§ 6.23 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Astor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Murton of Lindisfame) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Music and dancing on Sundays]:
Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, leave out lines 9 and 10.
§ The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 3 and to the Question that Clause 2 stand part of the Bill. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and I are attempting in our different ways to skin the same cat. That "cat" is the protection of residents' interests who may be affected by the operation of the establishments which are to be deregulated by this Bill.
§ The context of these amendments is a little different to that at Second Reading. Since then there has been an announcement by the Government, by way of a Written Answer, that there is to be a review of licensing hours, and in particular licensing procedures. As one who has made a rather inadequate attempt to grapple with licensing provisions in the current legislation, I shall certainly welcome some clarification of the complex provisions which we have to tackle. That review having been announced—prompted, according to the Government, by a substantial response to consultation on the extension of normal licensing hours from 11 p.m. to midnight—I am prompted to ask the Government whether they have considered postponing this deregulation in order to consider it in the context of that review? I am sure the Government have considered that, and I look forward to the Minister's comments on it. The licences are not identical but music and dancing licences are probably not a great deal of use in a commercial sense without a drinking licence.
As I have said, these amendments seek to protect residents who may suffer disturbance. I raised this point at Second Reading when I mentioned Kensington and Chelsea. The noble Viscount Lord Astor said:
That was an issue when this matter came up in relation to deregulation. The debate has moved on since then".—[Official Report, 15/1/97; col. 269.]
I accept the debate has moved on with regard to the consultation of those who may be affected by deregulation but not as regards the substantive issue. A number of Members of the Committee will have received the letter that I received from residents of one block in that borough. I believe their words would strike a chord with people who live near to clubs, discotheques and other such places in other parts of the country, particularly in city centres and no doubt most of all in London, although not exclusively so. The description in
the letter is vivid and it is worth repeating. I shall read a short extract to the Committee. The letter states that when premises are:
open for dancing and drinking until the early hours local residents who live nearby are disturbed by noise from patrons arriving and departing (especially the latter) due to shouting, car doors banging, car radios playing, squealing of taxi brakes etc. … In addition the patrons of such establishments, who often do not have the well being of residents at heart"—
one can imagine that is not their first priority—
park in residents' parking bays, on zig-zag white lines, on double yellow lines, in residents' driveways, on pavements etc. Obstruction to passing traffic also occurs. This is not fanciful exaggeration—it actually does happen as surveys we have made show. Why do we as residents carry out such surveys?".
This is the thrust of my amendment. The letter continues:
We do so because the Council's Licensing Sub-Committee and the Magistrate's Liquor Licensing Courts are naturally cautious of accepting uncorroborated information. So we know what we are talking about".
§ What is difficult is to control the operation of these establishments, or perhaps more accurately the behaviour of the people who attend them. The establishments themselves cannot be held directly responsible for people behaving in an unneighbourly fashion when leaving the premises. It is the difficulty of enforcement that has led me to raise this matter again at Committee stage.
§ I would be the first to accept that the wording of my proposed amendments, which deal with special hours certificates, is quite possibly technically deficient and certainly may not go as far as I would like in terms of covering the issue. However, I think they at least provide a vehicle for raising a number of questions. I hope that either the noble Viscount or the Minister can respond to those questions.
§ Who is to take the lead in preparing licensing applications for the justices to consider? Who is expected to carry the principal responsibility for monitoring the introduction of the new Sunday licensing arrangements? What monitoring arrangements do the Government expect to be in place? What monitoring do the Government expect of the relationship between the liquor licence and the entertainments licence? The music and dancing licence is of no great commercial value without the liquor licence. What arrangements will there be for applicants to appeal against conditions placed on them, or against the refusal of a licence? Finally, do the Government intend to produce any form of guidance to local authorities and the police on these issues? At present the police are in the stronger position as regards the revocation of licences.
§ My amendments enable local authorities to have a role in the granting of licences and conditions surrounding licences in order to protect residents either before applications are granted or as a result of experience. I beg to move.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
I am happy that the debate on the Question that Clause 2 stand part is grouped with the amendment which the noble Baroness moved. I shall 1490 not repeat the points she made. She put forward a strong case expressing the grave reservations of residents not only of Kensington and Chelsea but of a number of other areas about what will happen to their Sunday nights and early into Monday mornings if the provisions of the Bill go forward without amendment.
Members of the Committee will remember that the matter was exhaustively discussed when an attempt was made to introduce the provision under the delegated legislation powers. The measure was the subject of much evidence and comment by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Weedon. I do not believe that the concerns then expressed have been properly addressed.
