HL Deb 26 November 2002 vol 641 cc670-738

Second Reading debate resumed.

5.4 p.m.

Baroness Thornton

My Lords, I rise to speak in this Second Reading debate about two issues. However, before I do so, I would like to declare an interest as a consultant to the Co-operative Group. In fact, I do not intend to address my remarks to the implications of the Bill for retailers; I will leave that job to my noble friend Lord Graham, who is much more knowledgeable and able.

The Government deserve to be congratulated on the introduction of this comprehensive Bill, and the proposal to provide a coherent and simplified code for licensing. I agree with the noble Viscount, however, that the notes are indeed weighty, but they are also easy to follow and written in plain English—more so than usual.

In July 2000, I had the pleasure of and responsibility for piloting a Bill through your Lordships' House. That was probably the last time on which the Licensing Act 1964 was amended. It was the Licensing (Young Persons) Bill and it sought to close an important loophole in the 1964 Act concerning young people's access to alcohol through purchasing it from off-licences.

The problem that my Bill sought to address was that prosecution of staff in off-licences who had sold alcohol to young people was denied to the authorities because those people, although employed by the off-licence chain, were not actually the licence holders; the staff in question were, in the somewhat antiquated language of the Act, the licence holder's "servants". The licence holder could be a regional manager 10 miles down the road and the law could not be applied to the staff in his shops.

With support in both Houses and the Government's assistance, we prevailed. I would like to be assured by the Minister that the newly fashioned and streamlined Bill will also address that issue. I suspect that it does so because the Government have made it very clear that the principle that lies behind and at the heart of the Bill is the protection of the young. The details contained in Clauses 143 to 150 strengthen the duty on the sellers of alcohol to be sure that they are not selling to under-age young people. That is to be welcomed.

I wish to address the second area from the perspective of a Londoner. I have a special interest in the way in which the Bill will "play" in London, having lived in Soho and Fitzrovia and now I live in Camden. How will the Bill affect inner London boroughs and their residents?

I welcome the proposal to transfer responsibility for licensing to local authorities because I believe that that fits extremely well with a range of responsibilities that boroughs have, from dealing with crime and disorder issues to their responsibilities for dealing with nuisance, public safety, regeneration and the environment.

There is great merit in seeking to update the existing laws that have now become outdated and bureaucratic. However, a number of issues have been identified that have particular implications for London councils, which will play a vital role as the licensing authorities in our city. That is an important issue in terms of the general context of the Bill because more than 20 per cent of all licensing decisions are currently made in London. I am sure that we will all be keen to ensure that working practices can operate as effectively as possible under the new proposals. I would like to see the following issues addressed to ensure a workable and enforceable regime.

Clause 4 of the Bill states that local authorities should consider the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm as part of their general licensing objectives. Neither the Bill itself nor the framework for guidance issued by the Secretary of State makes it clear, in developing a licensing policy, whether the explicit wider facilities should be taken into account in influencing the granting of a licence or the conditions of a licence. Due to the mix of residential and commercial properties in many London areas, residents' concerns must be a key consideration in decision-making. Anti-social problems caused by people leaving premises with late licences affect residents over a wide area.

I hope that my noble friend will address the question about whether local authorities should be able to consider the impact in the "surrounding area" and not just the immediate vicinity, and confirm that "cumulative nuisance" problems can be considered. Local authorities must be allowed to take into account local circumstances and look at the impact of granting a licence on the wider community. Boroughs must have the right to consider the cumulative impact of premises on residents in mixed commercial and residential areas, particularly where extended licensing hours are sought.

Cumulative nuisance can be measured in a number of ways; for example, with crime statistics, noise complaints, litter incidents or admissions to accident and emergency departments. I had not considered the example of nudity, which was mentioned by the noble Viscount; I was wondering possibly whether he should tell me where he lives!

Secondly, I would like to raise the issue of financing the new system. It is correct that the new system should be self-financing and cover issuing and enforcement costs. It is likely that fees will cover the costs of processing applications, enforcement and some inspections. However, at present the fee will be set centrally by government. No formula, review period or premium for London has been agreed as yet. I believe that there is some merit in the view that fees should be set locally to cover the costs of policy development, pre-application discussions, processing applications, adequate consultation, mediation, inspections and enforcement. Such costs should be met by the licence applicants rather than by the whole community, possibly on the principle that the polluter pays.

If the process for calculating fees is to be decided by the DCMS, then I believe that it must be transparent and open to scrutiny. However, it is possible that an alternative fee regime should operate in London which fully reflects the city's special circumstances, including high living costs, the high density of entertainment establishments and high wage costs. I am sure that the Minister recognises that the granting and supervision of licences in Leicester Square or Covent Garden are not likely to be of the same order of magnitude or. indeed, to have the same costs as a system which operates in, say, Shipley, near where I come from in Yorkshire, or, for example, Swaffham in Norfolk.

Finally, I want to raise the issue of the transition period. It has been mooted that there will be only a one-year transition period for the new issuing process during which existing licences will be transferred to the new system. It is estimated that for many authorities the number of premises to be regulated will increase 10-fold. The existing regime will have to run in parallel during the transition period.

It is possible that one year will not be long enough. Such a period assumes that applications will be made properly and that local authorities will have enough trained staff and members available to process them. It is possible that we shall need to consider a minimum of two years as the period required for local authorities to prepare for the additional administrative responsibilities. It would be a shame if the new system were overwhelmed and could not operate in a satisfactory manner from the start. However, in conclusion, I am convinced that those are all soluble issues. I welcome the Bill and look forward to working on it during its passage through your Lordships' House.

5.12 p.m.

Lord McNally

My Lords, my interest in the Bill stems from my place of birth—Blackpool—and an upbringing which accompanied giving people fun and entertainment in their leisure time as that was the staple industry of the area. That interest continued in that, in both another place and here, I have continually supported what I referred to in the debate on the gracious Speech as the move away, over recent decades and under successive governments, from legislation which was morally prescriptive on how people spent their leisure money and leisure time to legislation which, in the main, left those decisions to the individual.

Therefore, I say from the start that both I and my party welcome this legislation. Indeed, our party statement on the issue says: The liberalisation of our licensing laws is long overdue. The liquor licensing laws and the public entertainment laws are hopelessly out of date and too bureaucratic". That is certainly our starting point. But, as noble Lords will have seen from the List of Speakers, one in three of those taking part in the debate will come from these Benches. I believe that that reflects the broad span of expertise and experience on these matters that is to be found on these Benches. That will be demonstrated as the debate unfolds.

Now that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is back in her place, perhaps I may say that, when she delivered her speech, I was a little worried that she had been testing 24-hour licensing herself. However, I am assured that that is not the case. I hope that her throat bug will soon clear up.

The other interest on these Benches may come from the fact that our draconian licensing laws were introduced by a Liberal-led government in 1915. It is interesting to note—I carried out a double-check on this point—that, in his English History, AJP Taylor stated that the bringing in of these draconian laws due to failures of munitions supply was probably a cover-up for bad management and bad planning by the government of the day. Although munitions supply improved after the legislation was brought in, it is AJP's opinion that the introduction of factory canteens, which came in at about the same time, probably had a greater impact than the legislation.

I want to flag up that in a piece of legislation such as this—in the view of many people the time has come to modernise and update the existing legislation—the Committee stage of the Bill will be particularly important. We are entering unknown territory in its likely outcome and its likely impact deserves careful consideration.

Today, for example, I returned from the CBI. I was impressed by the literature that the Government are promoting there about employers educating their workforce on alcohol and alcohol consumption and on the dangers to health, work performance and productivity. We know that part of the gracious Speech dealt with anti-social behaviour. In liberalising these laws, the Government seem to be going in two directions at once at a time when in other guises, such as health, education and policing, they are concerned about alcohol consumption by schoolchildren and the impact of such consumption on the workplace and in relation to anti-social behaviour. I believe we must ensure that there is genuine joined-up government in the measures in the Bill.

I know that Ministers place great emphasis on the fact that longer licensing hours will reduce binge drinking. So they may, but I am not so sure that I am as confident as was the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when he replied to our section of the debate on the gracious Speech. I am not sure that simply changing the hours will alter what is a peculiarly English attitude to alcohol consumption—that is, consumed in large quantities, standing up, with the objective of getting drunk. That is a very different cultural attitude from that of the cafe society of the Continent, where long drinking hours are often cited as not causing bad behaviour.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated, in looking at the impact of drinking hours, we must give proper and thorough consideration to examples such as the Isle of Man. I also understand that places that have had a long tradition of open-all-hours drinking, such as Amsterdam and Dublin, are now becoming worried about the impact of the stag-party culture on the normal life of those cities. I gather that they are looking for measures to control the situation. Therefore, as I said, in Committee we must consider these social concerns carefully and see whether the measures that the Government propose in the Bill and in other legislation deal with the problems that could be created.

I turn to one or two other points. Many assurances are given in the Bill about the community benefits and about consultation with local communities. The Open All Hours? group, which represents communities, is extremely doubtful whether the protections in the Bill are sufficient. It believes that the Bill is tilted against local communities. I shall keep back its brief until the Committee stage. However, I think that we must look at these protections for local communities and see whether they match the concerns that are being expressed.

I have two small but important points with which to finish. As to intellectual property, complaints have been made to me by the campaign against copyright theft that many clubs use pirated cards in order to gain access to televisions to show football matches and other programmes; that many clubs use music, DVDs and others that are sold for private use for general entertainment. Stealing of intellectual property is not covered in the Bill as one of the conditions of bad behaviour that could be used as a sanction against clubs. Again, that is something that I shall with an amendment—

Lord Evans of Parkside

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will reconsider what he has just said. Is he aware, for instance, that all registered non-profit making members' clubs—in other words working men's clubs—are affiliated to the Performing Right Society Limited and pay due dues to that society. Unless he is referring to some other form of club, it does not affect working men's clubs.

Lord McNally

My Lords, I am sure that we can be briefed on that issue. I know of the noble Lord's long association with the affiliated clubs. This must be something of a record: I am about to defend Sky Television. I understand that at the moment Sky Television has some 150 prosecutions out against clubs for using pirated cards, with some 200 others pending and about 1,500 accusations. None of these may be affiliated clubs, or they may all be Conservative rather than Labour clubs—I do not know. All I say is that this is a matter that I shall want to tease out.

Last night I was asked by a lady whether the legislation covered the fact that certain clubs can discriminate against women members, and whether this would be a good opportunity to end that anomaly of discrimination. Again I leave that for future debate. We may table an amendment in Committee in order to clarify that. On the whole I think that we should approach the matter with caution. We have had briefing from the various entertainment and leisure industries that there are tremendous gains in getting this right. But there are enough cautionary warning signs in various aspects of behaviour and in other legislation that the Government are bringing forward for us to ensure that the Committee stage of the Bill, particularly in this House, is thorough and teases out those doubts and concerns, and, where necessary, introduces improvements to cover those concerns. With those reservations I wish the Bill well in its progress.

5.24 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky

My Lords, this is not particularly my subject and I have no interest to declare or indeed any axe to grind, but I have been moved to intervene in this debate by personal experience and by representations which I find persuasive. I hope very much to stay to the end of the debate, but, not having yet joined the late-night culture, my eating arrangements have been made for a more conventional hour.

I am not convinced that, in allowing pubs and clubs to stay open all night, the Bill strikes a proper balance between the rights of business to ply their trade free from unnecessary restrictions and the rights of residents to peaceful enjoyment of their homes, especially at night. The fact that the purposes of the businesses covered by the Bill mainly concern the sale of alcohol and the playing of loud music is bound to make this clash of rights more acute.

Having until recently owned a house just off Charlotte Street, I have personally experienced the maddening succession of nights heavily interrupted by the rhythmic beat of amplified music from a neighbouring club, powerless it seemed to me to do anything about it. Your Lordships will not need reminding that as people grow older their appetite for all-night clubbing diminishes in almost direct proportion as their desire for all-night sleep grows. I exempt the Liberal Democrats from this generalisation of course.

If one goes through the Bill one finds "residents" tacked on to the list of "interested parties", almost as an afterthought, with many stern warnings against "frivolous" and "vexatious" complaints.

I shall not say anything further about provisions for extending late-night refreshment and entertainment, which will be generally welcomed. I also welcome the transfer of responsibility for licensing from magistrates' courts to local authorities. I say only this: that although the object of transferring licensing control to local authorities is to increase local accountability, the discretion of LAs is so restricted that I believe that they are likely in practice to become little more than agents for transmitting the Secretary of State's wishes—called "guidance". Merely having the right to process applications according to a national policy will not increase local accountability.

The Bill, I fear, is another example of a government that are ostensibly committed to decentralisation but which are afraid to let go.

So what is the policy of the Secretary of State? The philosophy underlying the Bill is composed of two elements. The first is the belief that crime, disorder and general rowdiness associated with binge drinking, or what has been neatly termed the British culture of "mass volume vertical drinking", can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced by abolishing artificially early closing times. That is the first assumption underlying the Bill.

The second object of policy is to promote a late night economy of live music, dancing and theatre for the wider cultural benefit of communities. The thinking then is: would it not be impious, in the light of this grand design, for a few residents to make trouble over their right to a good night's sleep? As the draft framework for guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State so amiably puts it, businesses should not be unnecessarily disrupted and put to cost because of trivial and unnecessary matters". which, translated, means: "I am sorry you are having problems, but you must appreciate the wider benefits to the community of these measures, and businesses should not be disrupted because of such a trivial matter as you being disturbed". It seems that that philosophy runs through the Bill. It is not explicit. It is not in any way put like that. But that is the impression one gets.

There are two types of noise most likely to concern residents living in the kind of culturally enriched environment envisaged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport: first, from the licensed premises themselves—loud music, the noise of air conditioning and ventilation plant; and, secondly, from the outside—from people leaving the premises, cars revving up, cars honking and car sound systems. Not necessarily a huge explosion of noise at any single moment, but the kind of bursts of noise that stop one falling asleep, or, if one is asleep, wake one up. It will not be general. It will not happen all over the country, but in certain stress areas it is an important consideration. It is precisely in those areas that I think that variations of the general guidelines have to be allowed.

