to proceed, it would be useful if the Government could take on board our concerns, which are partly echoed by the police.

I have contacted my local police force on the subject and they expressed a little concern about the wide way in which the provision is drawn. It was said that, if the police were asked to advise, it would be difficult for them to envisage an event about which they could say that it fell outside the criteria, but they could think of many events at which it would be unlikely that offences would take place. Including a tighter definition of what should appear before the board when it makes its decision would be helpful in the longer term.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) has done us a service by introducing the amendment, as it allows the opportunity for some consideration of the language to which the amendment is directed. The Bill says that the new section applies to any event at which it appears to the board that offences may be committed.

The difficulty is that the scope of those words is extremely wide. As the Minister will be well aware, licensing boards are not bound by the strict rules of evidence. They are entitled to have regard to hearsay evidence, and they often proceed on the basis not of formal, evidence but of ex parte statements. That has been the custom of the licensing board in Glasgow from time immemorial.

As that is the standard of evidence that licensing boards are entitled to adopt, when one produces a statutory provision that is drawn in such wide terms as the present provision, one allows for the possibility of vague rumour or an unsubstantiated attempt by a competitor to do down the business of someone who is a commercial success and is causing envy or detracting from other commercial opportunities. Although the hon. Gentleman's amendment, which refers to specific information, may not be correct in its precise phrasing, he is right to argue for greater precision as to what a board is entitled to rely on.

As the hon. Gentleman was speaking, it occurred to me that it might be possible to insert some reference to those who are entitled to object to the awarding of a licence—for example, a chief constable, a community council or a person owning an adjacent or neighbouring property. Such people are provided with a statutory right of objection when any application is made for what might be called in this context a full licence. I think that that would be more specific than what presently appears to be an opportunity for the board to hoover up scraps of information from anywhere in order to justify a decision.

The difficulty is that the words at which it appears to the board give a quite extraordinary discretion to the board, which it would be very difficult to challenge on the ground that the discretion was exercised unreasonably. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's amendment points to a part of the Bill where the lack of precision of language is a substantial defect.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) speaks from considerable experience in handling such cases. However, I remind him of the right of appeal to which reference is made in the Bill a few paragraphs later.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) for explaining the purpose of the amendment. In Committee, we debated the pros and cons of the wording of the present characteristic. One of the purposes of the Bill is to provide a framework within which licensing boards will be able to make their own definition of relevant events. That is achieved by setting out certain characteristics that provide local authorities with the flexibility to address a problem whose nature may change over time.

The hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Ms Cunningham) is correct in thinking that we did not want to narrow that flexibility too much. A change was proposed in Committee that we felt was too restrictive and would have fettered the board's discretion. However, I promised to consult the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the matter, and it responded with concern. It made clear its strong opposition to the amendment tabled in Committee. It felt that it would not assist boards in any way and would prevent their discharging their functions properly. We listened to the advice from the practitioners, which effectively confirmed our original belief.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

What guidance can an objector secure? I speak not of a chief constable but of someone who lives nearby and does not have the means to obtain legal advice. Are there any guidelines for such objectors?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No. However, the hon. Gentleman may submit proposals to cover that issue in the guidance. I sent a copy of the guidance to all members of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman escaped serving on the Committee on this occasion, so I shall send him a copy. It is not too late for him to propose any amendments or drafting changes if he so wishes. We shall look carefully at any suggestions that he makes.

Mr. Wallace

In replying to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) earlier, the Minister said that someone who was affected by the amendment would have the right of appeal. Does he agree that the right of appeal as set out in new subsection (5) relates to the terms of any condition that might be imposed under a subsection? The amendment addresses the definition of an event to which conditions might apply. It addresses not the terms of the condition but whether any conditions should apply at all. In that case, what legal remedy would be available to someone who feels that the licensing board has taken account of unsubstantiated tittle-tattle?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The right of appeal refers also to the refusal of consent under subsection (4)(a). We consider that to be an important safeguard for the individuals concerned.

Amendment No. 22 is far less flexible than the reasonable suspicion test which was proposed in Committee. It also begs a number of questions: from whom will the specified information come, what form will it take, what evidence will be required to support it, what must be revealed to the licence holder, and so on?

There is no question that, when considering whether to apply the relevant characteristic, a board could not have regard to hard information provided by a reputable source such as the police.