In 1995 the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee considered the proposal was designed to have the same effect as this Bill. The committee received much evidence, including some from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. But it was not confined to London; the committee quoted evidence from Bolsover. It is a national and not just a London problem.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea vigorously opposed any extension of licensing for restaurants and night clubs on Sunday nights in order to protect its residents from late night disturbance. The promoters, those who support the Bill, thought that perhaps the council was making an unnecessary fuss. They expressed astonishment when told that within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea no less than 96 such establishments are currently licensed, most of which can be expected to apply for the licences for Sunday dancing and drinking. Many of these establishments are in the heart of quiet residential areas. In quoting from the letter she received, the noble Baroness vividly described the effect of the situation on residents.
The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee considered whether any protection for residents would be removed. The committee concluded that there should be explicit reference to the licensing justices' discretion to make special provisions for Sundays. It found the proposal unsatisfactory because it removed necessary protection for residents who at present are free from disturbance on Sunday nights.
Paragraph 54 of the fifteenth report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee states:There can be no doubt that an extension of the permitted hours for public dancing and drinking on Sundays will have an adverse effect on residents. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea told us 'it will be the last straw for residents, particularly residents living very close to commercial premises. It is different if you are in Scarborough and all the premises are on the front. When residential accommodation is intermixed with commercial, then there is going to be a conflict'.The position could not be spelt out more clearly. The report continues that,the odds are stacked heavily against residents",when dealing with nuisance arising from such establishments.
1491 At paragraph 57 the report states:The Committee considers that, while the issues of dancing and late night drinking have to be considered separately"—I shall come to that issue in a moment—there is a cumulative effect on local residents which cannot be overlooked. This will be particularly true in those areas where residential accommodation is mixed in with licensed premises".I do not believe that those who seek this measure of deregulation have yet taken on board the serious situation as regards dance halls and clubs which are close to residential establishments.
The noble Baroness may be right in saying that a permit for dancing is not of much use without a licence for the consumption of alcohol. The notice to strike out Clause 2 applies only to the alcohol licensing provisions. I am indebted to the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association Limited for a letter which points out, as perhaps one should have known, that a public entertainment licence granted by a local authority is renewable annually. Therefore there is an opportunity every year for residents to make their views known forcefully to the local authority in the hope that a licence will not be renewed. The letter states, I think a little inaccurately, that,Similar considerations apply to liquor licences: licensing justices have very wide discretion on granting, renewing or revoking these licences, and may attach whatever conditions they see fit. These licences must be renewed every three years".Therefore the opportunity for residents to make a fuss arises only every three years.
When these points were raised at Second Reading, my noble friend on the Front Bench indicated that it is open to residents to raise their anxieties at any time. But they should not have to do so. It takes a great deal of organisation, pressure, and repeated representations to the police, local authorities, licensing magistrates and anyone who may have an influence, before licensing justices will be persuaded to revoke or modify a licence they have given. I do not believe that Parliament should impose that obligation on local residents. Parliament may well have the power to insert conditions which will bring those issues to the attention of the licensing magistrates at the time when they award the licence.
I have studied carefully the noble Baroness's amendment; she has not claimed too much for it. I am not sure that her provision is the right answer. I am not clear what the right answer is. That is why I have given notice to oppose Clause 2 rather than putting down an amendment. We have a few days before Report stage of the Bill. I have indicated to my noble friend Lord Astor and my noble friend on the Front Bench that I do not propose to divide the Committee today on Clause 2. However, I shall require to be satisfied at Report stage that proper provision has been made to protect residents in the circumstances which the Bill sets out.
I am a strong supporter of deregulation for Sundays. I do not quarrel with dancing; perhaps dancing without drinking would not get far. But a combination of dancing and drinking on the one quiet night of the week, going on after midnight and perhaps up until 2 a.m., is intolerable. Under the Bill, that will be permitted and 1492 the licensing justices are given no indication that it should be strictly controlled. I have every sympathy with those who feel that this should not be allowed.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I suppose I should declare a minor potential interest in this issue. I live in a street which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, knows very well. It faces a playing field which has a clubhouse. On occasions, though not very often, late-night discotheques take place and go on until four o'clock in the morning. That tends to happen on a Saturday night, not on Sunday. Since the clubhouse is being rebuilt, the use could possibly be extended to Sunday nights if that is requested. That is the extent of my interest.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, I am very sympathetic to the idea of deregulation and to the idea that there is no difference in this respect between Sunday and any other day. Having said that, I am also puzzled by the conflicting evidence put forward. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, read out part of a letter, which I also received, from the Consort House Residents Association. I am puzzled by the difficulty that association has and the assurances given by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in his very courteous letter to me about the Bill following Second Reading in which he refers to the protection that exists. He refers to the powers of local authorities in respect of entertainments licensing and the powers that apply to licensing justices with respect to liquor licences.