In principle, I have no objection to deregulation of hours. Of course a civilised country should have a late night culture and economy. The Government may even be right in their belief that abolishing closing hours will produce a more civilised drinking culture. That is bound to take time. Sleepless nights for 10 years might strike residents as a cost that they should not have to bear for improvements in our drinking culture.

The Bill also grossly underestimates the effect of that liberation on the infrastructure of areas in which there is likely to be a high demand for extended licences. We have experience of that in Westminster, Camden and Islington, to mention only some London boroughs. Westminster already has 583 late-night licences, 263 of which are in Soho and Covent Garden.

Some fascinating statistics—at least, I found them fascinating—are provided by Westminster City Council. For example, 10 new portable urinals have been installed in Westminster for Fridays and Saturdays only. In just over a year, they have already collected 12,000 gallons of urine at a cost of £91,780 per year. I do not know how significant is that figure; I am not a judge of such matters; but obviously, there is a cost that must be met. It is estimated that the additional cost of street cleaning to cope with 24-hour opening will be in the region of £1.2 million a year. Extra noise abatement costs are estimated at £500,000 a year. and so on. So there are significant costs. How will they be financed—as has already been asked?

I end with two suggestions and three questions. The main improvement to the Bill would be to require local authorities to take into account the cumulative impact of existing licences in a defined area when considering applications for a new licence. That would deal with the problem of saturation—the over-concentration of pubs and nightclubs, especially the latter, in a locality—which cannot be dealt with merely by attaching conditions to a new licence application.

I say that despite the fact that Westminster, Camden and Islington councils have not previously been the most conspicuous examples of prudent licensing. They have been greedy. They have welcomed licence applications, irrespective of their effects on the local community, because of the revenues that they receive from them. So they do not come to the latter with perfectly clean hands. Nevertheless, local authorities are the best guardians that we have of local interest and they must be given sufficient discretion.

Secondly, Clause 177 needs amendment to make clear that the local licensing statement is the primary document. At present, the relationship between that statement and the Secretary of State's guidance is unclear. Which is to have priority if there is a challenge to the local authority decision? Perhaps the Minister can clear up that point. I tend to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that the principles of the guidance should be written into the Bill and Clause 177 amended accordingly.

Now to my questions. First, the "fit and proper" requirement for licence holding has been removed. Are the Government satisfied that 18 is the right minimum age for a licensee? Secondly, are there to be any requirements for proper sound insulation of licensed premises—some way to contain the sound—or a maximum decibel count, as exists in New York? Will the Government consider grants for double glazing for dwellings in the vicinity of licensed premises? If so, who will pay for them?

Finally, will the Government consider allowing courts to fine licensees for breach of licence? Would that not be an ideal intermediate measure between granting and suspending or revoking licences altogether, likely to have a particularly sobering effect on licence holders, who are in it for the money more than anything else?

5.34 p.m.

Lord Pendry

My Lords, I intend to make a short contribution to the debate, bearing in mind the number of those who want to speak.

In many respects, the Bill is long overdue. It is not perfect by any means, but it is a major step forward since the Erroll report. Few, if any, Members of the House would pretend that the current licensing position is right and that the law is not in need of revision. I argued in another place for many years that changes were necessary. To a great extent then, the Government should be congratulated on this major step forward, although given the vast number of clauses in the Bill, one could be forgiven for believing that the Bill was written by lawyers for lawyers. Nothing new there, perhaps. But considering that the Government wanted to streamline the procedures for licensing—that seemed to be the case when I read the White Paper—they now seem to have been overtaken by many bureaucratic clauses.

Not least—this is the main thrust of my speech today—is the effect that the Bill will have on live music in bars and restaurants. At a stroke, 100,000 licensed premises and even, as I understand it, solo performances, could become illegal and lose a long-standing licence exemption for one or two live musicians that dates back to 1899. About 100,000 bars and restaurants, 15,000 churches, hundreds of political clubs and even weddings with musical accompaniment may be affected by the Bill. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister will clarify the meaning of Schedule 1(4), which could be interpreted as having a devastating effect on all those musical activities.

When, some years ago, I was co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group with the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, we campaigned to scrap the so-called "two in bar" rule when only 5 per cent of licensed premises in England and Wales held public entertainment licences. That meant that those 100,000 bars and pubs would have acted illegally if more than two musicians had performed there. What nonsense that is! In years gone by, one can understand that without the strict public safety and noise legislation and police powers that we have today, that may have been the only way to control noisy and rowdy pubs and deal with disorder, but not today.

Hopefully, during the Bill's passage, common sense will prevail. For instance, why do not the Government extend the "two in a bar" rule in the Bill, allowing the safety and noise legislation to do the job that it does in Scotland, which operates within the same legislation? What purpose will the "none in a bar" regime serve? The Noise Abatement Society states that 80 per cent or more of noise complaints are caused by noisy people who are not musicians. I urge the Government to recognise that that part of the Bill will hit the musical profession hard and may have European convention implications, being in conflict with Articles 10 or 15, as it can be argued that it restricts participation in the performing arts.

In conclusion, I ask my noble friend to recognise the deep feelings of the Musicians Union, which broadly accepts the Bill's aims but argues that if enacted unamended it would represent the biggest increase in licensing control for more than 100 years and would restrict employment opportunities—and, equally, I argue, the pleasure of many millions of people who enjoy their form of music.

5.38 p.m.

Baroness Hanham

My Lords, I declare my interests as a member of a central London local authority and as a magistrate—but not a licensing magistrate. Local authorities started to press for licensing to be transferred to them from licensing magistrates some time ago—not because the licensing magistrates were no good but because it was felt that local authorities were accountable and should therefore be able not only to represent the views of residents who lived in their area but to make decisions affecting them.

Accountability is lacking in the Bill. The Bill is centralising, giving much power to the Government. There will be much direction. By the time that the Government have laid down all the guidance and standards, the amount of flexibility left to local authorities will be very limited. I am not sure whether, at the end of the day, local authority members will be glad of that accountability, when it comes to elections, if they have had to make what are, in the view of their residents and electors, strange decisions, which they will have to try to blame on the Government. However, on the whole, the transfer to local authorities will be welcomed.

Having said that, I must refer to several other parts of the Bill. Some have been touched on already, and I hesitate to traipse over the ground again. However, I suspect that other people will traipse over it today, anyway, so I will do so. We must consider carefully the extent to which local government policy can reflect local concerns. If local policies are not allowed to reflect local people's aspirations, they will not be accepted. In that context, the decisions that the licensing panels will be able to make seem extremely prescribed. Not only will what they decide be prescribed; there will also be prescription relating to who can object to the panels about an application.

It is strange that, as far as I can see, the only people who will be able to object to an application are local residents who are immediately affected. Presumably, somebody who lives above or just beside the relevant premises will be included, but somebody who just lives in the area will not. Particularly excluded from making objections are the council itself, local ward councillors and amenity societies. Why exclude those people? It may be said that there is a conflict of interest in the case of the council, but ward councillors are accustomed to balancing their position as ward councillors against their position on the council. Presumably, ward councillors would take no part in an application to which they objected; they would not be allowed to. However, they represent their area, and they represent people's views.

One of the concerns about the need to go to a magistrates' court was that residents found them quite intimidating and found it difficult to get there just to spend all day sitting around waiting to object to a licence. Why should they, who find it intimidating, be the only people allowed to come and object to a licensing application? From the outset, we should examine that aspect and see whether the system should be widened, so that there is greater flexibility about who is to be allowed to object.

Who will enforce the licences? By and large, that function is being taken out of the hands of local authorities. At the moment, environmental health officers are, by and large, the chief enforcers of anything to do with licensed premises. The police have a role, if there is a crime, but local authorities have the prime responsibility. Why would we put that enforcement role into the hands of the police and, for fire safety, the Fire Brigade? That is over-egging the pudding. If we were relying on the Fire Brigade at the moment, we could not do it. The police are overloaded, and I know that they have considerable concerns about the extension of hours and about the Bill. It is not right that the police should be the only enforcement agency. We should address that matter, too.

The question of cumulative impact has already been raised. I live in central London, as do many others here. I know areas of central London where there is an enormous number of restaurants and licensed premises. The number of such premises could increase, as could their opening hours. Magistrates have always had the right to say that there are too many of such premises in one place, but that has been taken out of the Bill. Local authorities ought to be able to consider whether an area has reached a camel's back situation, in which one more licensed premises will be one too many. As I read the Bill, they will not be able to do that. For central metropolitan areas, that is a great mistake. It will not matter in a village or small town, but it will matter in central London and in places such as Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle, which are also affected.

What about capacity? Why will we not be allowed to regulate the number of people on premises? There have been terrible disasters in other countries caused by having too many people in a building at one time with no control or regulation. There must be a power to limit the number of people who are on the premises at any one time. We must consider that issue.

Fees are to be set by central government. That will not settle what it costs. Why should council tax payers, who will have to pick up the deficit, be faced with the responsibility of paying what it costs to enforce the regulation of licensed premises? That should not be allowed to happen. There should be flexibility in the system of fees, and they should be on the basis of cost, if nothing else, even if it has to be justified.

There is a terrible lack of flexibility. If there is anything that local authorities need from the Bill, it is the flexibility to decide on policies for their area and to decide what conditions are appropriate in their area. They must be able to decide where there are too many premises and to decide, to some extent, the hours that those premises are open.

It is a big Bill, with big implications. Many in the licensed trade have high hopes that it will free life up and make things less bureaucratic for them. That may be a good end for the Bill, but it would be better if we could be assured that the people who live around licensed premises can be protected and that some lines will be drawn in the sand and some conditions imposed.

5.47 p m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, everybody agrees that the licensing laws are outdated and in severe need of reform and that, in reforming them, we must reduce the level of alcohol abuse and of crime and disorder. However, the assumption that allowing people to drink all night will achieve either of those objectives is manifestly untenable.

The Minister departed from reality when she painted a picture of string quartets in pubs and of maiden aunts sipping their glass of Marsala in a neighbouring establishment after a visit to the theatre. That will not happen. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, put her finger on it when she pointed to the effect on local residents. We heard about that time and time again from the local authorities that came to speak to us at the meeting chaired by the noble Baroness last week. We saw a horrific video, presented by Councillor Simon Milton, about what happens in Westminster late at night.

It is not the fault of the licensing system that some people's idea of having a good time in the evening is to stay out as late as possible and get paralytic. However, the trend has been to make access to alcohol easier at all hours. and that does not help. The Government are saying that it is socially acceptable for people to drink round the clock, if they want to, and that the Bill will make that easier. The Bill is not about village pubs, in which there is often a generous interpretation of drinking-up time. In any case, the major chains are unlikely to accept the opportunity afforded by the Bill to extend opening times in such pubs because it would not be profitable to do so. We are talking about city centres and, to a lesser extent, places on the periphery of cities such as, in London, Ealing, Romford and Bexley., which used to close down at 10 p.m.

As the noble Baroness would confirm, what is likely to happen around the country can be experienced now in Westminster. As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, pointed out, Westminster already has 583 late-night licences, including 86 places that do not close until 4 a.m., although the serving of alcohol finishes at 2 a.m. The impact of that regime on local authorities, the police and the accident and emergency services of central London hospitals is horrendous.

The police tell us that extra officers have to be found to deal with alcohol-related disorder in Westminster and in other centres around the periphery of the capital. Therefore, fewer officers are available to deal with other crime in the whole of the metropolis. In all those places anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol is a large-scale social menace.

The police say that they could make five times as many arrests as the do, but they do not have the resources to manage the numbers of people who would have to be processed without dangerously weakening their capacity to respond to crime by taking too many officers away from the front line. Already, hundreds of officers are occupied with difficult, uncooperative and sometimes violent detainees and in waiting hours for the injured—whether they be drinkers or their victims—to be tended in the accident and emergency departments in the capital.

The Government say that the police support the Bill. However, that is true only to a certain extent. The idea that flexibility of hours will lead to staggered and more orderly dispersal from licensed premises is an aspiration that the Association of Chief Police Officers shares, but they warn that more officers will need to be on duty until later at night. ACPO, the Met and the CO14 Clubs and Vice Unit have a long list of caveats. DAC Andrew Trotter, at a meeting chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said: all it does is spread troubles right through the night". The explanatory notes say that one objective of the Bill is to protect children from harm. The police assert that giving children unrestricted access to licensed premises, including badly lit dance clubs, makes it impossible for them to prevent under-age drinking—and drug taking as well. As my noble friend Lord Falkland has pointed out, teenage drinking has become an enormous problem, with increased intoxication and binge drinking among 11 to 16 year-olds and over three-quarters of 15 to 16 year-olds having drunk to excess. Why increase the temptation for under-age drinkers when observation in any city centre on Friday or Saturday night shows that young people are most at risk?

Late night drinking in city centres under the present regime is dominated by clubs—not working men's clubs—and discos which have capacities of up to 2,000 people. What they call "small and intimate" is a place that holds 650 people, such as the Casa Loco in Leeds, while the Area in Watford, holding 1,500, would be described as medium sized. The effect of those clubs in residential areas can be easily imagined. The Police Federation chairman, Fred Broughton, has said that areas outside clubs were descending into "disorder and anarchy". It was in the Majestyk in Leeds that Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate got tanked up before a fracas in which a young mart was seriously injured. Similar, if less high profile, cases are happening up and down the country.

The only research on the link between those establishments and accident and emergency departments is a study conducted in Liverpool where a well run club, Cream, collaborated with the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. The researchers found that assault injury was the commonest reason for attendance at A&E departments by clubbers and that alcohol was the contributory factor of most importance.

The Home Office adopted some of the recommendations of that study in the Safer Clubbing paper recently published. It stated that most admissions to A&E departments from night-clubs are related to the use of alcohol rather than controlled drugs, yet the Government have not sponsored any research into the impact of 24-hour drinking on A&E departments. According to the DCMS at the meeting that the noble Baroness organised last week, they have taken advice only from Professor Jonathan Shepherd, who is not in an A&E department. He is Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Wales.

