HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 cc118-37
Mr. Moss

I beg to move amendment No. 38, in page 10, line 38, after 'premises', insert '(existing or proposed)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 42, in clause 28, page 16, line 34, at end insert—

'() An application under this section may also be accompanied by an operating schedule as defined in section 18(4) in respect of the premises licence for which application is to be made in due course, save that in the case of premises where the relevant licensable activities are to include the supply of alcohol there shall be no requirement when making application for a provisional statement to supply information concerning the proposed designated premises supervisor.'.

No. 43, in page 16, line 37, after second 'completed', insert 'prior to the coming into force of any new premises licence that may be granted'.

No. 44, in page 16, line 39, at end insert— 'or any modified schedule that may subsequently have been approved by the relevant licensing authority under this provision.'.

No. 45, in clause 30, page 18, line 3, at end insert—

'() A provisional statement issued under this section shall have effect for three years from the date of issue.

() (a) A person may at any time apply to the relevant licensing authority to modify the schedule of works or the provisional statement.

(b) The Secretary of State may make regulations concerning the making of applications under this subsection and the circumstances in which they shall be advertised.'.

No. 164, in clause 31, page 18, line 15, leave out from 'same' to end of line 21 and insert

'or a similar form as the licence described in the application for a provisional statement, and

  1. (b) the application for that statement was accompanied by an operating schedule, and
  2. (c) the work described in the schedule of works accompanying the application for that statement or any modified schedule subsequently approved has been or will be satisfactorily completed prior to the coming into force of such premises licence as may be granted,
representations made by any person in respect of the application for the premises licence are excluded representations for the purposes of section 18(6)(d) save for representations made under section 18(6)(c).

() Where—

  1. (a) the application for the premises licence is an application for a licence in the same or a similar form as the licence described in the application for the provisional statement, and
  2. 119
  3. (b) the application for that statement was not accompanied by an operating schedule, and
  4. (c) the work described in the schedule of works accompanying the application for that statement or any modified schedule subsequently approved has been or will be satisfactorily completed prior to the coming into force of such premises licence as may be granted,
representations made by any person in respect of the application for the premises licence are excluded representations for the purpose of section 18(6)(d) if subsection (4) applies.'.

No. 1, in clause 41, page 24, line 5, leave out subsection (5).

No. 2, in page 24, line 7, leave out subsection (6).

No. 3, in page 24, line 11, leave out subsection (7).

No. 145, in page 32, line 18 [Clause 54], leave out 'Regulations' and insert 'The relevant licensing authority'.

No. 146, in page 32, line 22, leave out 'Regulations' and insert 'The relevant licensing authority'.

No. 147, in page 32, line 22, leave out 'the relevant licensing authority' and insert 'it'.

No. 148, in page 32, leave out line 24 and insert 'The relevant licensing authority shall prescribe—'.

No. 149, in page 32, line 28, at end insert— '(5) Different amounts may be prescribed for different cases or classes of case.'.

Mr. Moss

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 38, 42 to 45, 164 and 1 to 3, which were tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban).

The amendments relate to the clauses dealing with provisional statements and provisional licences, as they may be called.

9.15 pm

Amendment No. 38 relates to clause 17, which is well ahead of the main clauses on provisional statements. It is probably the key amendment. The Government responded at quite a late stage to the representations that were made to them about provisional statements, indicating that they believed that the assurances sought by the trade and the industry were covered by the Bill as drafted.

However, I have received at least 20 letters and approaches from a range of people in the business, including architects, designers, those in the licensed trade itself and those in the construction industry who are heavily involved in the construction of licensed premises, all of whom feel, even at this late stage, that the Government have not clarified the issue to their satisfaction. Amendment No. 38 would clarify their understanding of whether their applications could be either for existing or proposed developments, because all the relevant clauses after clause 17, which refers to applications for premises licenses, would cover applications for proposed developments, not just existing premises. The other amendments relate to clauses 28, 30, 31 and 41.

When this part of the Bill was debated in the other place, the Government spokesman, Lord McIntosh, made some rather encouraging comments, as a result of which the Opposition withdrew their amendments and did not press them to a Division. Lord McIntosh's assurances were clear cut. He said: We need to examine the implications and talk to people involved in the industry and stakeholders before we reach a final decision but I am happy to take the matter away and consider it. He went on to say: I cannot promise to return with the amendment at Third Reading, or that an amendment on the face of the Bill will be necessary. However, we are certainly sympathetic to the objective behind the amendments."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 27 February 2003; Vol. 645, c. 449.] What has happened following those assurances? First, the Department appears to have undertaken no consultation of any kind with the industry. No one had any idea what the Government would propose in Committee. In fact, we never reached the relevant clauses and amendments because the guillotine came down and we lost a whole raft of amendments on a part of the Bill that is important to the people whom I described. This is our first opportunity to debate amendments to an important part of the Bill.

The Minister courteously and kindly wrote to me after the fall of the guillotine in Committee. In his long letter he precluded any amendment, and at that point no consultation had been carried out. Representatives of the industry belatedly got to discuss those matters with officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. They were asked to draft amendments, but given no guidance about what would be acceptable. How naïve could they be? The Minister and the Department were not likely to point the industry in the right direction. The Government should have tabled amendments. I hope that they will do that at some stage, because only they know what is acceptable to them. That was the position a week or so ago.