If those powers work, why do those people have so much difficulty? It may well be that dancing on Sundays is a very special case on which to be raising a more general problem. But if that is the case, ought we not to consider the more general problem before we proceed, without amendment, to making this otherwise necessary change?
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
I understand that our discussion now combines the Question, opposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that Clause 2 stand part and Amendment No. 1 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I shall therefore proceed on that basis.
When I represented Enfield on the Greater London Council, there was an absolutely unruly late-night music and dancing venue in my constituency. Licences were granted centrally from County Hall. Each year, and year after year, Enfield residents came in a busload to oppose renewal of the licence because their lives were hell. They never succeeded because the other side had very brilliant QCs who put up a marvellous case. It was only when the liquor licence was withdrawn as a result of the number of knifings and dangerous incidents that had taken place on the premises that the dancing became less attractive. Therefore I support the comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that if there is no liquor licence there will not be large numbers of people who are terribly keen to be there (unless drugs have replaced alcohol) dancing all night for nothing. Certainly in commercial terms it was the loss of the liquor licence that made the venue non-viable. Before that, people came there from all over London.
In our previous debate on this matter, there was a great deal of talk about revocation or refusal to renew. In the days when licences were granted by the GLC, 1493 there was always great difficulty over the first issue of licensing permission. The other side was always able to say that, until a club was there, it could not be said to be harmful. So everything was granted in the first instance. Then the poor people suffering those terrible inconveniences had to fight, literally for years. In the case I referred to, as I said, the liquor licence was eventually lost and that dealt with the matter.
It is not just a question of premises. As a result of the Noise Act, which I introduced in this House, we can now deal with noisy premises if they are too bad. It is a question of street noise—people slamming car doors in the middle of the night, revving up engines, particularly if they have a motor bike or car without the correct muffler. Those people are never caught. Having woken you up, they are gone; and there you are, suffering a sleepless night.
With my medical hat on, I would say that one of the greatest causes of accidents at work is over-tiredness. Sunday night is the night before people start their working week. For that reason, putting aside entirely whether or not we introduce regulation, I consider Sunday to be rather different to other days. I like the fact that large stores close at six o'clock. I should not like the thought that something else started up after that.
Camden council explained this matter to me. We had arguments about whether or not shops in King's Cross should be able to stay open all night. A measure passed by both Houses means that they can stay open all night, and Camden residents are suffering as a result. We have to be very careful when throwing out all the regulations and protections which are desirable from the point of view of residents.
In the case I referred to in Enfield the premises were in a residential street and affected between 20 and 50 residences immediately adjoining them. But in other, more densely built-up areas in the centre of London many more people live in very close proximity. The effects would be even more adverse.
I have a letter from the executive director of the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association Ltd. (BEDA). He said that he enclosed a valuable counsel's opinion on a particular matter. Unfortunately that opinion was not enclosed and I am unable to respond to the arguments put forward.
At Second Reading my noble friend Lord Courtown said in winding up that he felt the debate had moved on. He went on to say that he now thought that there was fair agreement between local authorities and the Government on this issue. I do not know where he gets that idea. The local authorities that have approached me are certainly not saying that they are in agreement over this issue at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, says that those seeking the permissions have perhaps not taken on board people's concerns. My experience in this field is that they do not care about other people's concerns. They have only the vested interest in setting up such businesses. For those who live near to them it is impossible to say how many years it will be before the nuisance beside them can be stopped.
1494 Local residents are faced with the fact that they are small voices and usually merely individuals, even when they protest in a group. As I said, a whole busload of residents opposed the licence in the case I mentioned. The skilful arguments advanced by expert QCs for the leisure industry can be very convincing. For us to pass this measure would be a very bad thing. I add my voice to those who are opposed to it, and to Clause 2 in particular.
§ Viscount Brentford
I too, wish to express concern about nuisance being caused and to express my gratitude for the amendments tabled so that the matter can be discussed.
