HL Deb 03 July 1990 vol 520 cc2019-21

3.10 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time. —(Lord Elton.)

Lord Cobbold

My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long but since the Second Reading debate on this Bill there has been an exchange of correspondence between myself and the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, in which I sought clarification on one point which did not seem clear to me when I read the Official Report of the debate. The point relates to a sentence in the noble Viscount's speech in which he referred to the situation that exists outside London. He stated that: the offence consists of a contravention of the terms, conditions or restrictions generally. Here, the increased penalties apply only where the terms, conditions or restrictions are contravened, including the limit on numbers".—[Official Report. 20/6/90; col. 1022.] I felt that that statement was not quite clear. However, the noble Viscount confirmed to me by letter today that he indeed meant that the new increased penalties will apply, only where the terms, conditions, etc. of the licence which are contravened or not complied with include one which imposes a limit on the number of people who may be present at the entertainment". I am grateful for that confirmation.

However, it appears to follow from the use of the word "generally", both in the Minister's Second Reading speech which I quoted and in his letter to me, that there can only be one offence in respect of a licence covering a specified entertainment. In other words, if more than one infringement of the terms, conditions or restrictions in the licence is held by the courts to have taken place, the maximum penalty—be it the existing maximum penalty or the new maximum penalty—can only be applied once and not for each of the specified infringements.

If that is the intention of Parliament it is not in practice what is being applied by the courts. Perhaps I may cite for example the case of Mr. Michael Eavis, the licensee of the annual Glastonbury Festival, who, in 1989, was fined a total of £14,900 for 12 specific infringements under his licence.

This point is obviously important to those of us who are professionally involved in staging musical events. I should be most grateful if the noble Viscount would make absolutely clear before the Bill goes for Royal Assent what is the intention of the law on this matter.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, in answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, I can tell the House that there should be only one fine for each offence, under paragraph 12(2) of Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, of which a person is convicted.

If a person is convicted of a single offence consisting of the breach of several terms, conditions or restrictions on a licence, there should be only one penalty: under the law as it stands at the moment, a fine of up to £2,000. If several terms or conditions are breached, the court may regard the offence as being more serious than if only one or two conditions have been breached. But, as I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, that will ultimately depend upon the circumstances of each individual case.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for answering a question which otherwise would have been addressed to me. Although I was responsible for acting for Her Majesty's Government in putting the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 on the statute book, my memory of it is somewhat rusty. However, I can confirm that the intention is that there should be only one offence regardless of the number of breaches committed under it. That is the intention of the Act as I recall it. I hope that that will set at rest the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass. —(Lord Elton.)

On Question, Bill passed.