Apparently, the Government have not taken any evidence from the British Association for Accident and Emergency Medicine, which says: A & E Departments are under relentless pressure as a result of constantly increasing numbers of patients attending with complex illness and injury. Most remain significantly under-resourced in terms of doctors and nurses to provide the prompt high quality care which patients rightly expect and staff wish to deliver". The association has no way of knowing whether all night drinking is likely to increase the hazard. The Government do not know either. Obviously any outlet wanting to extend its hours does so in the expectation that it will sell more alcohol. No sensible licensee will incur the extra cost in terms of staff time and overheads unless that amount will be recovered, and more. Therefore, although you may not get the peak problems which occur at 11 p.m., the volume of alcohol consumed throughout the night will be higher and the harm correspondingly greater.

I am not against the tidying up of legislation. The Bill needs to deal with antiquated laws. Unfortunately, it is based on the false proposition that there can be 10 per cent more establishments selling alcohol and 20,000 opening all night without police, health, environmental or social costs. On the contrary, large extra human and financial costs will be imposed on society and will make life intolerable for thousands of people who live near concentrations of pubs and clubs. The licensing laws should be applied so as to restrict alcohol abuse, particularly by vulnerable 16 to 24 year-olds, and not encourage it as those proposals will do.

5.57 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, during the debates on the licensing Acts in the 19th century the Church of England earned the somewhat derisive title of "the brewers' friend". I do not rise to contribute to your Lordships' debate in a spirit of puritanical fervour but, like previous speakers, I applaud those parts of the Bill which seek to reduce crime, disorder and alcohol abuse.

I should declare two interests. The first is that as a Bishop caring for parish communities, and particularly schools, in some of London's entertainment hot spots, like other noble Lords I see and experience every day the impact of noise and nuisance created by the saturation of licensed premises. Schools such as Soho Parochial—where the largest group of pupils are London Chinese—deserve to be heard and are vitally concerned about the outcome of the debate.

Speaking for them and other residents with whom I am in touch, I would like briefly to record agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, who spoke about the well-documented problems of crime, disorder and alcohol abuse and the fact that, as drafted, there seems to be no power, unlike the situation in Scotland I understand, for a local licensing authority to refuse to grant more licences simply on the grounds of saturation in a particular area.

The second issue is, in sympathy with other speakers, that, although the drafters of the Bill state a laudable intention to empower residents, there is a concern from bodies like the Open All Hours Group that the effects of the legislation will burden residents. The Minister, Dr Kim Howells, is on record as stating that: The Local Authorities will not have the discretion they currently enjoy to refuse a licence or impose a condition in the absence of a reasonable objection to the licensee's operating plan". That will force local residents to become the principal protagonists in time-consuming and lengthy battles about individual licences. Surely, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in particular said, it would be preferable to allow local licensing authorities sufficient discretion to formulate local policies which respond to local conditions.

The other interest which I seek to declare is as the chairman of the Church Heritage Forum, which brings together a number of Church and statutory bodies. At present, concerts and similar events within a place of worship are exempt from the need for licensing, always with the exception of London, which has enjoyed another regime under which a licence is required but no fee is payable if the entertainment concerned is of an educational character or given for a charitable purpose.

One of the stated intentions of the Bill is deregulation. Therefore, I ask what the justification is for introducing a new layer of regulation and expense for community activities. Where is the evidence of abuse that justifies removing an exemption which Parliament provided in 1982? I have seen nothing in the explanatory papers which even begins to address the question of places of worship or the implications for them.

I appreciate that the Bill provides that entertainment incidental to a religious service will be exempt from licensing. I am glad that we are not being asked to consider such a Soviet-style proposal. But the kind of concerts and plays which would seem to be caught by this legislation would, as far as I can see, range from the Brownies' end-of-term concert to the Three Choirs Festival.

No church would want to avoid regulation intended to ensure public safety. However, we have concerns that over-regulation of entertainment in buildings which do not seem to present safety problems when used by congregations will deter parishes and others from hosting community events. That would of course run counter to government policy, as expressed recently in the paper A Force for our Future, which urges the wider use of heritage buildings for community activity and the DCMS emphasis, which I applaud, on social inclusion.

Other key objectives which emerged from the White Paper leading up to the Bill included the encouragement both of tourism and rural communities. The role of churches and cathedrals and other places of worship in drawing visitors to different parts of our country is well documented, while the contribution made by activities held in places of worship to life in rural communities in particular is incalculable.

Looking at the likely costs of this extension of regulation, I do not believe that some of the fears that have been expressed are at all unwarranted. The Government's own assessment suggests that a charity holding two events a year could expect to pay £40 per annum or £400 over 10 years. As for full licensing, it is not clear from the examples given in the Government's regulatory impact assessment whether a church or a cathedral would be more likened to a pleasure boat at the lower end of the scale or to a night club at the higher end. But in the following calculations I have at every stage taken the minimum figures. They could of course be substantially more than I have calculated.

From the figures provided in the assessment, we can assume that each fully licensed church and cathedral and other place of worship—I am in consultation with friends not only in other Christian Churches but in the Chief Rabbi's Office and the Muslim Council so this is not a narrow or denominational point—will have to pay £300 for the initial licence and including annual inspection fees £800 over a 10-year period. The Church of England alone has more than 16,000 parish churches. If 10,000 were able to manage with temporary events notices for four concerts a year, the cost of that would be £800,000.

If the remaining 6,000—a conservative figure—sought a full licence, and many churches hold at least half a dozen concerts a year, the initial cost would be a minimum of £1.8 million. That gives a minimum total of £2.6 million in the first year alone and for the Church of England alone. I must emphasise that I am not seeking to make a merely denominational point, but to express concern on behalf of all places of worship.

The figures seem small in comparison with the sums often under discussion in your Lordships' House, but for voluntary organisations they represent a significant new burden and involve more onerous administration. The present Government have sought to be generous to those charged with the upkeep of the nation's inheritance of historic places of worship. The DCMS has been active in concert with the Chancellor, for example, in attempting to lighten the burden of VAT payments on repairs to listed buildings. The faith communities are grateful for the £3.8 million of relief already granted by the end of August.

My plea is a very simple and modest one: that the value of those tokens of support for the huge voluntary effort which goes into sustaining the inheritance of the whole community should not be substantially diminished by that fresh burden. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to take the opportunity of the Committee stage to restore the present regime for places of worship.

6.6 p.m.

Lord Evans of Parkside

My Lords, this Bill is wide-ranging and complex and I suspect that it will need considerable thought, debate and discussion as it goes through its Committee and Report stages. The Bill provides new regulations for the sale and supply of alcohol and the provision of regulated entertainment and late-night refreshments. The licensing objections are set out in Clause 4 and I will refer to them later.

The Bill provides for a dual premises and personal licence system for commercial premises, and for non-profit-making members' club premises certification for bona fide clubs. It is my intention to concentrate on non-profit-making clubs, but before doing so I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that the all-party parliamentary Members' clubs are aware of the discrimination to which he referred. We will be considering the matter, taking advice and consulting on whether we can attach an amendment to the Bill which will rule out all forms of sex discrimination in all clubs. I trust that if we do so, we can count on his support.

I strongly agree with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about parish and village halls. I live in the outer reaches of the borough of Warrington and in all the villages in that area the village halls are the centre of cultural, leisure and sporting facilities. All the organisations use the village halls for their annual and sometimes biannual fund-raising events which keep them going throughout the year. If they were restricted to a limited number of occasions on which they could use the halls for those purposes, we would have a revolution within rural England that has nothing to do with the other well known group. It would cause problems and I hope that my noble friend will give serious consideration to that point.

A non-profit-making members' club is, in essence, a club in which every member has a single share of equal value and a single vote which members exercise to elect their club officers and committee members annually. Any profit that the club makes is ploughed back into the club, generally speaking to improve the club facilities and the amenities for the benefit of members. Every registered club is granted its licence by the local licensing magistrates for a specific period, and it must be renewed by the licensing Bench as the term comes to an end. Any club which the local police force has reason to believe has not complied with the terms of its licence can have its licence objected to by the police and the magistrates have the power to reject the licence application. That would mean the closure of the club.

I should make it clear that I am speaking on behalf of non-profit-making members' clubs—perhaps better known as working men's clubs—and similar types of organisation. I also declare an interest as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Clubs Group. Some 184 other Members of this place and of the other place also take part in that group's activities.

I should also make it clear that, on this occasion, I am representing the views of the Committee of Registered Clubs Association, better known by the acronym CORCA, which was created 18 years ago. One of CORCA's principal objectives is to ensure that the voice and views of the members of working men's clubs in their various formats is heard in Parliament, particularly in relation to legislation such as the Licensing Bill. To facilitate that aim, CORCA works in close association with the All-Party Clubs Group—which is in fact one of the biggest all-party parliamentary groups.

CORCA is an umbrella organisation with the following organisations as full members: the Working men's Club and Institute Union, better known as the CIU; the Association of Conservative Clubs; the National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs; the National Union of Liberal Clubs; Royal British Legion Clubs; Royal Naval Association Clubs; and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. That formidable organisation represents more than 5,000 clubs and more than 5 million members across the length and breadth of Great Britain. I am personally proud of the fact that I was the only MP who was both a founder member of the All-Party Clubs Group and a founder member of CORCA. In fact, I was elected vice-chairman of CORCA at its inaugural meeting, in 1984, when I was also representing the National Association of Labour and Socialist Clubs—which I did until 1996.

As the leading clubs representative organisation, CORCA welcomes the Government's intention to maintain the distinction between pubs and clubs by means of a separate certification system for clubs. We also warmly welcome the retention of key club features of current licensing law. One example is the preservation of arrangements for CIU associates, and for similar affiliates of other CORCA organisations, to enjoy the amenities of affiliated clubs which they visit. These arrangements essentially allow any member of, for example, a CIU-affiliated club to purchase a CIU affiliate's card—as the overwhelming majority of members in fact do—and to use that card to visit any other CIU club, where he or she can purchase drinks and participate in the club's amenities and facilities. The arrangement applies across Great Britain. All the other CORCA club organisations have similar arrangements for their own clubs and members. The affiliated membership arrangement is a vitally important part of club life, and CORCA is grateful that it will remain unaltered.

Probably the biggest and possibly the most controversial administrative change is the proposed transfer of licensing functions from magistrates to local authorities. CORCA is generally supportive of this change in licensing functions. It believes that local authorities know the make-up and needs of their own districts and localities better than any other organisation and that such knowledge should be the dominant factor in the granting of licences. CORCA also believes that the transfer of control will be strengthened by the right of appeal against the local authority's decision to the magistrates' courts. We believe that that will counter any hint or suggestion of political bias in any local authority decision, especially as regards the refusal or even the approval of a licence application.

Nevertheless, CORCA has some concerns about the Bill, some of which are quite properly still being pursued with officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The All-Party Parliamentary Clubs Group shares two particular concerns with CORCA which were discussed at length at their meeting on 19th November in the House of Commons. It is felt that these concerns should be recorded on Second Reading of the Bill.

The first concern relates to club entertainment such as stage acts, music and dancing. Club entertainment has always been an integral part of club life. On Friday and Saturday nights, and sometimes also on Sunday and other nights, almost every club in the land puts on live entertainment for the benefit and pleasure of their members and their members' guests. This entertainment generally generates little or no profit for the club, with the cost of the entertainers and the extra bar staff generally exceeding the profit of the bar sales. Profit, however, is not the issue; the major consideration is the provision of quality entertainment for the enjoyment and pleasure of members. I also remind noble Lords that, over the years, many entertainers have started their careers on the club circuit before achieving national and even international recognition.

However, the Bill provides, both in Clause 1 and in Schedule 1, that the traditional forms of club entertainment would rank as "regulated entertainment". As I said, clubs have hitherto laid on entertainment for the enjoyment and relaxation of their members, and they have done so with minimal regulatory interference, albeit with proper regard to fire safety and to health and safety requirements. Entertainment for club members and their guests is currently not subject to public entertainment licences. Under this legislation, such events would constitute "regulated entertainment". At this stage, however, it is anyone's guess as to what the precise regulatory constraints will be. CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group will oppose the imposition of any additional burdens or operational constraints on a sector which has been largely trouble free and self-policing.

The supply of alcohol to club members for off-premises consumption is the second major concern of CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group. Current licensing law specifically allows such supply, but, as Clause 69 makes clear, this legislation would not allow it. I should like to make it clear to the Minister that this minuscule activity has never been a contentious part of the clubs' activities. CORCA and the All-Party Group see no good reason why club members should be prevented from taking home a bottle of Guinness or a miniature bottle of brandy for their spouse or parents, but they would listen with great interest to anyone who sought to prove otherwise.

A Bill's Second Reading is the time for constructive criticism and for suggestions on specific provisions. I therefore trust that my noble friend the Minister will accept that, while welcoming much of the Bill's general thrust, CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group will seek to influence the final content of the Bill and its subordinate legislation so as to avoid excessive regulatory and bureaucratic burden on already hard-pressed club management committees.

6.18 p.m.

The Earl of Liverpool

My Lords, I thank the Minister for fighting against a failing voice and managing to give us a full outline of the objectives of this Bill, and I wish her a speedy recovery. She made a case for the benefits which would flow from the Bill's passage, but I cannot agree with her that this legislation will sweep away much of the red tape and bureaucracy that currently surround our licensing law. Before going further, however, I must ask for the forbearance of the Minister and the whole House as I have a longstanding dinner engagement this evening. It will therefore not be possible for me to stay for the whole debate.

A noble Lord


The Earl of Liverpool

My Lords, it is indeed a shame, and I very much regret that this is the case. It is the first time in more than 30 years' sitting in your Lordships' House that I have had such a conflict. I hope that I may be forgiven on this one occasion.

I should also declare a tentative interest. I was a director of one or two brewery companies between 1972 and 1992. I no longer have any involvement with the licensed trade but I still enjoy visiting pubs and clubs and I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.

I believe that the Bill in part owes its genesis to the excellent report of Lord Erroll of Hale, which was completed in 1972. Because of my involvement in the industry at that time I remember it well. It contained many enlightened ideas and it is somewhat frustrating that the distillation process has taken 30 years. Were he with us today I am sure that he would have given broad support to the aims and objectives of the Bill, although perhaps less support for some of the methods of achieving them.