Last week I had a very friendly meeting with officials of BEDA. They did not entirely convince me of the value of it; however, it was a very friendly and courteous time and the meeting was very informative. For instance, one problem that has clarified itself for me this afternoon, and which I discussed with them, is that two different approaches arise in relation to clubs that open. One relates to those situated in residential areas and the other to those situated in out-of-town shopping areas where there are no residents, or in inner cities, which are purely commercial enterprises, again with no residents living nearby. Like other speakers, I would have no problem from a nuisance point of view with clubs being open in areas where there are no residents. All our discussion has been on the basis of clubs opening in areas where there are residents. Many are situated in residential areas, although I am told by the officials that the large ones opening nowadays are nearly always in areas which are free from residents. But that does not help the large number—many hundreds—which are situated today in residential areas. Therefore, I asked them and they agreed to consider whether there was any way of trying to distinguish in this Bill between those clubs which are situated in residential areas from those which are not. If there were a way to clarify that, it seems to me that it would rule out many of the problems and we could allow only those to be opened on Sundays which were not in residential areas. But that is a problem for the future and not for this afternoon.
On Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed to the fact that there are officials around who consider the protection offered by local authorities and justices to be inadequate. Certainly, that came out very clearly in a letter from the Consort House Residents Association, saying just that. It adds also—I should like to comment on it—that the powers are insufficient nowadays for them on weekdays. Therefore they question why these powers would be effective on Sundays. To back up my noble friend's remarks, they ask why those who go to work on Mondays should be denied their one quiet night of the week. The loss of their one and only quiet night of the week, to be lost for ever, is to me a very telling argument.
Therefore, I feel that the protection offered by the law at present is inadequate. I very much hope that we can in some way tighten it up for the sake of the poor, suffering residents who now will lose their one night of peace in the week.
§ Lord Wilberforce
I too declare an interest as a resident in the Borough of Kensington, an even more minor interest than that of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, because we do not front a playing field and so far, I am happy to say, there is no place of entertainment existing in our street. To that extent I am disinterested. But, like other noble Lords, I am entirely in favour of leaving the borough, as all other boroughs, an attractive place for people to come to and in which to amuse themselves.
The principle of the Bill is not in dispute. Everybody wants people to have liberty of action. One can see the logicality of not making a distinction between dancing and other activities which have been liberalised.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, quoted very strong passages from the committee report chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, and its very strong conclusion based on the evidence that the proposal is unsatisfactory because it removes a necessary protection for residents. Perhaps in addition I may quote from paragraph 59, which he did not read out. It says:The point was made to us that opportunities for residents to make representations with regard to licence applications and renewals are generally unsatisfactory".Then it refers to a number of questions which were put on to two pages of the evidence. It did not come to a conclusion on that point because it was not within the committee's remit.
Nevertheless the point was made and obviously it impressed the committee. It has been very clearly underlined by what has just been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes: in fact, even in busloads, the local residents have very little opportunity to stand up against the big guns which can be mounted by the interests involved.
I do not want to say any more other than that I am entirely in support of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and other speakers. I hope very much that the Government in the later stages of the Bill see fit to allow to be introduced some greater protection for residents than is at present found in the Bill.
The Earl of Courtown
Before speaking to the amendments let me say that I believe I have the feeling of the Committee on them at this stage. But I point out that a number of noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber were very concerned when they saw these amendments to the Bill coming forward.
The effect of Amendment No. 1 would be to retain the existing exception from Sunday observance under Section 88 of the Licensing Act 1988 which allows liquor sales at dance events which begin on Saturday night and continue into the early hours of Sunday morning. However, the first part of Clause 1 of the Bill, which is not affected by the amendment, would disapply the whole of the 1780 Act restrictions on music and dancing. Section 88 would therefore no longer be needed. The noble Baroness's amendment would retain a redundant provision and I hope she will, therefore, agree to withdraw it.
1496 As my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding explained, his amendment would prohibit the sale of alcohol beyond the normal licensing hours of 10.30 p.m. at commercial dances on Sundays. I understand the concerns of all noble Lords about possible disturbance to residents. However, I should point out that the licensing laws already contain considerable protections for residents against nuisance from late night drinking. It is unfortunate that I did not receive the letter which obviously has been received by many noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber. Extensions cannot run beyond the time which the local authority has laid down for music and dancing to finish. So the local authority does hold the whip hand. If it decides that dancing can run beyond 10.30 p.m., the licensing justices have to consider an application for an extended liquor licence. Extensions are entirely at their discretion and cannot run beyond 2 a.m., or 3 a.m. in parts of London. Moreover, should any problems arise, the courts have the power to revoke the extension.
The Bill would do no more than allow dance organisers to apply to the courts for extended licensing hours on Sundays. The courts would have the same discretion over whether to grant an application, and if so on what terms, as they have for other nights of the week. They would also have the same power to revoke an extension if problems occurred.
In short, the following protections are in place: very wide discretion on initial grant of liquor licences; equally wide discretion on renewal—every three years; and licences can be revoked on application by anyone—police, local authority or individual. There is also wide discretion on grant of special hours certificate, also revokable where noise and nuisance take place; wide discretion on grant of public entertainment licence; and a public entertainment licence has to be renewed every year and can also be revoked where its conditions are broken.