There is no formal way in which to reintroduce such a crucial issue into the debate in another place. The Minister may know better than me, but since the matter was not debated at length and voted on and no amendments were accepted there, I do not think that it can easily be reconsidered on Thursday when the Bill reverts to the other place. The Government, in the person of Lord McIntosh, undertook a duty to set out their reasoning and explain why they believe that no amendment is necessary and that the balance has been properly, fairly and adequately struck between the needs of the industry and those of residents in the vicinity of the proposed development.

Current legislation allows a company to obtain a provisional licence for a new development from the magistrates court. Provided that all the works are completed in accordance with the relevant plans and permissions, the premises may automatically open on the completion of the development. Clause 31(3) allows a so-called "relevant person", who is defined elsewhere in the Bill, to raise objections to the opening of licensed premises after construction, even if no objections were raised at the time of the operator's application for a provisional statement. It appears that objections can be made when an individual can show that he or she could not have raised an objection at the time of the original provisional statement or had a good reason for failing to do that.

Objections can also be raised when a "material change" has occurred in the circumstances that relate either to the premises or the area in the vicinity of those premises". How on earth can an applicant, who will invest a lot of money, be sure that on completion of the premises there will not be a material change in the environment or the vicinity—for example, the construction of some new houses or a block of flats? How will the residents in the new houses view the application for the premises licence? If they table reasonable objections that are subsequently carried, the project could be placed in serious jeopardy.

I have some examples that I would like to share with the House. Over the last five years, company No. 1—I do not wish to mention any names—has made approximately 20 applications for new licences. I shall not say precisely what kind of licences they were, but they certainly required a licence to sell alcohol associated with the mainstream activity involved. Those new licences resulted in an investment of more than £55 million. That figure does not include seven further projects that are currently in development, or the investment required for major redevelopment projects that do not require licensing applications. In terms of employment levels, each of the new premises will generate between 70 and 80 jobs. This is an example involving one particular company, in whose opinion a relocation would create a further 30 jobs.

Company No. 2 has invested £70 million in new projects over the last three years, and intends to invest a further £30 million per annum over the next three years. This company employs about 400 external people annually—professionals, builders, architects, designers and so on—and directly creates 500 new jobs each year. I have been told by the industry that if we were to multiply those figures by about 50, that would account for all the companies in this particular business that are applying for licences and constructing licensed premises of one kind or another on an annual basis. Multiplying £30 million a year by 50 would give the huge total of £ 1.5 billion a year in the construction industry and associated professions and trades, just in this one area of creating new licensed premises.

Mr. Kevan Jones

My experience is that once a licensee or developer has been granted a provisional licence, the time that elapses between then and the development taking place and the premises opening is quite short. Obviously, the people who have made the investment want to get the place open as soon as possible. If there were great changes in circumstances or in the way in which an establishment was operated, surely it would be right that local people should have a say in the matter. Even if the decision were overturned at a subsequent hearing, those involved would still have the right to appeal to a magistrate, to argue the case that the decision was unfair.

Mr. Moss

I can tell that the hon. Gentleman has not been anywhere near business, because what he has just said is nonsense. Nobody invests millions of pounds without certainty. The hon. Gentleman has just confirmed that there would be no certainty. He may well say that such premises go up quite quickly. I hope that they do, as that would negate some of the problems that the Bill, as it is currently written, seems likely to bring about. If, however, the construction period lasted for 18 months—a big project could take that long—there could well be changes in the environment in the vicinity during that time. According to the Bill, people moving into the area who had not objected initially—because they were not there and did not know about the project—will still have the right to raise objections under clause 31.

We are not just talking about cash here, or about companies with resources from their profits to reinvest. We are also talking about banks being involved in substantial lending. I would submit that no bank is going to take on a project without the certainty of knowing that once the application for a provisional licence has gone through the normal procedures and been granted, it is inviolate, as it is at the moment.

The industry is saying that it wants not only assurances from the Government that it will be all right on the night, but that it needs words in the Bill that make it absolutely clear cut and certain that what it is doing will come right in the end. The last thing a business wants is to incur extremely expensive legal bills in fighting its way through the courts because some local authority has given it a hard time over clause 31. The way in which the clause is written would probably deliver such a problem in some circumstances.

9.30 pm
Mr. Hoban

My hon. Friend has raised the point about the period over which those provisional licences can be in place. The shopping centre that is being built in my constituency has retail and leisure facilities, and one of the anchor tenants of that mixed-use development is a pub. It has taken two or three years to get to this stage, when the first sod is being cut. Clearly, that anchor tenant would want much more certainty than the Bill appears to give. Would my hon. Friend's amendment tackle that issue?

Mr. Moss

Yes it would. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving us that example, because that exactly illustrates what will happen if we do not amend the Bill.

Things are even worse than I have said, as it is not only changing circumstances that can give rise to a late objection. According to the explanatory notes, somebody who happens to live in the area, but who was in hospital at the time of the application, would have "reasonable excuse" under clause 31(3)(a). Obviously being in hospital would be a reasonable excuse, as the person could not be there at the time to make the objection. That opens a Pandora's box whereby people can leap up at one remove or at the last minute to object to such developments.