Bringing ourselves more into line with our European neighbours and many other parts of the world seems to be a sensible idea. It will put a degree of trust and responsibility on to the shoulders of the drinking public. I am sure that in the main they will rise to that challenge. If drinking time is decompressed, it must make it less likely that the problems which currently occur when so many drinkers are put on to the street at around 11 p.m. will be perpetuated. Indeed. the Scottish experience bears that out and shows that the volume drunk did not increase but was spread over a longer period.

The White Paper which trailed the advent of the Bill was widely welcomed for its clarity and its objective of simplifying the licensing process, but the Bill, with over 200 clauses, risks jeopardising that. For example, the idea of splitting the licence into a personal and premises licence seemed a good one as originally portrayed. It would have allowed a licensee moving to a new area simply to register with the police and local authority and would have greatly cut down the paperwork and court time. However, as the Bill is currently drafted, it appears that much local authority committee time will be still taken up with vetting licence changes. The process described in the Bill of having a designated premises supervisor is anything but simple, and I believe should be the subject of scrutiny and amendment at later stages of the Bill's progress.

In the White Paper a central register of licensees was proposed. However, the Bill expects local authorities to administer personal licences once granted by them throughout their duration irrespective of where that person subsequently lives and works. In my experience, licensees thought nothing of travelling hundreds of miles to move to licensed premises which they thought suited them and their family. I can see considerable difficulties for local authorities maintaining their register over time. That seems impractical and unworkable and needs to be looked at again.

A proliferation of forms and procedures certainly will not make the system more effective, protect local residents or improve policing. It is possible that the guidance notes to the Bill, which have been promised by the Government, will bring some clarity, but surely it would be infinitely preferable to have those on the face of the Bill—a point made by my noble friend Lady Buscombe and others. I understand that. the guidance notes will be available before we start Committee stage. I hope that the Minister can confirm that that will be the case. Will police guidance, which has also been promised, be available beforehand?

Another aspect of the Bill which concerns me is holding a licensee or bar worker responsible and table to a fine for serving someone drinks knowing him or her to be drunk. I know that that is already part of current legislation, but when we consider how difficult it is for someone working behind a bar to make a snap judgmental assessment about a person's level of intoxication every time a drink is ordered on a busy Saturday night, it seems to place an onerous responsibility on the barman. What happens if someone who appears sober orders a round of drinks for his friends who may be inebriated but are out of sight of the barman? I wonder how many cases are brought before the courts each year and how many result in a conviction.

While on the subject of offences, I believe that the use of endorsements on personal licences was supported by most sectors of the industry. However, it was felt that in the interests of natural justice such endorsements should be removed after three years or at the end of the tariff period where such offences are spent. There is currently no such provision in the Bill.

Having pointed towards some perceived shortcomings in the Bill, I should like to conclude on a positive note. The leisure and hospitality sector in this country is worth £64 billion to the UK economy and employs one-tenth of our entire workforce. We have a unique heritage in our old pubs, which are a considerable tourist attraction. We now have the opportunity to allow our entrepreneurs to make best use of these and other assets by selecting the hours best suited to them. That should make them more cost effective to run and increase jobs in the sector. There should be less drink-related trouble on the street at around 11 p.m., and the tourist industry should respond positively to these changes.

As I have already said, I believe there is much to commend the Bill, but amendments will be necessary if we are to maximise the opportunities it affords us.

6.26 p.m.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I begin by declaring rather too many interests, but sadly none as a director of a brewery. I am a member of the London Assembly, which will shortly publish the results of its investigation into 24-hour licensing. I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but I shall leave my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond to speak on policing matters, about which she is far more authoritative. As part of that role I have a particular responsibility for the London boroughs of Croydon and Sutton, both of which have what is politely termed a lively night economy. On several occasions I have been out with the police on Friday and Saturday evenings and need no video to tell me the sort of experiences they have.

Also, I am a London borough councillor. However, I believe the most relevant interest I have to declare is that for over 28 years I have represented a town centre ward—I still do—which now has a lively night economy but also a substantial number of residents, many of whom are elderly, living adjacent to the town centre.

Like all my colleagues I welcome the Bill. I do so with qualifications. I have a number of concerns, most of which have been expressed in tonight's debate but bear repetition and will be repeated. I support the Bill particularly because I believe that when it leaves this House it will be a better Bill. Like others who have spoken I believe we need the Bill because our rather antiquated licensing laws need reform. I am far from convinced that the reforms here will solve the problems of binge drinking or heavy drinking. As others have said, that is much more an aspect of British culture, if that is not too grand a word, rather than a result of our licensing laws.

One of the reasons I welcome the Bill is because it transfers responsibility for licensing to local government. I do not share the view of the Conservative Front Bench that this is part of a long-term plot by the Government to abolish the magistracy. That may be so; no doubt we shall find out in due course.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, perhaps I may be so bold as to intervene. I made the point that outside organisations had stated that they had been briefed by government officials that the Government were phasing out magistrates' courts.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I am grateful for that clarification. No doubt the Government Front Bench will want to respond to that; that is not my job.

I welcome the Bill because of the transfer to local government. I want to believe that the reason for that is because the Government recognise the role of local authorities as community leaders in developing the community plan; the crime and disorder strategy, and the regeneration of town centres: all proper responsibilities which local authorities have developed and which government have placed on them. I want to believe that the transfer is because the Government acknowledge the accountability of local authorities and that that will make the licensing provisions more reflective of local interests, local circumstances and local concerns.

Those are all things I want to believe. However, I have a nagging doubt that what this is really about is a local delivery mechanism for central government control. When I repeat some of the concerns that have already been expressed, particularly by the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornton and Lady Hanham—neither of whom is in her place—I hope that the Minister who is to respond will be able to give some reassurances.

Clause 5 of the Bill requires each local authority to produce a statement of licensing policy. Subsection (7) requires the Secretary of State to make regulations. I should like to hear a little more from the Minister about what is envisaged in those regulations. How restrictive and prescriptive will they be? Can we hope that they will be "light touch" regulations which simply set a general framework under which each local authority can develop its own statement of licensing policy? I live in hope.

Fees have been referred to many times. I regret very much that the Government have seen fit to set fee levels centrally. I would have preferred them to allow that to be done at a local level in order to reflect local needs, local circumstances and, particularly, local costs. The Government are not prepared to go that far, but I hope that they will be able to reassure me that there will be a fair degree of flexibility in the setting of fee levels. Do the Government accept that the full costs of a licensing authority, from policy development to enforcement, should be met through fee income and not subsidised by the taxpayer, be it the local taxpayer or the national taxpayer?

What degree of fee variation will be permitted? Do the Government accept that the costs of licensing in London—I remind the Minister that 20 per cent of the country's licensing decisions are in London—are substantially higher than they are in other parts of the country, with the possible exception of some of the metropolitan areas? Will that be reflected in the fee regime?

In declaring my interests, I mentioned that I have been a town centre councillor for more than 28 years. In that time, town centres have changed beyond recognition—sometimes for the good and sometimes, particularly for those living nearby, not for the good. Far fewer people live in town centres now than when I first became a councillor. We now have longer shopping hours and Sunday shopping; we have far more pubs and clubs in town centre areas than used to be the case. In general, I welcome that. Indeed, I have been part of the development that has enhanced the town centre economy enormously, made the town centre a livelier place and, in general terms, made it a safer place at night because there are more people around. But the people who have not benefited from the change are those who live not quite in the town centre but immediately around it. These people have to put up with all the daytime comings and goings and parking problems, and now they have to put up with the comings, and more particularly the goings, the dispersal, late at night and in the early hours of the morning.

I am concerned that in the list of licensing objectives in Clause 4 there is no mention of what is termed the "wider vicinity". I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government accept that the effects on the wider community are a legitimate objective that could and should be included in the licensing objectives and, therefore, in Clause 4.

Others have referred to the cumulative effect. I am concerned that licensing authorities will not be able, apparently, to take any notice of that. It has been said that that can be dealt with through planning legislation. The 28 years that I have spent on a planning authority and representing a town centre ward have shown me how very ineffective are our planning laws in controlling the cumulative effect of the number of licensed premises in a town centre. I speak with experience from my own ward. Can the Government assure the House that they will take cognisance of the cumulative effect? If not, why not?

For similar reasons I am concerned about temporary events and the fact that only the police will be permitted to object to them. It is quite right that the police should have that power, but surely it should be extended to the fire service, to the local authority itself, in a different role, and to local residents. I recognise that there may well be a time limit problem as this has to happen within 10 days, but I would rather see an extension to the time limit and deal with such applications properly and effectively and reflecting local circumstances than simply meet an arbitrarily imposed time limit, even though the Government have stated that they hope in most cases the notice given will be more than 10 days.

Other noble Lords have expressed concern about the one-year transitional period. I share their concern. It is asking a great deal of local authorities, particularly those in metropolitan areas, to gear up for this change in that period. I certainly join the calls to extend the transition period to 18 months—or even, preferably, two years—to allow staff to be recruited and trained and for the job to be done properly.

I have similar concerns to those expressed elsewhere about capacity. I agree that all licensed premises should have the maximum permitted capacity stated on the licence. That particular concern has been expressed to me by my own local authority.

I support the Bill in the belief, if not yet the expectation, that it is moving responsibility to local government and not to local administration—there is an important difference; that the Government recognise the democratic legitimacy of local government and that that is their reason for the transfer; and, if that is their reason, that they will allow maximum flexibility to reflect local circumstances and local needs. Finally, I repeat that I hope the Government will be persuaded to recognise and take into account the interests of the wider communities that live around these licensed premises.

6.36 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, while I am broadly in favour of the Bill, particularly the aims of reducing crime and disorder as well as alcohol misuse and encouraging tourism and self-sufficient rural communities, I have a few legal and practical concerns relating to the statutory processes contained within the Bill.

I have always been an avid supporter of deregulation. In fact, I was involved in the campaign for more flexible drinking laws with Lord Montgomery of Alamein following the Erroll report, which thankfully culminated in the passing of the Licensing (Sunday Hours) Act 1995.

In opening the debate, the Minister referred to paragraph 338 of the Explanatory Notes and the fact that there are currently 182,000 existing premises, estimated soon to rise to more than 200,000. With each premises employing on average seven people, this equates to well over 1 million employees who will be affected by the Bill. My principal concern is the apparent lack of statutory time limits for dealing with applications when the Bill moves responsibility from magistrates' courts to local authorities. I note that it states in Clause 178 that regulations will be prescribed to deal with this, but it will be a worry to many licensee applicants that there is no clarification at present.

Currently the Licensing Act 1964 prescribes the time limits for making applications to magistrates for new grants, transfers, consents to alterations, occasional licences and other related issues. The same cannot be said of the London Government Act 1963, as amended, which deals with the grant of public entertainment licences and night café licences. The time limits are left to the discretion of local authorities, which can sometimes sit on an application, either because they do not like the applicant or they do not like the premises, for an inordinate amount of time, thereby preventing the applicant from being able to carry on new entertainment facilities or the variation to his or her existing entertainment licence.

For example, I recently heard of a case where a licensee, after winning a court victory against Westminster City Council—I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, who is interested in Westminster City Council, is in her place—found that his entertainment licence application had been shelved for two years. Sadly, he had a stroke before the council heard it and had to withdraw. His only remedy would have been to institute judicial review proceedings against the council for an order of mandamus from the High Court—a process which costs a minimum of £30,000 in legal fees and is beyond the affordability of most individuals.

It is essential that uniform statutory time limits are set throughout the country in the same way that currently exists under the Licensing Act 1964 so that there can be no prejudice when dealing with applications from one local authority to another.

I note that in 1999, George Howarth, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, strongly supported the principle of local licensing decisions but said that it was important for the credibility of the process that decisions were seen to be based on common principles. He believed that a transfer of jurisdiction from the magistrates' courts to the local authorities would be a retrograde step. The magistrates' court system, despite all its inconsistencies, has worked and continues to work well.

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the statutory time limits for making applications to local authorities, pursuant to the provisions of Clause 178 of the Bill, will be broadly in line with those prescribed under the Licensing Act 1964; namely, that applications of all descriptions should be dealt with within 30 days?

My second concern is one echoed by nearly all licensees who have experienced local authorities dealing with applications for entertainment licences. This is borne out by the recent poll taken by the Publican, a publication supporting the views of licensees throughout the country. There is inevitably an inherent inequality between the licensee and a local resident. While the Convention on Human Rights makes it clear that a licensee is just as entitled to the quiet enjoyment of his or her licence as a resident is entitled to a good night's sleep, there is a danger of bias on the part of some local authorities towards their own residents who are in fact their own voters.

This can prove farcical where in certain wards—for instance, the West End ward contained within the City of Westminster—licensees and their employees far outnumber (in some cases by 10 to one) the number of residents. Yet the council, which has admitted to granting too many licences in the past decade, now arbitrarily seeks to refuse licences on the uncorroborated evidence of a single resident.

While I agree that it is only fair that local residents should have a reasonable say in the granting of liquor and entertainment licences in their area, there is valid concern that councils will find it hard to maintain a sense of equity and equality when faced with pressure from their voters versus the licensee, who may not even live in the same local authority and therefore will not be a voter there.

This could lead to a swamping of the magistrates' courts under the Bill's appeal process. Even though I am no longer a practising solicitor, my understanding is that the magistrates' courts currently deal with between 50 and 150 cases in a monthly licensing session. If they are swamped with appeals by applicant licensees, those will have to be considered individually, with witnesses called and evidence taken, and the magistrates' courts could possibly be booked for up to two days on a single case. In this regard, do the Government have any suggestions as to how the potential inequality between licence applicants and resident voters might be addressed by local authority licensing committees?

There are concerns on the new licence fees. While there has not been a wholesale reform of licence costs, is it true that following the enactment of this legislation the cost of a pub licence will increase from £30 to almost £400? This could dramatically affect smaller licensed premises, which are already under enormous financial pressure.

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill to the extent that it effectively changes our outdated laws, but hope that a fair balance can be reached between the interests of licensees and residents and that the aims of the Bill to reduce crime and disorder and alcohol misuse, as well as encouraging tourism and self-sufficient rural communities, can be achieved.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, I, too, give a general welcome to the Bill, although quite what my non-conformist grandparents would have made of it, I am not sure. They were pillars of the temperance movement, signed the pledge and sang hymns such as: Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine". The right reverend Prelate may know the remainder of the words.