Many noble Lords will know that Sunday already enjoys special considerations under licensing law. For example, the normal licensing hours on Sundays are shorter than on other days of the week. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding mentioned the treatment of applications for Sundays. The Government's understanding, based on counsel's opinion, is that the courts would also be able to take account of the special nature of Sundays when considering applications for extended hours.
The Committee will wish to bear in mind that many dances would not be commercially viable if extended liquor licensing hours were not possible. This would, therefore, be far from a technical amendment; it would seriously weaken the Bill as a whole.
Turning to Amendment No. 3, I understand the intention behind this amendment, which would allow the police and local authorities to protect residents from any disturbance which might arise from the sale and consumption of dance clubs operating late on a Sunday night. However, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. The courts are already able to limit an extension to the normal licensing hours where disturbance is caused to residents. This can take place 1497 either on the initial grant of the extension or subsequently. Those powers would apply to Sundays as they do to the rest of the week.
Local authorities can further influence the length of the extension through limitations on the premises' entertainments licence: as I mentioned earlier, extensions cannot run beyond the time which the local authority has laid down for music and dancing to finish.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about a review of licensing legislation. That review relates entirely to the proposals to extend normal permitted licensing hours on Friday and Saturday nights. Therefore, it does not have any direct relationship with the provisions of the Bill. The noble Baroness also asked me about arrangements for monitoring Sunday dancing. The Home Office will keep the effect of the Bill, if it becomes law, under close review.
The Government will want to ensure that the arrangements work well and provide the necessary protection for residents. That will include the relationships between the liquor and entertainment licensing regimes and the effectiveness of the appeal mechanisms, which will vary from the rest of the week. The prime responsibility for monitoring arrangements locally rests with the local licensing authorities.
My noble friend Lord Jenkin mentioned the representations made by residents. The principle behind liquor and entertainment licensing generally is that there should be maximum freedom for people to spend their leisure time, including freedom to conduct legitimate business, consistent with the avoidance of noise and nuisance to others. It is for the licensing authorities to assess all those factors before deciding whether or not to grant a licence over which they have a wide discretion.
T understand the reasons behind the amendment. However, I hope the noble Baroness will agree that the power to limit the hours during which alcohol may be sold at late night dances is already well provided for by the Bill and that she will therefore agree to withdraw the amendment.
§ 7 p.m.
My noble friend the Minister answered on behalf of the Government. Perhaps I may try to address some of the concerns of my noble friend and the noble Baroness on behalf of the promoters of the Bill.
I understand that there are 1,800 night clubs in this country. I am not sure how many are in Scotland and therefore currently open on Sundays but, according to my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, 5 per cent. are in Kensington and Chelsea: that is a large amount.
My noble friend gave some extremely cogent examples as to why licences should not be granted. He gave some good examples of why night clubs disturb residents. I agree with him entirely. But that is not the point. The point the Committee should be addressing is whether the fact that some of those night clubs were opened when perhaps the licensing authorities should reassess the conditions of their opening should prevent other night clubs which wish to open on Sundays, where there are no strenuous objections from residents and 1498 where the licensing authorities and justices recognise that there is a reason for them opening, from applying for a licence.
We must remember that, if the Bill becomes law, no late-night clubs will be able automatically to open on Sundays. They will have to go through the licensing system of public entertainment licences and special hours certificates. The question one must ask—raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey—is whether the current powers adequately protect the residents. I believe that on the whole they do, though I accept that there may be examples where they do not. I am sure that those licensing authorities will look carefully at that when the licences come up for renewal.
One point made by my noble friend and other Members of the Committee was whether local residents will be satisfactorily protected. How can they successfully fight? How can they hold their corner and show that in some cases certain places should not be open on a Sunday because they are in an area where they may disturb residents? Licensing arrangements are subject to local decisions. The licensing authority, if it wished, could refuse to grant a licence or apply specific rules as to closing time in recognition of the special nature of Sunday.
Perhaps I may offer some optimism to my noble friend. He kindly said that he would not be pressing his Motion this evening but would certainly want to have discussions before Report Stage. Perhaps he will withdraw his Motion so that we can think further on the issues he raised and discuss them with him. There may be a possibility of looking at whether the protection from the possible effects of a Sunday opening are adequate. There may be a way whereby the club could apply for its licence but the burden of proof would lie on the industry to show that there would be no detrimental effects on the local area, as opposed to that burden being on the local residents. That may be an area we can look at between now and Report stage.
