HC Deb 10 May 2001 vol 368 cc293-4

Lords amendment: No. 8, in page 17, line 3, after "being" insert ", or within the last 24 hours have been,"

Mr. Charles Clarke

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 9 to 14.

2.15 pm
Mr. Clarke

The amendments clarify that the power in clause 19 to issue closure notices can be used against premises, which, to the satisfaction of the police or the local authority, have been used for the unlicensed sale of intoxicating liquor at some time in the previous 24 hours.

As currently drafted, the relevant subsections of clause 19 could be interpreted to mean that a closure notice could be issued only if the use of the premises for the unlicensed sale of intoxicating liquor had continued until the notice was served. That restricted effect was not intended, especially as it would not cover cases where use did not continue when the police or the local authority wished to serve their notice, although it had occurred in the previous 24 hours and was more than likely to recur later.

The purpose of clauses 19 to 28 is to allow action against specific premises, where there is continuing offending or where offending has occurred in the past 24 hours. The amendments therefore make technical changes, which confirm that action may be taken when illegal use has occurred in a previous period of 24 hours. I hope that they will be agreed.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

We agree that the amendments clarify the Bill helpfully. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and I repeatedly expressed our anxiety in Committee that some clauses, including those that we are considering, had been too hastily drafted. The Minister will acknowledge that several concessions that the Government made in another place and that he is confirming today are a response to the anxieties that we and people in the licensed trade have repeatedly expressed.

Many clauses have been drafted too quickly. We have used nearly half the time, which is too short, that has been allocated to consider the long list of amendments. That means that we are again rushing matters through with almost indecent haste. We shall consider matters that are even more significant later, and I therefore do not wish to detain the House for long.

The Government have belatedly acknowledged that, as we suggested in Committee, the aspect that we are considering was not sufficiently clear. We are pleased that the Government have accepted, at this late stage, that the drafting needed improving, as we consistently said.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I endorse the comments of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), but I want to make a further point. It is important that society clamps down on alcohol abuse, and abuse by those who are licensed to sell alcohol of the terms and conditions whereby they are permitted to do that. Alcohol is a major cause of crime. The Government acknowledge that; there is no disagreement between the parties about the matter.

Drugs—alcohol is a drug—often cause serious, especially violent crime. It is therefore appropriate to do all that we can to ensure that those who lawfully buy and sell alcohol act within the law. I hope that we shall continue to be vigilant to ensure that alcohol abuse does not continue to the same extent, with the terrible consequences that society currently suffers.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 9 to 14 agreed to.