The words "reasonable excuse" are still in the Bill, despite our attempts to get them removed and despite the attempts of the other place, although the relevant amendments were not pushed to a vote. The definition of "reasonable excuse" leaves a lot to be desired and, of course, it is an entirely new concept. There is nothing akin to it in the licensing laws.

Mr. Sanders

Or in planning.

Mr. Moss

From a sedentary position, the hon. Gentleman refers to planning. I do not want to go into planning in particular, but he is right. The two applications—one for the provisional statement or licence and one to the planners for the building itself—would go hand in hand.

Mr. Sanders

There is an interesting confusion here, as the hon. Gentleman says. Two applications would go through to different parts of the council, but residents would have more rights in one area than in another.

Mr. Moss

I am not sure that that is strictly true.

Mr. Sanders

Not if they were in hospital.

Mr. Moss

I am sorry but I did not quite catch the drift of the hon. Gentleman's thinking. Yes, if people were in hospital they could not object to either, but of course they would have no reasonable excuse for opposing a planning application. I am with him, and I beg his pardon for going off on slightly the wrong tack.

In addition, there does not appear to be a procedure that would allow any existing provisional licences obtained, say, during a transitional period, to be automatically converted to provisional statements. The proposals provide that the new licensing authority can have regard to an existing provisional licence, but it will not be automatically obliged to convert such a licence. That, too, will create significant risk and uncertainty for all those companies, as a development may be completed with the risk of losing the benefit of that original licence.

Amendment No. 38 proposes a simple change in the wording of clause 17, which would probably sort out all the problems. Failing that, there are amendments Nos. 42 to 45 and 164. Under amendment No. 164, if the application for a provisional statement was accompanied by an operating schedule and the work described in the schedule of works accompanying the application has been satisfactorily completed, representations made by any person in respect of the application for the premises licence are excluded representations for the purposes of section 18 (6)(d)". What the trade is telling us, and what I am now telling the Minister, is that if the Minister cannot live with amendment No. 38, amendment No. 164 would be a way of saying to businesses that are investing millions that if they provide operating schedules, the subsequent provisions relating to objections and reasonable excuses should fall by the wayside. Those in the industry would know that if they went through the required hoops they would achieve what they wanted.

If there is no operating schedule—if a company has not gone into enough detail to convince the licensing authority that it has a clear idea of how it will operate once the building is up and running— representations made by any person in respect of the application for the premises licence are excluded representations for the purpose of section 18 (6)(d) if —this is the key part— subsection (4) applies. There are two separate approaches. One involves the operating schedule, and the provision of all the details of the club or pub's activities, opening hours and so forth, so that the local authority can go through all the necessary stages once the application has been received, as it would in the case of an application for an existing premises licence, and the company can be certain of its position fairly soon. Amendment No. 45 takes a different approach. It asks the Government, if they cannot live with some of the other amendments, to impose a time limit. It proposes that a provisional statement issued under this section shall have effect for three years from the date of issue. The amendment is really a back-stop. The other amendments are much stronger and we prefer them, but as we have got nothing from the Government so far we would be grateful if they accepted this one.

In fact, I do not think that the Minister will give us anything tonight, for the simple reason that someone else will have to pick up the file later. No doubt he is under strict instructions to yield nothing.

This issue is going to bounce back and forth. It is a key issue, and it is a tragedy that we did not have time to debate it in Committee. Assurances were given in the other place, by which the industry set great store. It is up to the Minister to answer my questions tonight, and to justify his case. The clauses relating to provisional statements will cause havoc—and I mean havoc—in the trade, according to those involved.

If, as his officials are saying, clause 17 allows applications for proposed developments and there is no problem, why is there any need for clause 31(3), which allows latecomers the opportunity to object and could jeopardise extremely important investments? I leave the Minister with the thought that much money and many jobs are involved, and that the potential impact on tourism in many parts of the country is great. It would be tragic beyond words if, for the sake of a few words in the Bill, the industry were decimated.

Mr. Sanders

I shall be brief. The group of amendments includes one or two that add rather than reduce bureaucracy—I support only those that attempt to reduce it. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) was right to talk about the provisions adding to the uncertainty for business, but that does not apply only to business: many public sector projects could be held up or prevented because of the uncertainty and additional risk that may be incurred. Public sector projects tied into external grant funding, either from central Government or Europe, could be at particular risk if protests were made about specific proposals. As a consequence of being turned down, the Government money could not be used in another way and the opportunity for public sector investment could be lost. It is not an issue for private sector business alone.

I hope that the Government will consider the matter again. I am all in favour of the public having as much say as possible in respect of planning as well as in the provisions before us, but there is a danger of creating a position in which no one will take the risk to do anything for fear of being turned down. The balance is skewed against the development of public or private sector facilities. It is possible to have public input without adding additional risk.

Mr. Andrew Turner

I should like to speak to amendments Nos. 145, 146 and 147, which stand in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is not in his place at the moment.

I am curious about why the Government believe that it is necessary to make regulations to provide for something set out so clearly in the Bill. The amendments would remove from the Government the obligation to make such regulations. If the Minister says in his response that there are different ways of making regulations to make provision for what is set out in clause 54(1)(a) and (b), subsections (2) and (3)(a) and (b) and that Ministers need more time to work out the best way of effecting those provisions, I will be interested to hear it.