§ Lord Jenkin of Roding
My noble friend has shown that he recognises the strength of feeling expressed both outside the Chamber and in Committee this evening. The suggestions he offered towards the end of his speech are suggestions that will be followed up. He suggested that one protection that might operate is through the moving of the burden of proof. Following the phrase used by my noble friend on the Front Bench, perhaps we can also write into the Bill an obligation that the licensing justices or magistrates, as the case may be, should have regard to the special nature of Sunday evening when considering the extension of a licence into the late hours.
A combination of those two measures of protection would go a long way to meet the case made so powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others this evening. I shall certainly respond to my noble friend's invitation that we should talk about this matter and do so quickly. But I do so against the background that, if the promoters are not prepared to write into the 1499 Bill something to give the residents protection, then they risk losing Clause 2 altogether. At Report stage I shall not hesitate to divide the Chamber.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
As this is Committee stage, perhaps I may come back on one point that I do not feel has been dealt with adequately. I want to emphasise again that the real difficulty is in the first application for the licence. That is when whoever is granting the licence is not in a position to substantiate residents' objections. The residents have to suffer the nuisance before they can convince anyone that it exists. By that time there has usually been a large expenditure on the premises in order, for instance, to satisfy people that the premises comply with fire and safety regulations. The money that has been put into the building is used as a further argument against the residents as to why the licence should not be taken away; that is, because one is taking away people's livelihoods.
There should be something in the Bill which provides that, if people are going to go ahead and open these night clubs in areas which are not suitable and where residents will eventually succeed in their opposition, there will be no fear of moral blackmail simply because money has been spent in setting up the system.
Perhaps I may respond briefly to my noble friend. I do not see the scenario of a night club buying premises and opening up just to operate on a Sunday. We are talking about night clubs in the industry that wish to extend their business to Sundays. As a result, the licensing authorities and the justices will have a comprehensive knowledge of those night clubs, existing licensing conditions and whether complaints have been made against them. Therefore it is not exactly as my noble friend pointed out; but I take the general thrust of the point she made.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
I thank my noble friend for that reply; there is a lot of sense in it. The only point I would make is that it is still a factor if one is setting up a new club to operate seven days a week rather than six.
§ Viscount Brentford
Perhaps I may briefly emphasise the two points made by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. We should examine the possibility of including both those measures in the legislation. I strongly endorse his two points.
§ Baroness Hamwee
The proposals made by the noble Viscount are extremely welcome. I shall be happy to be a part of any consideration on how to take the matter forward. I share with most, if not all Members of the Committee this evening, a wish to see deregulation as wide as it reasonably can be but in a proper context.
I believe the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, put his finger on the nub of the issue, which was taken up by other Members of the Committee. The issue is much wider than simply what is right for Sundays. The examples quoted tonight come out of experiences 1500 throughout the week. I was sorry to hear the Minister say that the review is with regard to Friday and Saturdays night only, as I had read the Answer to the Written Question. The Question was about the review of Friday and Saturday nights. The Answer seemed to broaden the matter and accept that there are problems through all seven days. It is the way the procedures work rather than the night of the week that is at issue.
What this seems to boil down to is the converse of what we so often say. We normally say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Here we have identified that it is "broke", or at least limping along not very well. A lot needs fixing, and more than what we can address in the context of the Bill.
Finally, before I withdraw my amendment, as I recognise it is less than perfect, I asked a number of detailed questions. I wonder whether the Minister will be good enough to write to me following today's debate. I see that he has agreed to do so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 2:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—
RIGHTS OF WORKERS AS REGARDS SUNDAY WORKING
(". Schedule (Rights of workers as regards Sunday working) to this Act shall have effect").
§ The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 4, which is not identified as such on the Marshalled List but is the new schedule proposed after Clause 3.
§ The issues addressed in the amendment concern the protection of employees in the industry. I too had an extremely helpful meeting with the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association. I told the association that I would not be able to resist quoting from the code of conduct which it has drawn up. In quoting it, and teasing the association a little about it, I accept entirely the good faith with which it has been done. However, the Committee may enjoy, as I did, the notion that compensation to be awarded by an arbitrator under the code in certain circumstances will be such an amount as is "just equitable". The Committee may feel that quite often compensation is awarded which is only just equitable.