Many noble Lords will have received representations from the trade and from other interested parties about the Bill. There is a great deal of support for it. But there is some concern about switching responsibility for licensing from magistrates to local authorities. Here, though, I am convinced that the greater benefits—particularly in terms of greater public accountability—that will come from the new arrangements will far outweigh any possible increase in bureaucracy.

There are a number of reasons why that is so. Perhaps I may give just three. First, the system must be democratically accountable to the people whose lives are directly affected—that is, local councils. Secondly, local authorities are responsible for crime prevention strategies, and alcohol is a major contributory factor to crime and disorder. Thirdly, magistrates' courts should concentrate on dealing with criminals; and it should not be necessary for people to appear before them to obtain permission to sell legitimate products.

The Bill provides a great opportunity to move forward on two related but separate objectives of public policy about which I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House. The first is the need to protect children, non-smokers and hospitality industry employees from the dangers and unpleasantness of passive smoking. This would be a good opportunity to break the link, regrettably enshrined in the industry's so-called Public Places Charter, between smoking, and eating and drinking.

Some members of the industry, such as Wetherspoon, realise that it is good business to provide for non-smokers in their establishments. That company's chairman, Tim Martin, told me last week that a third of its accommodation is non-smoking and that it also prohibits smoking around the bar in order to protect employees from the effects of passive smoking.

There are a lot of people, myself included, who would enjoy going to the pub more if we could be sure that our clothes and our hair would not be reeking of tobacco smoke at the end of the evening. As adults, we can choose whether to enter a smoky environment. But children, who under the terms of the Bill will be free to enter licensed premises, do not have that choice if their parents take them in.

The Government's Smoking Kills White Paper stated: Children, more vulnerable than adults and often with little choice over their exposure to tobacco smoke, are at particular risk". Environmental tobacco smoke causes a wide variety of ill-health in children, including pneumonia and bronchitis, worsening asthma and middle ear disease. It can also contribute to heart disease in adulthood.

It would seem that Clause 4, setting out the general duties of licensing authorities, provides a means of addressing this issue. Subsection (2)(d) specifically states that the protection of children from harm is one of the four licensing objectives. My noble friend the Minister stressed this aspect in her speech earlier. Can she confirm that this subsection would allow licensing authorities to specify that children may only be taken into smoke-free areas of licensed premises? Secondly, would it be possible to include in this subsection an additional general duty on licensing authorities to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers in licensed premises? I hope that we can look at that matter in Committee also.

The second area in which this Bill will enable us to make important progress is in eliminating sex discrimination in private members' clubs—a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lord Evans of Parkside referred. Your Lordships may recall that in the previous Session the House approved, almost without dissent, a Private Member's Bill that I introduced to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to bring it broadly into line with the Race Relations Acts of 1968 and 1976. Those Acts prohibit race discrimination in private clubs with 25 or more members. My Bill received the support of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Fawcett Society, the Central Council for Physical Recreation and many other organisations outside the House. In this House, it was supported by my noble friend Lady Scotland speaking for the Government, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, by all the Liberal Democrats, bar one, who took part in the debate, and many others. My Bill covered private members' clubs that have admitted both sexes to a membership category and where some club facilities and services have been open to both men and women.

As is the fate of virtually every Private Member's Bill that passes through your Lordships' House, my Bill failed for lack of time in another place. But, in view of the strong expressions of support it received from Ministers in both Houses, I hope that my noble friend will look favourably on amendments to this Bill to achieve the same objectives. I look forward to working with my noble friend Lord Evans of Parkside, who clearly wants to achieve the same objectives.

I am advised by the Government's Women and Equality Unit that, in repealing Section 7 of the Licensing Act 1964, which denies women, and indeed men, equal and full voting rights in clubs with mainly male, or mainly female, membership, this Bill resolves the issue of governance, as all members are given the right to vote. That is a very helpful step forward, but I am not certain whether it will end the scandal of discriminatory two-tier membership of so-called full members and associates whereby admission to each category of membership is determined solely according to the sex of the member. Neither does it seem to address the issue of ensuring access to club facilities—women being barred from the snooker room or made to play golf only at times when the men do not want to.

However, it is a start, and I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on amendments in Committee that would help to take these matters forward. This is a promising Bill, and I am pleased to give it my support.

6.53 p.m.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I welcome any Bill that benefits the industry, protects local communities and is simpler and more cost-effective for local authorities to administer. During the passage of this Bill, we will have to ask ourselves whether the legislation does that.

I declare an interest as a director and shareholder of a bars business. We have 26 bars in this country, their locations ranging from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Leeds, Newcastle and London. We have 1,300 employees, and on a Saturday night, I am glad to say, we have a capacity of up to around 26,000 customers. I must admit that I have had a drink in almost every bar. So, I have, at the very least, a superficial knowledge of the culture in this country. That will limit my participation at Committee stage; however, I shall make a few points at this stage.

The central question, which many noble Lords asked, is whether the extension of hours to allow the late-night opening of pubs, clubs or bars is a good thing. The answer must be: yes, in certain areas. It has helped to revitalise inner cities, but it is not good in residential areas. It has helped in some areas to keep the young off the streets, but provided that they are in regulated, safe premises. The West End is now a vibrant city centre. I pay tribute to Westminster City Council for its policy. Tourism is a very important industry in this country, as we heard, and our capital city finally offers tourists what has been lacking for many years.

The other question is whether the extension of late-night licensing would exacerbate drinking. No, if it is carefully regulated and licensed. In cities where there is no late-night licensing, there is nothing for young people to do. For example, Oxford has had terrible problems, with young people involved in car-jacking and driving around at night, particularly in the Blackbird Leys estate. Safe and civilised venues must be a good thing. I accept concerns about high-density clusters of bars in certain areas. I hope the Government will consider that local authorities should be able to take account of that when issuing licences.

The overall message must be that we must encourage good, responsible and reputable operators. The new powers must allow local authorities to close operators that cannot match those standards. I welcome the proposals regarding children. It is extremely important that if they are allowed onto licensed premises, it will be to well-regulated venues only. The most important issue in that regard, and the one message that I hope the Government will take home, is that the one way to control that problem is to control capacity. We all know, and see too often in London and many cities, pubs from which drinkers flow onto street pavements. They have no capacity limits. Sometimes it is unsafe for pubs to have so many people. Late-night licences have very strict capacity limits and a door policy. Those capacity limits should be extended to any pubs intending to open late. The one thing that discourages bad behaviour is a limit on the number of people. If there are too many people, problems arise.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the Government should consider extending the transitional period. Six months is a short period for local authorities to work within. It is a large, complicated industry. The noble Lord, Lord St John, addressed the concern about the strict criteria that local authorities will, or will not, follow. In the past, licensing magistrates had to follow strict criteria. The noble Lord is right that in certain areas local residents feel very strongly. Sometimes it is the majority view that needs to be taken account of, and sometimes, as he said, it is the view of just one person.

I wish to ask the Government a couple of questions. First, with the implementation of these new rules, it will be very important that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 is allowed to be brought in by Schedule 4 to the Bill. That would affect the control of people on the door. If there is to be any extension of hours, that Act must be implemented. When the Bill went through this House, the Government said it would be two or three years. Can the Minister say more on when it will be implemented?

Secondly, the Government say in the Explanatory Notes that the legislation is about opening seven days a week, 24 hours a day. What is the Government's policy on Sundays? I am confused; I do not know. Do they have a policy on Sundays? Are they leaving that policy to be decided by local authorities? Do they believe that the policy applied during the rest of the week should apply on Sundays? It will be interesting to hear the Minister's reply. Do the Government really believe that there will be a market for 24-hour opening? I do not think that that will be the case. I think very few operators in the industry will conceive of opening 24 hours a day. I do not think the customers will be there. What do the Government mean by that? Are they saying that we are going to be flexible and it might be two o'clock, it might be three o'clock and on New Year's Eve it might be four o'clock? Do they really think that operators in this country will close their business at six or eight o'clock in the morning? That seems very unlikely and I am not sure that it is what we want. We want the bars and restaurants in our capital city to become more like those in Madrid rather than like those in Ibiza. It is important that the Government take that on board.

The Government have announced the Bill without giving much guidance on how they see it operating, not only in the guidance that they have to publish, but in saying what they believe in. Are they saying that it is up to the industry and the local authorities? They cannot do that. The Government must come clean.

I have made a short intervention on the Bill because I have some knowledge of the industry, which I thought might be helpful to your Lordships' House.

7.1 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

My Lords, when I first looked at the Bill, I turned to the schedules, where the meat usually resides. Schedule 6 gives us the minor and consequential amendments—23 and a bit pages of them. Schedule 7 gives us the repeals to the current law on licensing—six pages, including Acts going back to 1743. Twenty one whole Acts are repealed, together with a plethora of sections in a host of other Acts. Is it any wonder that we need amendment and reform?

My interest in the Bill stems from my background of involvement with the police service. Until recently, I chaired a police authority for eight years and had been a police authority member for 20 years. During that time, I was also a magistrate—and a licensing magistrate—for 16 years. I was also vice-chairman of the Association of Police Authorities and I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

Finally, I am undertaking a fellowship with the Industry and Parliament Trust with Six Continents plc, which has hundreds of pubs and bars throughout the country. I am learning a great deal about the drinking habits of a large part of the population. However, shall restrict my contribution to the areas around policing that will have a significant impact on the success or otherwise of the proposals before us.

I am immensely indebted to all the policing organisations that have helped me with my research, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, and particularly the Police Superintendents' Association, which contacted all BCU commanders for their views, and the Police Federation. I am also indebted to individual officers who have given me their advice and to the trade organisations that have given freely of their time to answer the many questions put to them.

As might be expected, the police reflect society as a whole. There are therefore differing views throughout the organisation about the proposed legislation. I shall try to reflect some of those views, which I also share. In so doing, I hope to highlight particular areas in which it is felt that more work needs to be done.

Like the police, I am concerned about some parts of the Bill, although I very much support the general thrust. When i was a magistrate, before granting a new licence my colleagues and I would have someone in the witness box under oath answering rigorous questions about their suitability to hold a licence to determine whether the applicant was a fit and proper person. We were pretty tough about that questioning.

While I recognise that the vast majority of licence holders are suitable, fit and proper people, I am troubled that the Bill does not have that provision. ACPO shares my concerns. There must be clear guidance applicable to all licensing authorities about the meaning of a "relevant offence" and when that is spent, allowing someone to apply for a personal licence. ACPO also wants the licensing authority to consult the police about every application for a personal licence and wants the police to have the right—in exceptional circumstances and based on the licensing objectives—to object to the grant of a licence to an individual.

As your Lordships might imagine, a great many officers registered their concerns about police resources in order to undertake the functions under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. My noble friend Lord Avebury, who is not in his place, referred to that in lurid detail.

A number of respondents told me that their resources are stretched badly in the early hours of the morning. All interested parties need to understand that. One suggested way round that was that licence holders, either individually or, more probably, premises licence holders, could have an amount added to their business rate to help pay for the extra policing envisaged, particularly of large city centre venues. Have the Government recognised that concern and will it be addressed during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House? Do the Government intend the licensing authority to take its responsibilities under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 into account when issuing licences, either personal or for premises? If so, does the Minister not feel that that ought to be reflected on the face of the Bill, not simply attached as guidance?

That point extends to planning inspectors, who will listen to appeals from the industry against decisions by planning authorities not to grant planning permission or change of use for new premises selling alcohol. Will they be required to take into account: Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act? What sanctions will be available if they do not?

Other areas of general police concern that I should like the Minister to look at include the apparently unfettered access of children into premises serving alcohol, the cumulative effect of multi-locations, the sometimes aggressive marketing undertaken by some establishments that results in excessive or binge drinking and the need for a national database to help identify abuse of the system by unscrupulous people going to different licensing authorities seeking a licence, having been turned down for one previously in another area.

There are other issues around premises licences and the larger capacity night clubs. It is felt that there should be a higher level of qualification for holding such a licence and that an individual undertaking the role of a designated premises supervisor should be responsible for only one particular set of premises at a time. As we have heard from other noble Lords, concerns have also been expressed about capacity limits, which are presently imposed on premises that have a public entertainment licence.

All that having been said, however, I would not like your Lordships to be in any doubt about my welcome for the Bill. I understand that the Government have listened carefully to and implemented many of the suggestions put to them at the consultative stages by the police and by the industry as a whole before the Bill was published. We have tried out longer opening hours and they were a great success. Many police officers have told me that they feel that perceived problems will now ease once things have settled down and that the reality of economics will determine when licensed premises are open. Staggered closing times might be chosen, which would help allay many concerns bout pouring into the streets and would also enable the police to use their resources better.

The upshot is that licensees will be able to decide on their own hours based on commercial considerations. The police and the licensing authority can keep a watchful eye on how those individuals and premises undertake their clear and rigorous responsibilities under the Act. Many officers have told me that levels of violence and disorder have reduced dramatically in their areas where premises have been allowed to remain open until the early hours and not been forced to close at an unrealistically earlier time. They believe that it will prevent the so-called binge drinking that causes so much concern to people and is the cause of a great deal of anti-social behaviour.

Finally, I hope that training will be made available to the new licensing authorities, as it was to magistrates. They will need to undertake this before the new law takes effect.

The Bill is welcome. It does away with centuries of outdated and outmoded licensing law and I look forward to playing a small part in its passage through the House.

7.8 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, it is fascinating to compare the approaches of the two major parties to licensing reform. In the 18 years after May 1979, the Conservatives, despite professing to be the party of individual freedom, were curiously tentative, even semi-apologetic, when it came to relaxing the law in this field and in many similar fields where one might have expected a more libertarian approach.

In fact, with the help of a good deal of prodding from your Lordships' House, the laws were relaxed to a considerable extent. No longer is it impossible to get a drink at five o'clock in the afternoon on a weekday. Above all, no longer is one prevented from getting a drink after 2 p.m. on a Sunday, with or without one's late lunch. That particular ban was quite intolerable.

The trouble was that the Conservatives always justified the changes in strictly utilitarian terms: that they would earn the country more dollars, francs, deutschmarks or lire, or that they would help to reduce rural unemployment. They seemed terrified of extolling freedom for the sake of freedom, with the result that they never got the full credit they deserved for those overdue reforms.