For my part, I believe that the clause is immensely clear, simple and brooks no variance of interpretation from what most of us would conclude from reading the words in the Bill. The amendments simply provide that, instead of regulations requiring applications to be accompanied by a fee and prescribing the level of fee, the local authority may require those applications and prescribe the amount of the fee.

Instead of regulations requiring the holder of a premises licence to pay the relevant licensing authority an annual fee, the licensing authority itself may require the holder of a premises licence to pay the annual fee.

The other issue in the amendment is the size of the fee, which may vary hugely from place to place. Local authorities are concerned that the fee set may be inadequate to meet their reasonable costs in licensing and enforcing the regulations made under the Bill. The Government have said that they wish to prescribe a scale of fees, and it is likely—perhaps the Minister will clarify the point in reply—that that scale of fees will make it difficult to distinguish between different authorities and the costs associated with the work that they are doing. A licensing authority that spends a great deal of money advising applicants in advance of the licences about conditions that may be acceptable, and assists them in drawing up the statements that must accompany licences, will find it easier to deal with licence applications once they are lodged. However, a local authority that does not do that will find licence applications more difficult to deal with. Similarly, a local authority that does not spend much on enforcement will be able to make a profit from the fees prescribed by the Government, but it may not be providing a very effective service. However, a local authority that spends much time and energy on enforcement will find it necessary to charge a higher fee. I hope that the Minister will provide some clarification about the level and detail of the fees, and the extent to which they may vary from place to place.

My second point was addressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) and the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders), and I wish to reinforce it. The comparison has been drawn—and it is fair—between the rights of someone who opposes a licensing application following a provisional statement and someone who is in hospital at the time that a planning application is made. There is no provision in planning law for someone to revisit an application after construction of a premises and say, "Hang on, I was in hospital at the time of the application and I would not have agreed to the premises being provided for the purposes of a pub. Instead, I would like you to arrange them to be used for the purposes of a nursing home." That is not allowed in planning law, so why should it be allowed in licensing law? Why should someone who has been in hospital be able to say, "Well, you may have invested £1 million or £2 million in building a night club, or a pub or a cinema, but I do not feel that it is appropriate for the premises to be used for those purposes, despite the fact that you made it clear all along that that was your intention."?

9.45 pm
Mr. Kevan Jones

The hon. Gentleman's example is rather frivolous and stupid, like many of the other examples that he gave in Committee and earlier tonight. If a provisional licence is granted by the licensing authority, the reasons for changing it would have to be fundamental, not the simple absence of the person from the first hearing. If the licensing authority overturned a provisional licence for frivolous reasons, the applicant would be able to take the issue to the magistrates, who would reverse the decision.

Mr. Turner

I accept that, but I am trying to understand exactly why it is necessary to have a two-stage procedure at all, without the clarity and guarantees that someone would need before undertaking an important investment. As my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire suggested, people would not be willing to undertake such investments without reasonable certainty that the investment would be viable.

One of the Bill's purposes is to encourage investment in the entertainment industry.

Mr. Jones

Is it not the case that the only occasion on which a licensing authority might revoke a provisional licence is when there are major changes in, for example, a development? Surely we should welcome that requirement. If a developer changes a proposal, local people should have a say.

Mr. Turner

Of course that is justified if there is a major change in what the hon. Gentleman and I have fallen into the trap of calling a provisional licence. The problem, uncertainty and fear for most developers is that the provisional statement will not be followed up by confirmation of a licence in broadly the same terms.

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman should tell us what the difference is between that and the present situation. For example, if magistrates give a provisional licence and there are major changes, people can object when it returns for a full hearing at the magistrates court.

Mr. Turner

As I hoped I had pointed out in answering the previous intervention, where there are major changes, there should be a second bite at the cherry. Essentially, a new or different licence would be being asked for. People who undertake major changes in the course of construction do so at their own risk, as do people who depart from planning permissions in the course of construction. They have to ask either for an amended planning permission or a new one. I accept all that.

The difficulty will arise when people construct premises broadly in line with the provisional statement only to find that there is a danger that the full licence will not be granted.

Mr. Jones

If a developer obtains a provisional statement for his licence and does exactly what he said he would do, the chances of any licensing authority overturning him would be very remote. If an authority did, the case would be thrown out when it went to a magistrates court.

Mr. Turner

The simple answer is that I do not know whether the chances of the statement being overturned are remote, and I certainly do not know whether such a decision would be overturned in a magistrates court. It has been known for control of a local authority to change in the course of construction of a major investment project. The representatives of the ward in which the project is being constructed may change. There is every possibility of a change being made between the provisional statement and the granting of the full licence. As to whether that is just, and as to whether the magistrates would throw a case out, I have no way of telling. What I do know is that anyone who intends to invest a large sum of money in a major project wants some certainty of achieving what the investment is intended to achieve. That certainty is not clear in the procedure set out in the Bill.