As drafted, the provision allows the board to take account of other issues, such as local experience, which the amendment would prevent. I understand that hon. Members are concerned that boards may exercise their discretion too freely and that their decisions may have important consequences for licence holders. We believe that the present wording allows boards to take note of their own or other parties' apprehensions that drugs offences may be committed at events held on premises in respect of which a licence application has been made. On the basis of that explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Dumbarton will withdraw the amendment.

Mr. McFall

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 2, in page 2, line 4, at end insert— '(3A) The Secretary of State may, by order, prescribe the conditions which are to be attached to a licence or permission under this section, and an order made under this subsection may prescribe—

  1. (a) the terms of any such condition; or
  2. (b) the description of any such condition, the terms of which shall be specified by the licensing board, and such an order shall be made by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.
No. 3, in page 2, line 6, after 'above', insert 'or to the power of the Secretary of State to prescribe terms or descriptions of conditions under subsection (3A) above'.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 10, leave out from 'board' to end of line 13.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also Government amendment No. 6.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Clause 1 allows licensing boards to sub-delegate some of their powers to set conditions to third parties. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) tabled an amendment in Committee to remove the power of sub-delegation from the Bill, because it was felt that, as licensing boards were now being given a wide power to impose conditions directly under licence as opposed to using the byelaws route proposed originally, they should retain sole responsibility for their action.

I undertook to consult the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the matter and to return to it when I had the convention's views. COSLA does not object to the retention of the provision, but it feels that a board's ability to operate the requirements of clause I properly would not be affected adversely if it were removed. In light of COSLA' s response and the general feeling that the boards should be solely responsible for the matter, I accept that the reference to sub-delegation should be removed from the Bill. The hon. Gentleman will recall that that was his proposal in Standing Committee. Amendment No. 4 achieves that objective and, in so doing, I hope answers the question raised by the hon. Gentleman. Amendment No. 6 is a consequential drafting amendment. I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. McFall

I thank the Minister for taking on board those concerns. We are satisfied with both the amendments.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

One practical matter arising out of the fact that there is to be no delegation of responsibility is that the board will have to meet formally to deal with such cases. Some consideration may have to be given to the fact that the board may have to meet at short notice and that may have administrative consequences for the licensing boards. Although I accept the amendment and the basis on which it has been proposed, boards may have to overcome some consequential administrative difficulties to fulfil their responsibilities which are incapable of delegation.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 5, in page 2, line 16, after 'condition', insert '(other than the terms of any condition prescribed under subsection (3A) above) '. No. 6, in page 2, line 18, leave out '(4)(a) ' and insert '(4) '. —[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

8.30 pm
Mr. McFall

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 2, line 24, leave out 'all reasonable' and insert 'such'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 26, in page 2, line 25, after 'steps', insert 'as appear reasonable to him'.

Mr. McFall

Amendment No. 25 affects clause 1(7) in which the Bill sets too high a standard and is not sufficiently subjective. That is a matter for debate, but I would like the Government to consider it.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 would ensure that the defence of reasonable compliance relates only to such steps as are reasonable to the licence holder, the employee or the agent. Under the Bill as drafted, the individual would need to take "all reasonable steps". I would ask the Minister whether it is reasonable to expect people to take every reasonable step. One can only expect people to take the steps that seem reasonable to them. Amendment No. 26 would inject some subjectivity into the test, instead of the absolute requirement that appears to be in the Bill.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We looked at the subsection quite hard. New section 18A(6) provides that a licence holder, his employee or agent shall be shall be guilty of an offence if he contravenes any condition attached to the licence or permission under new subsection (1).

To preserve fairness, new subsection (7) provides for a defence. As drafted, the defence consists of an objective test whereby the person charged has to prove that he took all reasonable steps to comply with the condition. That is a common requirement in law and is mirrored elsewhere in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. The court will judge whether each person charged took all reasonable steps.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 would introduce a different defence—that a person took such steps as appeared reasonable to him to comply with the condition. That is a subjective test. One person may consider that a token effort to comply with the condition is reasonable, while another might consider it reasonable to go to a considerable effort to comply with a similar condition. Such a defence would lead to inconsistency and unfairness and would undermine the criminal sanctions in the new section 18A. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take note of the argument and withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Wallace

I support the Minister's comments. Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 would weaken an otherwise reasonable test, if I may use that word. At the end of the day, it must be for a sheriff or a jury to decide whether any steps taken were reasonable.

Mr. McFall

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 7, in page 2, line 31, leave out 'and'.

No. 8, in page 2, line 34, at end insert 'and prescribed conditions" means the conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3A) above.'.

No. 15, in page 2, line 38, at end insert—

  1. 'Conditions for existing licences 2,297 words