New Labour, in amazing contrast, has outwardly donned the mantle of John Stuart Mill and declares that adults should be allowed to drink any time, anywhere, provided, of course, that others are not harmed thereby. Mill's proviso is an extremely important one, and there is the rub where disputes over the Bill could occur.

It is only when you examine the small print that you realise that reality does not live up to the rhetoric. This is not entirely the Government's fault because, however half-heartedly and belatedly, the Conservatives got there first. And for every 100 people who for many years now have been able to enjoy a drink between 2 and 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon or between 3 and 5 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, there is one person at most who wants to drink at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. Such people are greatly outnumbered by householders who do not want anything open after midnight. They would include the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and, I would imagine from his remarks, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

I do not deny for a moment that there is a case for allowing city centre premises to stay open until half-past 11 or midnight to cater for those coming out of cinemas and theatres. But given the dearth of public transport after midnight, combined, in London at any rate, with the most expensive taxi fares in Europe and possibly the most expensive in the western world, very few people over the age of 25 will want to linger longer than midnight.

Where the Government can justly be condemned over the Bill is in claiming that there will be sharply reduced costs for licensees—and I include charities and churches, as the right reverend Prelate explained—and a virtual bonfire of regulations. Judging by all the criticism one has read over the past fortnight, not least from the churches, it appears to be the precise opposite of the case. However, it is for others to deal with that matter. A number of noble Lords have done so and a number of others will no doubt do so before long.

I hope that I may en passant suggest one possible example of genuine deregulation to which few people could, I think, object. Let all virtually non-alcoholic beer—that is to say, beer of less than 1 per cent alcoholic strength by volume—be sold anywhere in the country at any time without any need for a licence of any sort. For anatomical and physiological reasons it is almost impossible to get drunk on the stuff. If I am wrong, no doubt the noble Lord. Lord Colwyn, or the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, will correct me. Perhaps we can return to that suggestion at a later stage of the Bill.

I turn to one of the alleged justifications for 24-hour opening, the needs of the tourist trade. I shall deal with North Americans first. Few of them drink much nowadays, certainly not the sort of Americans or Canadians who travel to Europe, and even fewer want to drink in the small hours of the morning. We are told that that may well be so but continentals are used to drinking all day and all night and expect to be able to do so when they come to this country. What absolute rubbish. One can only suppose that those who make that claim have confined their European travels to Ibiza, mentioned just now by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. It is true that establishments in large cities in mainland Spain such as Madrid and Valencia also stay open late but they do so only because the Spanish are unique in Europe in taking their main meals two hours later than anyone else.

France is a much more representative country. The average French provincial small city or large town is absolutely dead after nine o'clock in the evening except on holidays or feast days numbering perhaps a dozen a year. Even Paris is less lively than present day London. Not so long ago I had to pound the streets of the ninth arrondissement for a long time just south of the Gare St Lazare looking for a café that was open at 10.30 p.m. so that I could have a cup of coffee and a cigarette. The same applies to nearly all of northern and central Europe and to much of the Mediterranean, particularly in the off-season.

I turn to the notion that abolishing fixed closed hours will abolish rowdiness. I simply do not buy that. I know that I am on tricky ground here because the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has just said the precise opposite, as have others. But what happens if all the licensees in a city centre decide that they want to go on closing at 11 o'clock in the evening because they are tired and/or because they judge that the extra overtime payable makes staying open late simply not worth it? Will they have their arms twisted by the authorities to stay open later none the less? In any case licensees worried about rowdiness and vandalism will find it prudent to close relatively early when police patrols are still likely to be about.

Incidentally, one way of reducing rowdiness, admittedly not by very much but it would help, would be to align the duty on drinks more closely to their alcoholic content. For example, the duty on the weaker beers such as the French bière familiale or the Swedish Lätt öl or a number of 2.2 per cent alcohol beers I have spotted in this country could be lowered quite sharply and that on the stronger beers above 5.5 per cent alcohol by volume could be raised significantly. Of course, we cannot do anything about that in this Bill as it is outside its ambit, but perhaps Mr Gordon Brown could give the matter some thought in advance of his next Budget.

I commend to your Lordships—I apologise if it has been raised before while I have been outside the Chamber having tea or whatever—an article on the main editorial page of the Independent dated 14th November headed, Listen to a Scot: longer drinking hours don't help". It goes on to point out that the Scots have the highest incidence of a certain extremely grave brain disease in Europe as a result of excessive drinking.

When I glanced at the Bill about 10 days ago I thought that it was a bit of a curate's egg but still basically edible. For example, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that the Bill makes some sensible provisions regarding the presence of children in pubs. But after all the criticisms that one has read and heard I am not so sure. I feel that this particular egg needs a lot of legislative heat treatment before it can be safely consumed. How fortunate the nation is to have so many talented legislative masterchefs in this House ready and willing to apply remedial treatment to the Bill at later stages.

7.18 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, we have had a fascinating debate. It is clear that, like myself, every speaker has had to select three or four aspects out of dozens. That does not mean to say that we are not interested in the other aspects but we have chosen those that we believe should be highlighted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, should be pleased at the general welcome that has been given to the Bill as it seeks to put certain overdue provisions on the statute book. They should be pleased that noble Lords on all sides of the House have sufficient knowledge, experience and contact with the matter we are discussing to be able to make helpful contributions to our discussions. I declare an interest in that, with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, I am the joint president of the Association of London Government. I am not the only former leader of a council over the past 30 years who now sits in this House. Local government has a good voice in this place. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is pre-eminent in terms of local government experience.

I also declare my lifelong association with the Co-operative Movement, of which the House is well aware. I am a strong supporter of the British Retail Consortium. I note that a former director general of the retail consortium is present in the person of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, although I do not think that he mentioned that matter tonight. I merely make the point that the House is well served by people who have experience of the matter we are discussing.

When I read my papers, I was struck by the paragraph that stated that six licensing regimes are brought together in the Bill—those relating to alcohol, public entertainment, cinemas, theatres, late-night refreshment houses and night cafés. Those are all matters about which we may have something to say because they affect us, and we shall come to some interesting stages later.

However, from the retailer's and the shop worker's points of view, one of my main concerns is how one defines precisely the age at which people may or may not buy commodities. In relation to the proof of age issue, I would like the Minister to tell us exactly what his department's position is in relation to trying to help retailers to do their job, which is to stick to the letter of the law that we lay down. Different ages—16, 18, 21—apply to the purchase of different products. Shopkeepers need to be able to challenge customers whose ages they doubt by requesting to see their proof of age cards. That is a matter that should he considered.

The title of the White Paper is Time.for Reform. That time is now. We now have the opportunity to deal with it. Our liquor licensing laws are out of date and unduly complicated. To my mind, the main proposals fall into four categories: to reduce crime and disorder; to reduce public safety; to prevent public nuisance; and to prevent children from harm. There is a very clear case for what I call responsible retailing. Not only the Co-op, of which I am proud, but also the whole of the retail industry wants to act responsibly and do what is right. The Co-op Societies do not take that responsibility lightly. How do they do that? Leaflets providing sensible messages about drinking are freely available to customers in stores. For: instance, the Coop was the first UK retailer to put clear warnings on its range of own-brand wines, beers and spirits, enabling them for the first time, on pack, to check the alcohol content of the product against government-recommended sensible drinking guidelines. They also take the sensible drinking message out to the wider community. They have certainly supported the BRC's development of due diligence guidelines for age-restricted products. The Co-op certainly supports the BRC in its campaign for a proof of age card

There is also a clear case for the modernisation and simplification of the liquor licensing regime. I have listened to Members of the House telling us of their experiences. As I drive from the House at night-time, sometimes passing through Islington, the sight of a crowd of mainly young people outside a pub gives me pleasure. I like to see them. Although they are drinking on the street, they do not cause trouble for me, because I pass them in five seconds, but they must cause trouble to the people who live above or alongside them. When I say "trouble", I do not want to be over-dramatic, but there is a problem. I hope that the Minister will say something about that.

I have listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said about the special problems of the London councils. There is no doubt that the London councils have a particular problem that needs to be addressed, especially on the question of fees. I certainly support the proposal to transfer the prime responsibility in this field from magistrates to local authorities. That is not intended to downgrade magistrates, but as a recognition of the reality that in respect of the total community the councils must bear a responsibility for strategic planning and for what happens in the wider community.

I should like to say a word about premises and personal licences. Care must be taken to ensure that the proposals for two different licences, one for premises in which the sale and supply of alcohol takes place and the other for the person who sells alcohol, do not lead to an overly-complicated situation. In relation to licences for premises, the Bill proposes that a designated premises supervisor is named. It is of some concern that in the case of a personal licence change application, rather than notification, to vary the licence is required. I believe that a simple notification system should suffice where there are changes of designated premises supervisors. If not, we shall face the possibility of one unduly bureaucratic process being replaced by yet another.

The Co-op and the BRC support the view that there should be a two-tier approach to personal licences—one for off-trade, which will include retailers, and another for on-trade. As currently drafted, the Bill proposes that all those who want to apply for a personal licence must take a single qualification covering all aspects of the supply of alcohol. That would mean that retailers of all shapes and sizes, including supermarket managers and those who run corner shops, would be required to study and pass an examination that would include questions about the sale and control of alcohol in pubs and clubs, where there are very different problems and issues. I understand that the BRC made a suggestion to the Government that they would be willing to assist in a study to try to work out what may be called the curriculum or the basis for qualification. I hope that we may hear something about that.

I am not at all certain about 24-hour opening. I stood here and died in the ditch defending Sunday trading. I was very much against it. Nothing has since happened to make me change my mind. I believed that it was the start of a slippery slope. Therefore, I am not as libertarian as others may be in saying that there should be no restriction. That is up to the individual. I believe that there must be a regime, and I certainly would want to be convinced that there is a case for allowing 24-hour drinking. There should be some restrictions in that regard.

I turn to the question of garage forecourts. The Bill prohibits the sale of alcohol from garage forecourts. That represents a tightening of the current system. However, at a time when drink driving continues to be an all too often fatal problem, the removal of booze from petrol stations and garages is to be welcomed, and I believe that the Minister should take that on board.

In conclusion, the ALG and the BRC strongly support the Bill. I see that I have taken 10 minutes. I shall therefore sit down.

7.28 p.m.

Lord Colwyn

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for her explanation of the Bill and my noble friend Lady Buscombe for her speech from our Front Bench.

I want to concentrate on one aspect of the Bill—live music. I should declare three interests: first, as a semiprofessional musician; secondly, as a member of the Musicians Union for over 30 years; and, thirdly, as cochairman of the parliamentary jazz appreciation group, which had a meeting this evening. I apologise for the fact that I had to leave the Chamber between six and seven o'clock to chair the AGM, at which the Bill was much discussed.

The current law permits up to two musicians to perform without the need for a public entertainment licence. With the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, and other members of the parliamentary group, I have for many years campaigned for the abolition of the "two in a bar" rule. On 25th February 1988, Douglas Hogg wrote to me from the Home Office, as follows: The laws on entertainment are there to ensure adequate control, specifically in terms of safety, in places of public resort. Licensed premises are exempt from these laws for small-scale entertainments primarily because, when granted a justices' licence, the licensee will have shown that his premises are structurally suitable for the sale and consumption of alcohol, which by necessity includes adequate health and safety provisions. For entertainment on a larger scale, such premises may not be suitable and a further inspection under the terms of the public entertainment licence is deemed necessary". He said that he would consider the situation.

In January 1993, five years later, I had a very similar letter from Charles Wardle in the Home Office. He wrote to me in reply to a question on music licensing, stating: The laws on entertainment licensing are there to ensure adequate control, specifically in terms of safety, in places of public resort. Licensed premises are exempt from these laws for a small-scale entertainment". The wording was identical to the 1988 letter. He went on: Whilst I agree that, in some instances, an entertainment involving electronic equipment may produce more noise than, say three people playing acoustic guitars, I have to say that the noise factor is not the only relevant consideration here. Premises which give rise to excessive noise and nuisance are likely to be the subject of complaints, which may lead to the loss of their justices' license, irrespective of whether the entertainment provided is by virtue of a public entertainment licence or not". The issue of entertainment in licensed premises has never been resolved. Despite countless meetings with Ministers from both political parties and despite promises that the situation would be changed at the earliest opportunity, the "two in a bar" rule has remained. It was obvious that two, three or four musicians playing acoustically or with minimal amplification could never make as much noise as the massive discotheques and sound systems. Those of us who have tried over many years to promote jazz and British jazz musicians were assured that the situation would be rectified. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Jazz Appreciation has consistently lobbied Ministers and been promised changes that will encourage musicians. Of course I understand that noise nuisance is dependent on the amplification, but most jazz played in pubs and clubs is not so reliant on high-powered electronics.

In November 1996, the Arts Council published its jazz policy, recognising the importance of this art form and its inadequate profile in the UK. It said: In the last 30 years, many British jazz musicians have established themselves as original voices within the global evolution of jazz. Their work is well documented and the stature of their achievements acknowledged by their colleagues and audiences abroad. However, there has been insufficient opportunity in this country for this important contribution to world music to be fully recognised by audiences and for the work to be adequately profiled in Britain". In June 1997, under the new Labour administration, the culture Minister promised change and the earliest oppor tunity to allow small groups of musicians to play in pubs and restaurants—often, the only places that young musicians can find an audience.

In the debate on jazz on 15th February 2000 in another place, the Secretary of State, referring to the "two in a bar" rule, said that he was, actively reviewing the constraints that the licensing system places on musical performance in such venues, and I hope that in due course we shall be able to introduce deregulatory measures to assist the broad picture".—[Official Report, Commons, 15/2/00; col. 190WH.] We have many of the finest musicians in the world and we must help young professionals to gain experience of playing to an audience. As I see it, the present Bill effectively changes "two in a bar" to "none in a bar". Unless pubs, clubs and restaurants have a public entertainment licence, no live music of any kind will be permitted. The "two in a bar" rule has been excluded from the list of permitted "successor rights", which can be included when converting existing licences. I do hope that the Government can reverse this decision; otherwise there will be no piano players, no singers, no guitarists—nothing; not even the string quartet mentioned by the noble Baroness.