If the Minister intends to say, as the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) has implied, that a local authority would be unable to issue a licence in the terms of the provisional statement and that the magistrates would, or would be likely to, throw out a decision by a local authority not to issue such a licence in the terms of the original statement, I shall be likely to accept what he says

Mr. Jones

If an imaginary person has been in hospital and is the only person who comes forward to object to the provisional statement, and if the developer has done exactly what he or she said they would do, the idea of a licensing authority overturning the developer will be remote. If the case then went to a magistrates court, it would surely be very unlikely that there would be grounds for overturning the statement. Is that not the case at present with magistrates' provisional licences?

Mr. Turner

I cannot say what the position is now, or that it is as the hon. Gentleman has asserted, although I have no reason to argue with him.

However, the rest of the hon. Gentleman's intervention was exactly the same as his previous intervention, so my answer is exactly the same. If, when the Minister replies to the debate, he tells us that there is no prospect of a local authority being able to refuse to issue a licence in the terms of the provisional statement and that, if it did so, the court would be extremely likely to throw out the decision, it will make me much happier than hearing it from the hon. Member for North Durham, expert though he must be by virtue of his former position in Newcastle.

Dr. Howells

This is a large group of amendments dealing with various aspects of premises licences, provisional statements and fees. I shall do my best to cover that extensive ground.

On provisional statements, the amendments address two matters, which the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) articulated well: the anxiety that an application for a premises licence could not be made in advance of a building being constructed, or of its imminent construction; and the desire to give developers greater confidence that their investment in any new development will be secure, by restricting the opportunity to make representations on an application for a premises licence.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire made a lot of sweeping statements about the fact that we had not listened to industry. In fact, the Department has held extensive consultations with the British Beer and Pub Association at official level. I, too, have met BBPA representatives to discuss their proposals since we gave undertakings to hold further consultations—although I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is listening.

On amendment No. 38, nothing in the Bill prevents an application for a premises licence from being made in advance of a building being constructed or extended. The amendment would add the words "existing or proposed" to the description of the premises for which a plan must be provided with an application for a premises licence. The fact that under clause 17 a plan of the premises must accompany the application for a premises licence does not mean that the premises—a building—must currently exist. If the plan describes proposed premises, an application may be considered and, when granted, the premises licence could be given a future start date. It is not, therefore, necessary to state "existing or proposed" in the Bill.

Clause 28 provides that where premises are being, or are about to be, constructed, extended or altered for use for licensable activities, a person interested in the premises may apply to the licensing authority for a provisional statement. Where that person is an individual he or she must be 18 or over. A provisional statement is a statement issued under clause 30 and provides those engaged in, or about to be engaged in, construction or development work at premises to be used for licensable activities with a certain degree of assurance about their potential trading conditions. As the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire said, that is where we enter difficult territory, because we are talking about balance. The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) also recognised that fact.

The matter is important because, as the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire told us, millions of pounds are involved. The hon. Member for Torbay rightly drew our attention to the fact that such money could come from public funds as well as from private investment. Developers or property owners who wanted to construct, alter or extend premises might be reluctant to invest their money if they had no degree of assurance that the premises could be used to carry out the intended business.

An application for a provisional statement must be accompanied by a schedule of works, which must include a statement of the particulars of the premises and the licensable activities for which the premises are to be used. It must also include plans of the work being carried out and such other information as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Amendments Nos. 42 to 44, in respect of clause 28, and amendment no. 45, in respect of clause 30, are at the heart of the revised procedures proposed by the businesses engaged in such developments. Before I explore the detail, I shall make some general points.

If a developer knows precisely what licensable activities the development will be used for, what hours it will be open and who will operate it, it may be entirely possible for him to seek a premises licence. He would merely indicate that he did not want the licence to come into effect until a later date. Nothing in the Bill will prevent that, so provisional statements are relevant when there is a lack of certainty about precisely what the new premises will be used for ultimately and, for example, the hours during which activities will take place on the premises.

10 pm

We want businesses to have as much certainty as possible, so that their investments are as secure as possible, as early as possible, but the procedures must include a proper balance between the needs of the property developer and the needs and rights of the local community. Local residents have a right to have their voices heard and to have decisions made in the overall public interest. So in examining this group of amendments, it is important that the House consider that balance at all times.

Let us remember that the justices have to declare a provisional licence final when the work has been completed, but they can, for example, examine the case afresh to decide whether the licence holder is a fit and proper person to hold a full justices' licence. So there is no absolute certainty under current licensing laws, as the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire and my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) have said.

Even where a representation was made by those with a reasonable excuse—perhaps they are new to an area or they have been in hospital—that would not necessarily lead to the premises licence application being rejected, as my hon. Friend reminded us. A hearing would have to be held and representations taken into account in the context of the licensing objectives.

Under amendment No. 42, an applicant could submit an operating schedule, as defined in clause 17(4), with an application for a provisional statement, save that, if the supply of alcohol were involved, he would not have to specify a designated premises supervisor. I have two points to make about that. First, amendment No. 42 is erroneously drafted and refers to clause 18, not clause 17, which would be correct. It is flawed on that basis alone. Secondly, if a developer were capable of preparing an operating schedule that far in advance, he could seek a premises licence, as I have already explained. I hope that the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire will accept that important explanation as a comfort. The developer could specify any personal licence holder as the proposed designated premises supervisor and, where necessary, seek a variation of that name if the proposal changed by the time the building was constructed. So amendment No. 42 is both flawed and unnecessary.

Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 would change the meaning of the phrase references to work being satisfactorily completed in clause 28, which covers work at the premises being completed in a manner which substantially complies with the schedule of works accompanying the application for a provisional statement. Under those amendments, that would be limited to work being completed prior to the coming into force of any new premises licence that may be granted in a manner which substantially complies with the schedule of works accompanying the application or any modified schedule that may subsequently have been approved by the relevant licensing authority under this provision". Those amendments, which have to be read with amendment No. 45, also appear to be flawed.

Under amendment No. 45, the provision that would permit the schedule of works or the provisional statement to be modified contains no detail about what processes and procedures would apply. The Secretary of State would be free to impose any arrangement, by regulation, that she thought fit. I would not suggest that the industry drafted amendment No. 45. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire drafted and moved it, but he said quite clearly that he seeks to represent an industry that is worried about this part of the Bill. I cannot understand why an industry that purports to seek greater certainty wants to allow the Secretary of State carte blanche to include anything.

It is abundantly clear that a modification of a provisional statement or schedule of works will go to the heart of procedures. It might, in effect, be a new application, and that could be an attempt to avoid representations that might come from local residents about such modifications. Whatever the intention behind the proposal, however, the truth is that it is far too open ended to include in the Bill, particularly at this late stage.

Amendment No. 45 would also limit the validity of a provisional statement to three years. Once expired, a new provisional statement would be required, with the full procedures in play again every three years. That will bring the timing into line with proposals in respect of planning permission. The amendment, however, cannot be considered in isolation. The industry has offered this limitation as part of a package that includes limitations on representations that can be made by local residents or responsible authorities, including the police, at the end of the process, when a premises licence is being sought.

We have no strong objection to the three-year limitation per se, although, in isolation, we cannot see the rationale behind seeking to time-limit its validity. We object, however, to the whole package that is being proposed. The Opposition seem to have what I consider to be a schizophrenic approach to a key issue such as cumulative effect. I have no doubt that in few moments we will hear the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) talk about cumulative effect.

What would be the effect if, at the end of a long period during which a building has not been completed and has not become operational, serious changes had taken place in a vicinity? The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster gave some vivid examples that have stayed in my mind ever since: he pointed out that in a two or three-year period a street or an area of a city can change quickly and remarkably. For example, a large increase in vertical drinking establishments, as we came to call them in Committee, could take place. The responsible authorities, including the police or a department of the local authority, might say, "Hang on, we want to talk about this." It might pose a serious problem to law and order in the area, or to other businesses that discover that their clientele do not want to come into a city centre. As happens in Manchester on a Friday or Saturday night, there may be 150,000 mainly young people having a good time but perhaps creating an atmosphere that some people find threatening. We heard in Committee that restaurateurs, for example, are very worried about those cumulative effects and are considering moving away from city centres. The Opposition cannot have it both ways: if they are to argue that case, they must also admit that things can and do change regularly.

We want to give developers as much certainty as we can, but to understand the package we need to look at amendment No. 164, which was the last blast of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, who, in effect, said, "If you can't accept anything else, accept this." Well, I cannot accept amendment No. 164 either, and I shall explain why. It replaces a large part of clause 31, under which representations about applications for premises licences when a provisional statement has been issued are excluded if the application for the provisional statement and the work described in the schedule of works has been satisfactorily completed. For representations to be excluded, the relevant person must have been able to make the same or substantially the same representations when the provisional statement was applied for and must have failed to do so without reasonable excuse. There must also have been no material change in the circumstances relating to the premises or the vicinity of the premises since the statement was issued

Amendment No. 164 would limit representations that can be made when a premises licence is sought in respect of premises for which a provisional statement has been made. It assumes that several other amendments in this group have been accepted.

It would exclude representations other than those in respect of the premises supervisor if applications were made in similar or the same terms as the original application for the statement, if that statement was accompanied by an operating schedule and the work described in the schedule of works, or any modification of that schedule, had been or would be satisfactorily completed.

Furthermore, if applications were made in similar or the same terms as the original application for the statement and that statement was not accompanied by an operating schedule but the work described in the schedule of works or any modification of that schedule had been or would be satisfactorily completed, all representations would be excluded if subsection (4) applied, meaning that the person would have failed to make representations without reasonable excuse and there would have been no material changes in circumstances relating to the premises or the vicinity of the premises.

The amendments are built on the flawed assumption that a premises licence could not be obtained in advance of premises being constructed. The drafting of amendment No. 42 is technically flawed and the other amendments, which are the heart of the proposals, are built on that error. None of them can therefore be accepted.

I understand fully why the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire tabled the amendments. I was as sorry as him that we did not have the opportunity to debate similar amendments in Committee. I remember going through amendments in Committee faster than I ever had before in an attempt to reach such amendments.