§ The code has been accepted by many in the industry. I understand that the association represents some 69 per cent. of the industry based on employment and turnover. Though there is a code of practice which that 69 per cent. will apply, what about the other 31 per cent.? What about the protection of the minority—those people who will not be entirely happy to be faced with the prospect of working on Sunday? I accept what the association has told me that many of the staff who work in clubs will welcome the flexibility of being able to work on different nights of the week. However, a question has not been answered: why is there not statutory protection for those—it may be a few—who work within the industry? Should existing 1501 employees not have the right to say no to Sunday work? What is the position for new employees who want to opt out of Sunday work? Where is the protection for those who may be dismissed for refusing to work on a Sunday? Should they not have the right not to suffer detriment—for instance, losing out on promotion—because they opt out of Sunday work?
§ I have based the amendments entirely on the Sunday Trading Act, which seemed to be the easiest way of writing a rather long schedule into the Bill. I have shamelessly plagiarised that Act. Although the concerns may in terms of numbers be more limited than when we were discussing the rights of people who work in the retail trade, I am nevertheless concerned that the staff in question should not be ignored or sidelined because they are a smaller group and because there is a code of conduct which, as it is not statutory, cannot have the same effect. I beg to move.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
I have a later draft of the code of conduct than the noble Baroness. My copy says "just and equitable" in the circumstances, so I think the association has picked up on her teasing. It goes on to say:The award shall be capped at limits set by the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association but presently the maximum shall be £8,000".I am not sure that we would get away with that in legislation—capping the compensation at any amount. It could set the amount at a much lower figure if it wanted to in the future. All of this goes to show not that the intentions of the association are suspect but that it is a rather amateurish piece of drafting. It is much better to do as the noble Baroness has done and seek to use the provisions of the Sunday Trading Act and extend them to this legislation. That is what Parliament agreed for all other forms of Sunday trading. There really cannot be any good justification for behaving differently and in a voluntary way for this form of deregulation.
§ Viscount Brentford
I wish to support what has been said and in doing so thank my noble friend Lord Astor for kindly sending me a copy of the code of conduct. I believe that the statutory basis is right and proper. I accept that it is better than nothing, but I do not hold out very much hope for it being thoroughly effective in the light of the Sunday trading examples that have come to my attention.
I accept also that we are in a very different position here as opposed to Sunday trading. While I was almost persuaded that the whole Bill is excellent when my noble friend Lord Astor said in his Second Reading speech that up to 3,000 new jobs would arise from it, I now understand from the association that what that means is that there will be an addition of up to 3,000 in the pool of people for these evening jobs. They are mostly students or people who already have a daytime job. So the Bill does not improve the unemployment scene as much as I had originally anticipated. Therefore, the problems of employment are very much smaller than they were in the Sunday trading situation.
1502 There are many good points in the code of conduct. I hope that many aspects of it will continue to be operative even if we accept the amendments, as I trust we will. Other points not included in the Sunday trading employment clauses would be helpful in this situation. Presumably the code of conduct would not be binding on all those other clubs, as the noble Baroness said. BEDA told me that it has 730 members out of the 1800 clubs. Therefore, it represents a large number of clubs.
I have already made the point to BEDA that I should like to see the arbitration procedure, which it has admirably planned to be informal, permit the employee to bring a friend with him or her. A diffident employee might stand very little chance in negotiations against an experienced club manager. On the whole, I support the amendments.
The Earl of Courtown
I was particularly pleased to hear support for the Bill at Second Reading and I was particularly pleased to hear support for its deregulatory purpose, notably from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh of Haringey.
As I made clear at Second Reading, the Government strongly support my noble friend's Bill, as currently drafted. I must say, however, that it would clearly be unfortunate to extend regulation in these circumstances on the back of a deregulation Bill. It would be unfortunate and indeed wrong where such an extension is wholly unnecessary and inappropriate, as I believe to be the case here. That would be wholly contrary to the deregulatory purpose of the Bill.
Perhaps I may explain the Government's objections to this amendment in more detail. The proposed amendment is unnecessary because the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association has prepared a comprehensive code of conduct for Sunday employment. I understand that my noble friend has provided copies to Members of the Committee. In my view the code offers as much as anyone could expect and makes very clear the industry's commitment to giving employees a real choice about Sunday working.
The draft code includes proposals to enable employees to opt out of Sunday working, giving no more than one day's notice of their intentions; the offer of independent arbitration in the event of disputes; and proposals for re-employment or compensation where arbitration upholds complaints. Members of the Committee will understand these as the essential elements of a meaningful code of practice about Sunday working.
The Government believe that voluntary arrangements—provided they work to the satisfaction of both parties—are far preferable to cluttering up the statute book with regulations. Arrangements agreed in the industry concerned are more flexible, and can adapt to the particular needs and circumstances of the parties. These benefits are particularly evident in the case before us.