Electronic and broadcast entertainment, such as football, rugby matches, musical channels attached to powerful sound systems, which can attract significant, boisterous crowds and cause noise nuisance, is exempt. I have watched rugby matches in my local pub on many occasions. There is noise; there was much noise last weekend, and I must congratulate the English squad on beating South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. However, under the planned legislation, a single guitarist or a piano player after the game would be illegal. What nonsense.

I shall finish with a few questions. I listened to the opening remarks of the noble Baroness with interest. Did she say that an entertainment licence is automatically combined with a liquor licence? Who will decide on the cost and how will that cost be determined? Will pubs, restaurants and clubs have to make a "one-of' application with their licence in case they should ever use live music? Will all licensed premises in England and Wales lose the exemption that allows them to provide one or two musicians? Will those premises, currently providing one or two musicians using the old performer exemption, need to apply for licensing permission if they wish to continue with that limited amount of live music?

Will professional live music in hospitals, prisons, care homes, schools and churches be illegal unless licensed? If a professional music teacher organises a concert by pupils for the benefit of parents and friends, will that be licensable entertainment? I am sure that the Minister saw the article in The Times on Saturday, which reported that thousands of parish churches and places of worship would have to pay for licences for concerts to be held on their premises. Is that correct?

The Musicians Union accepts that premises whose main business is providing music may need the additional controls that licensing provides. Licensing justices already impose noise-limiting measures and safe capacities as a condition of the grant of a liquor licence.

I remind the Government that the Noise Abatement Society has shown that more than 80 per cent of noise complaints about pubs and restaurants are caused by people entering and leaving the premises. Have the Government conducted any research into the noise implications of licensing reform for residents in the vicinity of licensed premises?

There are many other questions. I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic to these concerns between now and the next stage of the Bill.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, I should declare an interest as the chairman of a small hotel company in Suffolk, which needs to obtain all of the licences under the status quo. I should also inform the House that in my early career I spent much time in magistrates' courts dealing with licences and even sitting as clerk to the justices.

I shall open with a couple of general of remarks. First, it seems to me to be counter-intuitive to hold the view, as the Government do, that by allowing any number of licensing outlets—that is what the new regime will do—and 24-hour drinking, which the new regime will encourage, one is somehow improving the self-defeating and self-damaging drinking culture, about which we spend a great deal of time in this House complaining.

Secondly, the "one size fits all" policy that is implicit in the Bill and the Framework for Guidance, which we have already been sent, must, as other noble Lords have observed, surely be self-defeating. Moreover, it flies directly in the face of one of the four aims of the White Paper, which are set out in the Explanatory Notes. The fourth aim is, to encourage self-sufficient rural communities". I cannot think of anything that will do less to encourage self-sufficient rural communities than to make all of the crucial decisions in Whitehall regarding licensing and the conditions that may be attached to the new regime and to send them down, so to speak, via guidance. I shall say more on that in a minute.

I turn to the scheme of the Bill. Clause 4, which is entitled, General duties of licensing authorities", requires the councillors concerned to pursue four statutory objectives, the third of which is, the prevention of public nuisance". Many may be relieved about that and assume that it will protect local communities against some of the behaviour that has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, my noble friend Lord Avebury and others. I shall return to that point.

But Clause 4 goes on to state that, in carrying out its statutory licensing functions, a licensing authority must also have regard to … any Guidance issued by the Secretary of State under Section 177". That is the heart of the Bill. However, if we look at Clause 177, what do we find? We find carte blanche for the Secretary of State. He does not even have to consult anyone. He certainly does not have to lay his guidance before the House so that we can approve it, as we do with secondary legislation. He simply has to place it in the Library and that is that.

The problem is that the formulation of words, "must have regard to", is well known and well worn in our legislation. It will place on the licensing authorities the obligation to follow the guidance unless there is an extremely cogent and clear reason to the contrary that does not go against either the guidance or the framework of the Act. If anyone is displeased by the decision of a licensing authority—for example, a brewer whose licensing authority says, "Well, we'll give you a licence but not beyond 12 o'clock"—he can rush straight off to the High Court for a judicial review, and he will probably get it. That is the problem. In this context, guidance really means "requirement".

So what is in the guidance? The short answer is: a lot. It starts off by saying: The Guidance … is a key mechanism for ensuring consistent application of licensing powers across the country". There we have it bold and clear. The same will apply to all of us. One size fits all. "Ah, no", the Government will say, "because the guidance then goes on to state that it can be", amended or supplemented as necessary at any time to address problems affecting local communities". But amended by whom? It will not be amended by the people who know what they are talking about—the licensing authorities. Whitehall will decide whether there are any such local factors.

Under the heading "Statement of Licensing Policies", the guidance then goes on to state that the Secretary of State would, lay additional emphasis on the importance of longer opening hours as a key mechanism for combating binge drinking". It may combat binge drinking but it does not combat any other form of anti-social drinking. Indeed, the brewers would not be so keen on the measures if they did not see far more sales. The guidance then goes on to say that, the norm", for the licensing, should be for the vast majority of these registrations to be automatic". Therefore, we should forget any notion that the licensing authority will have any real control over the people who obtain licences. The guidance makes it clear that the vast majority should be accepted automatically. Indeed, the only issues that can be taken into account—a point already made by my noble colleagues—are previous convictions. The "fit and proper person" test, which allows other issues to be taken into account—applicants may be notorious in their locality and may be any type of unconvicted criminal—cannot be used.

As regards premises licences, the guidance would, underline the need for … minimum bureaucracy in the process". Again, that virtually says to the licensing authorities, "Get on with it. Don't shilly-shally around. You've got no discretion anyhow. Just give them a licence and tell them to go away", and so on.

I believe that all that adds up to a constitutionally obnoxious set of arrangements. It is the most dirigiste framework for legislation on such an important and nation-wide set of issues of which I am aware. It leaves the Secretary of State wholly unaccountable in law and only accountable in a political way. We say that that is not good enough and many noble Lords have said the same.

I turn to the point that I raised earlier concerning the solace, one might say, of the prevention of "public nuisance". It appears that such a measure would prevent some anti-social activities. For example, in my native county of Suffolk a few village pubs may remain open. Most will not want to stay open into the small hours but some of them will make a good trade by doing just that. Young people love whizzing around the countryside in cars late at night. If those pubs stay open until three or four in the morning, that could well give rise to considerable noise disturbance. As people get in their cars and drive away, they will not be drunk or disorderly but they will destroy the small-hours peace so valued by country and, indeed, town dwellers.

Therefore, what about prevention of public nuisance? I shall refer to the textbook Clark and Lindsell, which is as good an authority as any on this matter. It says, Public nuisance is a criminal offence". One may say that that is the case in one part of the law; in this Bill it will not be like that. But it will be like that. I refer noble Lords to the case of National Coal Board. v. Neath Council 1976 The judgment in that case states specifically that if nuisance is referred to in the statute, unless express words vary the meaning of the word "nuisance", then it must have the common law meaning.

Public nuisance is confined to such matters as the carrying on of an offensive trade, holding an acid house party, keeping a disorderly house and throwing fireworks in the street. None of those is remotely close to the type of issue about which we are concerned and which we are discussing this evening. Therefore, that is no solace. Whatever else we do, we must extend the meaning of public nuisance to fit the needs of this Bill and the public at large.

In closing, I want to touch briefly on the points raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. All the small activities carried on by churches and community organisations will be subject to licensing. Perhaps I may illustrate that with a concrete example. Every year in my garden in Sudbury, I hold the St Gregory's Church fete. Of course, no licence is required at present but, in the future, we shall probably have to obtain four: one for the Punch and Judy show; one for the folk group; one for the country dancing—the noble Lord is looking astonished—one for the barrel organ and one for the raffle. "Rubbish", he says, but he will eat his words. Why the raffle? Because the Bill itself states that to be so. Clause 172 exempts certain raffles but not one that has a money prize—we usually give a prize off 10, so that will not be exempt—and not a raffle where prizes consist of alcohol. Under Clause 172, even a bottle of booze will prevent the raffle being an exempt raffle, and then one enters the whole paper chase and expense of the Bill.

I have run out of time, but I merely want to add to what other noble Lords have said. There is much that is good and necessary in the Bill but—my word!—we have a lot of work to do.

7.47 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

My Lords, I welcome the provisions in the Bill to allow the extension of licensing hours to pubs, bars and night clubs under the control of local authorities. I have read plenty of evidence that that will help to reduce the violence on our streets that often occurs when the pubs close. But, crucially, I believe that that is only a small part of what the Government need to do in order to tackle the link between alcohol and violent crime.

If the Government are genuine about their objective of being "tough on the causes of crime", other measures should be seriously considered. The enormous amount of crime committed under the influence of alcohol makes excessive drinking a very important and expensive problem for our society—expensive in terms of cash and expensive in terms of people's health and quality of life. Of particular concern to me is the amount of domestic violence against women conducted under the influence of alcohol. When two women are killed by their current or former partner every week of the year, we have an epidemic of mass murder and we need to do more than tinker around with the licensing laws to address it.

It is hoped that the Bill will reduce the binge-drinking culture that leads to trouble. It may reduce the binge drinking, but I do not believe that ii will change the culture. In some contexts, such as Mardi Gras, for example, binge drinking is regarded as a beneficial pattern of behaviour which can contribute to social cohesiveness and bonding. If it happened once a year, perhaps we should not be quite so worried about it. Nowadays, "getting plastered" every weekend seems to be regarded as the cool thing to do. Of course, we know that there is a great pressure to conform among young people. No one likes to be seen to be different from their mates. However, in other countries, it is decidedly uncool to get "blind drunk".

Other reasons behind the image of the English culture of binge drinking are more complex. First. we have a great national ambivalence towards alcohol—a love/hate relationship if one likes.

In general, many researchers, such as Heath in 1988 and Gleiberman et al in 1993, have found that the greater the number of formal restrictions on drinking—for example, licensing laws—the:afore alcohol-related problems a society has. Such restrictive societies usually have an inconsistent attitude towards alcohol. In the UK, for example, on the one hand we restrict drinking below the age of 18, and on the other, most consider teenage drunkenness to be an inevitable "rite of passage".

By contrast, societies in which alcohol is integrated into daily life have relatively few of the problems we commonly associate with drinking, such as public brawling, suicide, absenteeism from work, accidents, domestic-violence and unprotected sex. 'The problem is not just how much or how long people drink, but what they do when they have been drinking. Here in Britain we have a particular problem with that.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, mentioned that he preferred the bars of Madrid to the bars of Ibiza. The difference between the two is that the bars of Madrid are full of Spaniards and the bars of Ibiza are full of Brits.

But will lifting some of the restrictions on licensing hours help? Cross-cultural research done by Galahad SMS Limited and others has shown that it will. Drinks are consumed quickly just before closing time and customers are then forced onto the streets in large groups at a peak of intoxication. In Europe, where opening hours can extend to 6 a.m., customers tend to leave as they wish—in staggered numbers, so to speak—causing few problems for public transport or the police.

The problem has grown so much in Manchester that the city council has implemented a "City Centre Safe" initiative, mentioned by the Minister, to try to deal with some of it. It has provided more public transport when the pubs close to reduce brawls on taxi ranks. It has banned glasses and bottles on the streets and provided more police to confiscate them. It has persuaded pubs and bars to use more plastics and safety glass. But this deals only with the symptoms of the disease, not the root cause.

I believe that one of the root causes is a misinterpretation of the minimum drinking age laws and a lack of good alcohol education. According to surveys by Galahad, the majority of parents wrongly believe that it is "against the law" to allow their under-16 year-old children to drink any alcohol at all. The law (or misinterpretation of it) has, in effect, taken away parental control and influence. In France, Spain, Greece, Italy, for example, a child is taught how to drink gradually and can practise safely within the family environment. As a result, there is no "forbidden-fruit effect" associated with alcohol, and such children rarely use alcohol as a form of rebellion.

Many of today's young people work hard and play hard. They live with their parents longer because of the cost of housing. They get married and have children later, so they have few responsibilities. They have money to spend and at the weekend they go out and drink vodka-based drinks one after the other. The industry makes them very attractive. There are coloured and flavoured vodkas and vodka shots, drunk down in one, are very fashionable.

But the drinks that concern me most, because I believe they lure very young teenagers into the habit of drinking too much alcohol, are the alcopops, which, at 5 per cent, contain more alcohol than a pint of normal strength beer. Despite the fact that the manufacturers claim that they are aimed at the 18 to 25 market, their sweet flavour, vibrant colours, rebellious sexy names and cartoon characters are clearly targeted at very young teenagers. Two-thirds of 11 to 12 year-olds are familiar with the names of the most common brands and 91 per cent of 15 to 16 year-olds know all about them. However, they are not aware of their alcoholic strength believing them to be less alcoholic than beer or lager.

The Minister said that one of the objectives of the Bill is to protect children from harm. In this respect it does not do so. Since we have now grasped the nettle about tobacco advertising, thanks to the Bill of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, I ask the Minister whether the Government have any plans to restrict this targeting of a very powerful and potentially harmful drug at the very young.

So the question is: what more should the Government be doing? I suggest that a strategy combining research-based policy and alcohol education could, over time, achieve the desirable cultural shift.

However, education will not stop people drinking. We know that abstinence-based education fails. So effective alcohol education for all ages must be developed on the basis that drinking is a natural, normal inclination, not rooted in immorality, and that the objective is safe drinking.

Finally, we must support and educate parents. Parents want to know how to teach their children how to drink sensibly. They need to understand that the law does not prevent them from doing this and that the home is the best place to learn good habits.

What else can the Government do? Since socialisation into drinking does not occur in the home in the same way as it does in southern European countries, the pubs and bars have replaced the family as the place to learn how to drink in a socially acceptable way. The server of alcohol, therefore, has a responsibility to set and enforce standards of behaviour. Unfortunately, most bar staff in the UK have little understanding of either their influence or their legal responsibilities.

Research has shown that informal controls on drinking, the social disapproval and censorship of certain behaviours, are far more effective than formal law, policy and regulation. What is needed is legislation that encourages social disapproval of extreme drunkenness in public—in other words, peer pressure. That could start with pub and bar staff. With proper training, servers could become educators. Continuing to serve a person who is obviously severely intoxicated should result in stronger penalties for the server and the establishment. Could therefore the guidelines to local authorities include the provision that licensed premises must train their staff properly before they can be considered for extended licensing hours?