I hope that my explanation demonstrates that even if the errors were corrected, the changes would not be necessary to give developers more confidence. They would upset the careful balance that the Bill will establish between the needs of developers and the rights of local residents, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

We have spent a lot of time on these amendments, but I do not want to leave the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) without an answer. As he knows and as I tried to explain in Committee, we have been careful to ensure that local authorities will be as responsible as possible. The vast majority of local authorities will understand that the streamlined new procedure will allow them to cut many existing costs. We do not want to allow a rogue local authority—I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman used that term—to do such a thing as imposing prohibitive licensing fees that would stymie both development and live music and other forms of cultural expression in licensed premises. Fees will be set centrally for that reason and that reason alone, but we shall examine carefully such issues as turnover and geography to ensure that they are set fairly. We shall watch that situation carefully.

Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

Can my hon. Friend tell me the extent of the range that the Government might have in mind? There is real worry that if we are not careful, extended-hours costs—policing and cleaning—will be borne by the taxpayer rather than those who use and benefit from the extended hours.

Dr. Howells

I make it clear to my hon. Friend that none of those costs will form part of the fees that we will charge. People have the right to have a good time in pubs whether they drink at 2 am or 10 pm. One would think that the Bill had nothing to do with extending licensing hours and freeing up the way in which we enjoy ourselves and participate in licensable activities, because we have not got round to discussing that at all. The Bill is deregulatory and liberating. We shall have to address costs that might arise as part of a consideration of local government funding in general. I shall not lumber the licensed industry with those costs.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)


Dr. Howells

I love the way the Liberals always come up with something right at the end. I give way to the hon. Gentleman because he was here earlier.

Mr. Hancock

I am somewhat confused about the line that the Minister is taking. It seems that it is okay for licensees to be exempt from meeting the costs, but that local authorities, which are already hard pressed for cash, will have to pick up those extra costs. That is the very point that the hon. Member for Bristol. West (Valerie Davey) made.

10.15 pm
Dr. Howells

Yes, and it is the very thing that we do not deal with in the Bill. I do not know how familiar the hon. Gentleman is with the legislation. He has had plenty of time to study it and to listen to and participate in the debates, although I am not aware that he has taken part up until now. We are dealing with licensable activities. We are not dealing with a more general issue of local government funding or the possible direct consequences for local government funding of activities that might occur away from licensed premises. I would be willing to have that debate another time. That is also my response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey).

We are dealing with something that is specific to an industry and it concerns licensable activities. There are many reasons for litter on the street and loutish behaviour. Some of them are to do with what goes on inside pubs, but many of them are not. The Bill tries to make a significant change by blowing away the clouds of criminality that have surrounded the issue of alcohol licensing in this country for far too long.

Mr. Moss

The Minister made a reasonable fist of throwing out our amendments. I admit that there was a drafting error. However, we used legal counsel to table some of them, so we have not had incompetents assisting us.

One concern remains in my mind: why are the Government changing the current rules and regulations relating to provisional licences? What has prompted them to go down that road? It is a change. The Minister says that it is not, but the Bill enables people with reasonable excuses to make late-stage objections. Has the Minister or his Department received a raft of objections as a result of the provisional licences? There is no evidence of that. Those in the industry think that the present system works extremely well and they see no reason to change it.

The Minister went on at length about a degree of balance. We would support that, but how can there be a balance when individuals can jeopardise at a late stage millions of pounds of investment that has already been committed? He said that justices can examine cases afresh, but that can happen only when the conditions set down at the outset have not been fulfilled. That would provide real grounds on which to revisit licences, but there is no near certainty about any such matters. The Minister also talked about having another look at the fit-and-proper-person definition. That may be relevant when someone is nominated for a premises licence, but that can be altered and does not necessarily jeopardise the whole investment.

We would be happy to give ground on some amendments, but we want to press amendment No. 38 to a Division. The industry believes that the current wording does not give it the assurance that it seeks on applications. The Minister has not convinced us on that.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 297.