Furthermore, in recognition of the circumstances of the industry, the code requires only one day's notice from staff of their intention to opt out of working on 1503 Sundays. This is in contrast to the statutory provisions under the noble Baroness's amendment which would require a full three months' notice. The Bill's provisions very much reflect the reality: employees in the industry on the whole tend to be part-time and often do not intend to pursue a long-term career working in dancing establishments. Turnover is high, and in many cases the individual might even have moved on before the three months' notice had expired. Employees in the entertainment industry generally are accustomed to working on Sundays. When we consider the type of work they will be doing we can see why. In general, work in discos and nightclubs will be the type of work which is already common on Sundays—waiting, serving behind the bar and so on. I can see no justification in legislating special provisions for employees who happen to work in a nightclub rather than a local restaurant or pub.
I put it to the Committee that what this Bill offers is better than imposing rigid and complex statutory requirements on an industry which, after full consultation with its employees and others with expertise in this area, has agreed to abide by appropriate and beneficial voluntary arrangements attuned to the needs of the industry itself. These are reasonable proposals and we believe that they provide a sound basis for resolving any differences that may occur between employers and employees. The industry association has made it clear that it intends to make the proposed code an effective option in practice, and I understand that it is confident that these voluntary arrangements will rarely be called into use. It expects no difficulty at all in obtaining volunteers to work on Sundays. There is likely to be no question of coercion, and no need for it.
I suggest to the Committee that it is clear that legislation is unnecessary and that very satisfactory arrangements can be made without any interference by Parliament. In the light of this, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that statutory regulation is unhelpful here, and will withdraw her amendments.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, asked why there was no statutory protection, which is the thrust of the noble Baroness's amendment. If I heard him right, I believe he said that Parliament agreed that all other types of Sunday trading workers would be protected. If I remember the Sunday Trading Act correctly, it was shopworkers and betting shop workers who were protected, and that was all. If one looks at other types of workers in many industries, they receive no protection at all. The protection was for a limited and small number of people, relating largely to shopworkers.
When one considers similar industries, including restaurants, bars, clubs, amusement parks, cinemas, theatres, zoos, circuses and any other form of entertainment that one can imagine, there is no statutory protection for those industries, which are all open on Sundays. That is the fundamental reason why it has not been thought right to extend protection on a Sunday into this new area.
1504 The noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh, also said that the code was an amateurish piece of drafting. I have sat on the Front Bench when he has told me that about Government legislation on many occasions. So what is new? I am sure that the code has defects, but I can assure the noble Lord that the code will be looked at very carefully. We shall try to get it right.
My noble friend Lord Brentford said that the 3,000 jobs would not necessarily all be new ones, but that some would be part-time. That is the case, but part-time jobs are as important as full-time ones in our economy. One of the Government's great successes has been the ability to create part-time jobs, which have very often led to full-time jobs and enabled people to get out of the unemployment or poverty trap. Part-time jobs are very important.
I come back to the reason for the code. The industry has sought to produce a code which is fair and strict. It will help employees. I accept the point from the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh, about £8,000. Perhaps we shall look at that. Opening on Sundays will open up a great deal of deregulation for employees because now some of them can never take a Saturday off. If this Bill becomes an Act, perhaps they will be able to do so and work on Sunday instead.
I come back to the fundamental point that I wish to make to the noble Baroness. The reason there is no statutory protection is that the Sunday Trading Act gave it to shopworkers. Other industries similar to this one, such as restaurants and pubs—there are a huge number and many thousands more than there are of nightclubs in this country—do not have protection. There is no similar protection in Scotland where nightclubs have been open for more than 20 years. There does not seem to be a problem and, by and large, they seem to work well.
§ Baroness Hamwee
I thank the Minister and the noble Viscount for those comments. Perhaps I may bring the Committee back to the issue. This amendment is not about those people who are prepared to do the same job on Sunday as they do on other nights of the week. It is not in dispute that there may be many who work in discotheques and clubs who would be perfectly happy to have the opportunity of working on Sunday and who may prefer to do so, and perhaps swap for another night.
This amendment is not about protecting such people, but those who feel that their security of employment is threatened if they step out of line on the issue. That is why I tabled these amendments. We are largely agreed on the value of deregulation, but I believe that regulation has a very valuable place in protecting people who are in that position.
I do not regard it as an adequate argument that a code can do what legislation does. As often as possible I am happy to write Parliament out of a job, but I do not believe that that is a very good argument. However, I take the point that many others who work on Sundays do not have this protection. Parliament has seen fit to give protection to those working in the retail sector. I accept that these workers are members 1505 of another group who have the prospect of working on Sunday. On that basis I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 3 not moved.]
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.