Division No. 235] [10:19 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Allan, Richard Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Amess, David Gidley, Sandra
Ancram, rh Michael Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Arbuthnot, rh James Goodman, Paul
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gray, James (N Wilts)
Bacon, Richard Grayling, Chris
Barker, Gregory Gummer, rh John
Baron, John (Billericay) Hammond, Philip
Barrett, John Hancock, Mike
Bellingham, Henry Harvey, Nick
Bercow, John Hawkins, Nick
Blunt, Crispin Hayes, John (S Holland)
Boswell, Tim Heald, Oliver
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey) Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Brady, Graham Hendry, Charles
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Hogg, rh Douglas
Brazier, Julian Holmes, Paul
Breed, Colin Horam, John (Orpington)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Howard, rh Michael
Browning, Mrs Angela Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Bruce, Malcolm Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Burnett, John Hunter, Andrew
Burns, Simon Jack, rh Michael
Burt, Alistair Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Butterfill, John Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Calton, Mrs Patsy Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Chidgey, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Chope, Christopher Lamb, Norman
Collins, Tim Laws, David (Yeovil)
Cotter, Brian Leigh, Edward
Cran, James (Beverley) Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Curry, rh David Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Loughton, Tim
Djanogly, Jonathan Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Dodds, Nigel McIntosh, Miss Anne
Doughty, Sue Maclean, rh David
Duncan, Alan (Rutland) McLoughlin, Patrick
Duncan Smith, rh Iain Malins, Humfrey
Evans, Nigel Maples, John
Fabricant, Michael Maude, rh Francis
Fallon, Michael Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster) May, Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric Moss, Malcolm
Fox, Dr. Liam Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie Steen, Anthony
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Streeter, Gary
Öpik, Lembit Stunell, Andrew
Osborne, George (Tatton) Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Ottaway, Richard Syms, Robert
Page, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Paice, James Taylor, John (Solihull)
Paterson, Owen Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Pickles, Eric Taylor, Sir Teddy
Prisk, Mark (Hertford) Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Pugh, Dr. John Tyler Paul (N Cornwall)
Randall, John Tyrie, Andrew
Redwood, rh John Viggers, Peter
Rendel, David Walter, Robert
Robathan, Andrew Waterson, Nigel
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Watkinson, Angela
Rosindell, Andrew Whittingdale, John
Ruffley, David Wiggin, Bill
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Willets David
Sanders, Adrian Williams Roger (Brecon)
Sayeed, Jonathan Willis, Phil
Selous, Andrew Wilshire, David
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Shepherd, Richard Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Simmonds, Mark Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Soames, Nicholas Young, rh Sir George
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Spring, Richard Mr. Mark Hoban and
Stanley, rh Sir John Mr. Mark Francois
Adams, Irene (Paisley N) Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Caplin, Ivor
Alexander, Douglas Caton, Martin
Allen, Graham Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Challen, Colin
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Clapham, Michael
Atherton, Ms Candy Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Atkins, Charlotte Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Austin, John
Banks, Tony Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Barron, rh Kevin Clelland, David
Battle, John Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Bayley, Hugh Coaker, Vernon
Beard, Nigel Coffey, Ms Ann
Beckett, rh Margaret Cohen, Harry
Bell, Stuart Coleman, Iain
Benn, Hilary Connarty, Michael
Bennett, Andrew Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Berry, Roger Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Best, Harold Corbyn, Jeremy
Betts, Clive Corston, Jean
Blackman, Liz Cousins, Jim
Blears, Ms Hazel Cranston, Ross
Blizzard, Bob Crausby, David
Borrow, David Cruddas, Jon
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Bradshaw, Ben Cummings, John
Brennan, Kevin Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Browne, Desmond David, Wayne
Bryant, Chris Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Buck, Ms Karen Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Burden, Richard Dawson, Hilton
Burnham, Andy Dean, Mrs Janet
Byers, rh Stephen Denham, rh John
Caborn, rh Richard Dhanda, Parmjit
Cairns, David Dismore, Andrew
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H. Kemp, Fraser
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W) Khabra, Piara S.
Drew, David (Stroud) Kidney, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E) Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Farrelly, Paul Lammy, David
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead) Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Fisher, Mark Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Fitzpatrick, Jim Lazarowicz, Mark
Flynn, Paul (Newport W) Leslie, Christopher
Follett, Barbara Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Foster, rh Derek Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Foster, Michael (Worcester) Llwyd, Elfyn
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye) Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Foulkes, rh George Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
Francis, Dr. Hywel McAvoy, Thomas
Gapes, Mike (IlfordS) McCafferty, Chris
Gardiner, Barry McDonagh, Siobhain
Gerrard, Neil MacDonald, Calum
Gibson, Dr. Ian McDonnell, John
Gilroy, Linda MacDougall, John
Godsiff, Roger McFall, John
Goggins, Paul McIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McKechin, Ann
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McKenna, Rosemary
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mackinlay, Andrew
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McNamara, Kevin
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McNulty, Tony
Hamilton, David (Midlothian) MacShane, Denis
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Mactaggart, Fiona
Hanson, David McWalter, Tony
Harman, rh Ms Harriet McWilliam, John
Healey, John Mandelson, rh Peter
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Hendrick, Mark Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hepburn, Stephen Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Heppell, John Martlew, Eric
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia Merron, Gillian
Heyes, David Michael, rh Alun
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Miliband, David
Hinchliffe, David Miller, Andrew
Hodge, Margaret Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Hope, Phil (Corby) Moffatt, Laura
Hopkins, Kelvin Mole, Chris
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E) Morley, Elliot
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E) Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Howells, Dr. Kim Mullin, Chris
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Humble, Mrs Joan Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Iddon, Dr. Brian O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Illsley, Eric O'Hara, Edward
Irranca-Davies, Huw Olner, Bill
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate) Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Owen, Albert
Jamieson, David Palmer, Dr. Nick
Jenkins, Brian Perham, Linda
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Picking, Anne
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Kevan (N Durham) Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak) Plaskitt, James
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Pollard, Kerry
Jowell, rh Tessa Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W) Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Prescott, rh John Stewart, lan (Eccles)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr) Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Primarolo, rh Dawn Stuart, Ms Gisela
Prosser, Gwyn Sutcliffe, Gerry
Purchase, Ken Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Purnell, James Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Quin, rh Joyce Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Quinn, Lawrie Tipping, Paddy
Rammell, Bill Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N) Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Trickett, Jon
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill) Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Rooney, Terry Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell) Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ruane, Chris Ward, Claire
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester) Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Sarwar, Mohammad Watts, David
Savidge, Malcolm White, Brian
Sawford, Phil Wicks, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Shaw, Jonathan Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Sheridan, Jim Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E) Woolas, Phil
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury) Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale) Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Wright, David (Telford)
Southworth, Helen Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Spellar, rh John Wyatt, Derek
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber) Mr. Nick Ainger and
Joan Ryan

Question accordingly negatived.

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