Before closing I turn briefly to another measure in the Bill, which will have consequences that perhaps the Government did not intend. I hope not anyway. It is the provision that requires premises in which amateur music makers perform to hold an entertainment licence. I very much support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, on this matter. Many churches and church halls in which amateur choirs and orchestras perform will not bother getting a licence and we will have lost valuable venues. Others will get the licence and pass on the cost to the amateur music makers, who are already strapped for cash.

I have to declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Parliament choir. Thanks to generous sponsorship from BT we do not have the money worries of some amateur choirs, many of which put on concerts at a loss. Their very viability is threatened by the Bill. Given that they add enormously to the cultural richness of their communities, it would be very sad if a Bill such as this, with very laudable objectives, were to have such an effect. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me on that point.

7.58 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, it is time that we had a licensing Bill, so I have to welcome the Bill to that extent. But I am very unhappy about the terms of the Bill and consider it a straight sell-out to the alcohol industry and not in the interests of the people as it purports to be.

I declare a slightly indirect interest. My husband is a member of Westminster City Council and I am a Westminster resident. Central London, and Westminster in particular, is reputed to have more licensed premises per square foot than anywhere in the world. Certainly, the concentration of such premises in the Soho and Covent Garden areas, followed by Queensway and Edgware Road, is a real worry and a problem for those who live in the area. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, commented on that.

After 'A Good Night Out!'—The Hangover!, the final report of the Central Westminster Police/Community Consultative Group's Licensing Working Party, was published in July. I notice that although many representatives were present, the early representation of the breweries was not sustained and was regretted.

The first three key aims of the Government's proposals in the 2000 White Paper are to reduce crime and disorder, encourage tourism and reduce alcohol misuse. I shall not comment on the fourth— encouraging self-sufficient rural communities—as other noble Lords who know those areas have already done so. In no way will the Bill as drafted do anything to satisfy the first three aims. I hope that amendments will be passed in your Lordships' House to correct the situation. It is all very well to limit regulation. It is quite another thing to create a free-for-all. In contrast with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, experience in the City of Westminster has shown that increasing the drinking hours, as has been done in several cases, has only increased the problem. The peak time for criminal offences is 3 a.m., to which present licensing extends.

What in the Bill will ensure that residents are not further disadvantaged by 24-hour drinking? I found it interesting when the noble Viscount, Lord Astor—I am sorry that he is not at present in the Chamber—said that he could not believe that anyone would run such places for 24 hours. He felt that it would not be financially viable for the industry. I hope that that will be the case, but there will certainly be some such establishments.

What is the position? Drinkers will not be turned out on the street at all. If they are drunk, will they just be left comatose in the bar or licensed premises? Exactly what will happen? The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, referred to the fact that there will be an obligation on the barman not to serve any more alcohol to someone who is drunk, but there is nothing to say what should be done with a person who is drunk—whether to leave them on the floor or wherever.

What research has been carried out to show that tourists require longer drinking times? In central London plenty of premises are already able to provide drink until 3 a.m. Surely that is late enough. What will the Bill do to reduce current yobbish behaviour in the street at almost any time of the evening? The noble Lord, Lord Graham, said that he sees no problem with drinkers in the street, but drinkers in the street at various times of day are one of Westminster's major problems.

What attempt is there in the Bill to ensure that licensees are more responsible for the behaviour of their customers outside the premises? What happens when they leave has always been a problem. Enforcement powers against premises and personal licence holders are inadequately spelled out and potentially ineffective. The transfer of licensing to local authorities under the proposed guidelines are not an improvement.

A similar system existed when the Greater London Council was the licensing authority for late-night music and dancing. As the locally elected representative, I was able to appear with, literally, a bus-load of residents who annually opposed the re-licensing of the Pink Elephant in Southgate. We never won. The vested interests were represented by a clever Queen's Counsel who always succeeded in advancing excuses or reasons why the licence should be renewed. It reached the point where the local Tube station had regularly to be closed because of disorder and many knives—some shaped from old saw blades—were found discarded on the platform when the police arrived. All that eventually saved the local people was that the licensing magistrate eventually ruled that alcohol should no longer be sold on the premises. The club instantly became unprofitable and in due course was closed, but that was after years of trauma for local residents and near-death injury to an individual who was thrown through a plate-glass window.

Licensing magistrates have generally done a good job. Councils are not seeking to take over the job, but they would be willing and able to do so, especially if they could set their own guidelines. It would be wrong for the same guidelines to apply to every part of the country. Other noble Lords have made that point. It is also wrong that local councillors will not be able to represent their residents at a hearing—-my noble friend Lady Hanham made that point. In my GLC days 1, as my residents' representative, was able to support them, but under the present guidelines councillors could not represent their constituents in a hearing.

In planning applications, councillors go to put the case representing their constituents' views. I have frequently sat as a member of the GLC's late-night licensing committee. The typical argument from an applicant was that we could not refuse a new licence because, until it had been tried, we had no way of knowing whether it would cause a nuisance. That argument always won. The following year, when it had been shown to cause a nuisance, as the residents had predicted, the committee was told that it would be unfair not to renew the licence as considerable money had been spent to meet the requirements of the first licence and improve the building to make it ready for use. The licence was then renewed for a further year. It will be most unsatisfactory if we end up in such a situation.

Local authorities should be able to establish policies in the same way as they do their local plan. It has been repeatedly mentioned that saturation should be taken into account as a factor. The Minister mentioned that residents may appeal. Residents may appeal, but have noble Lords read the conditions under which they may do so? What it would cost them is terrifying. They will be up against heavy vested interests. There must be some local discretion.

My noble friend Lady Buscombe mentioned that we will later have legislation covering gambling and bingo clubs. I have just returned from Australia, where I was a member of a parliamentary delegation. Poker machines in licensed premises have been found to be of such concern that Australia is now passing legislation to reduce their number on each premises. We must not find that everyone with licensed premises adds in a poker machine.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned tobacco warnings and discussed whether children should be allowed in. The point has often been made in Questions that there should be not only a tobacco warning but an alcohol warning on pretty well each bottle. We should consider people's health and how we are to deal with binge drinking. Alcohol misuse is much greater than drug misuse—certainly in central London.

In the West End ward to which the noble Lord, Lord St John, referred, masses of businesses are closing as the whole area is turned over to licensed premises, clubs or sex shops. That cannot be good—certainly for people living in the area, who find their environment changing dramatically. Local authorities must retain flexibility and control over the matter.

8.8 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I have listened to at least a few sentences of every speech in the debate. I have come to the conclusion that people do not think that the existing licensing laws work. Therefore, we must applaud the fact that the Government are, at least, making an attempt to give us slightly more sane licensing laws.

I say that as somebody who has waited for such a Bill for about a decade. I first heard it mentioned when the Conservative Party was in power and have waited a long time to hear that somebody was going to deal with licensing hours that guarantee bouts of speed-drinking for everybody. I do not use the term "binge-drinking"; speed-drinking has taught us how to binge-drink. As one of my noble friends said to me, there is a Pavlov's dog syndrome with last orders at eleven o'clock. Everyone runs up and gets another one. If you are in a round, you get three or four lined up, with half an hour to drink them—or is it 20 minutes? After those, it is off to the next place.

I still play the odd game of rugby, and I find myself talking to the world's supply of bouncers. They play alongside me and against me. Those young enough still to be doing the job confirmed what I remembered: that the time after the speed-drinking at last orders is when the trouble occurs. It happens in the queues for the clubs and, after that, the queues for taxis and fast food. Basically, a lot of young men who have consumed a lot of booze quickly—that is one of the real problems—and are full of unfulfilled sexual ambition start bumping into and threatening each other: "Hey, you're going to get trouble". I went to university in Scotland, and I remember the first time that I found myself in a pub there. As it got towards eleven o'clock, I said, "Better get another drink in". A lot of dumbfounded faces turned to me and asked, "Why?". The pub was open for another couple of hours.

When people go out, they do not go out at the start of opening hours. Generally, they have been out doing something on Saturday afternoon or whenever. They will go home, eat something, maybe watch the TV for an hour or so and change their clothes. By the time that they get out, there is a limited amount of time left, and—this is what we are dealing with—wherever they go, last orders will always be looming up and, with that, that last round.

I give my full backing to the Government's plans to attack the problem. They probably do not need it, but they have it anyway. However, although I applaud the main aim of the Bill, I must say that the devil is in the detail. I do not think that the Government could have intended to put the kibosh on live music by single performers, if they intend to create a café society. There is a potential problem there which the Government must address if we are to create a more relaxed and culturally more acceptable atmosphere. I hope that it will be dealt with.

My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury has, I am afraid, fallen foul of the urge to eat at about eight o'clock in the evening—

A Noble Lord

No. he has not.

Lord Addington

My Lords, indeed my noble friend is here. Now I know why he has such a lean physique; he is able to resist that temptation!

My noble friend spoke about the effect of requiring licences for all those other activities. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, again emphasised the musical aspect. Unless we get the whole package right, we will have problems. The current system has proved to be a failure.

I can only endorse what was said about the alcopop culture. The fact that I was heading towards middle age at a rate of knots was confirmed to me, when I was threatened with a double Red Bull and vodka, after one of my last rugby matches for my local first team. I do not like Red Bull, but I like decent vodka, if it is served correctly. So, I said that I would have the vodka. I was presented with a lukewarm glass with a lukewarm fluid inside it. By then, I was just enough into my cups to raise the matter with the bar manager and tell him that vodka was supposed to be cold. I was given back the same glass with one watery ice-cube inside it. I realised that the drinking culture had moved on. Drinking is done not for the taste but so that people can get plastered. Even the idea that someone might like what he drinks is disappearing.

We must try to break the pattern through education and by removing the idea that people are under pressure to consume alcohol quickly. If we address that point—along with the points made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley—we stand a chance of breaking the cultural pattern. We will not do it overnight, and we must steel ourselves for the fact that, for a short time, things will get slightly worse when the changes come into effect. I am afraid that that may well happen, and we must be ready for it. However, I suggest that the evidence is on the side of the direction in which the Government are moving, provided that they do not get themselves into a position where the only people who can afford to obtain licences are large, chain firms pumping out music in an atmosphere which is designed for the binge-drinking culture.

8.14 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, perhaps I may begin by explaining my background in and out of the drinking world. My first involvement was at the time of the Erroll report when I was at a research company working on the national beer survey and for the Wine and Spirits Association. We had to predict what would happen and who would consume what.

We did not really predict anything because we failed to understand the likely socio-economic changes which would arise. However, we predicted the rise in the consumption of vodka, the decline in the consumption of sherry and port, the rise of cold beers and lager, but not consumption. We also had to produce the annual report from the Wine and Spirit Association to the Chancellor to prove that if the Government increased tax on alcohol the law of diminishing returns would set in.

We have forgotten about Carnaby Street. We remember traipsing around the 400 Club, the Café de Paris, the Blue Angel or, in my case up in the North East, selling asbestos-related products and going to working men's clubs. But we failed to see the change. That was a generation ago and every generation brings about a change. Is there a political change here? The Liberal Party think they might get into power and yet it has forgotten that the average age of voters is now 55.

We have forgotten, too, the change that has taken place with people getting married later, the emancipation of women and now the type of culture that relates not just to alcohol, but to music and events. I should explain that once, by accident, I was involved in pop promotions and big events. I was fascinated seeing 70,000 people at Wembley without any alcohol, having a great time. That group moved on to raves and music that I could never understand. Even worse, I was the only boy in any school I attended never to have been in the choir.

However, the change that has come about is fascinating. We are talking of the 16 to 32 year-old age group. They do not live at home. The women and men, perhaps unlike most bird species, are similar. They dress in the same way. There are no longer the dandies of Georgian England or the flashy young ladies I remember. They are more like the robins who look alike—the male robin gives the female a bit of food to eat—or the male kingfisher which grabs a fish, beats it on the head and offers it head-first to the female to attract her. Or even, more like the Liberals and not the black shag (I must be careful), they are like the great crested grebe, both male and female, which make signs and movements to each other before the female returns with a clicking noise and they "get off together"

That age group of men or women—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords, I am confused. Which of those notions was ascribed to the Liberals?

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, it is a very effective bird which is one of the most powerful in its courting and seeks to make friends with everybody. I have that on great authority from some of the ornithologist Doorkeepers in your Lordships' House.

However, I believe that the socio-economic change referred to is not alcohol, entertainment or music, but a combination of those. The groups of people, whether they are two, three or four, or whether they are men or women, go off to a pub for a night out. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, pointed out, when closing time approaches they have one pint of beer for each hand and one for each foot. Later, probably a couple of shots of tequila sunrise appear. If it is hot and warm in the pub and cold outside, people stagger out and although they may have eaten before, they will go, as the Minister said, to a kebab bar and later off to a club.

They will not go to the working men's club, but to the music club where they will preen themselves and look as birds and cocks, or birds and blokes, to "Pull"each other—it is not as vicious and nasty as it sounds—and make friends. It is a communal activity of drinking, and at roughly 2.30 a.m. the alcohol stops and the orange juice and water come out. The only continuation there is probably the weed of wisdom, ganja, hash, pot, spliffs or even stronger drugs which provide the little stimulant that keeps them going before they go out into the street and make their way home. Those of greater sophistication may go off to Smithfield to catch early pints of beer.

The question is: is there anything wrong in that? Is the concentration of alcohol in a short period dangerous? Probably it is. Is the impact of what happened in Scotland correct? I think it is. I believe that the Government have got the concept right but some of the details may be wrong. It is right that the issue should be raised in your Lordships' House because we have an average of 50 years drinking experience, during which time we have consumed. over 2 million bottles of wine. The Commons has only 30 years experience of drinking and, therefore, having heard the Liberals' experience today, we are in the right place at the right time.

I now want to examine not only the socio-economic changes but the other changes in drinking habits. Here I must condemn the Government for their failure to reduce taxation on alcohol. As your Lordships know, every day 1 million pints cross the Channel. That is the equivalent of the consumption of 6,000 country?Dubs. We must look at those who do what is called "the milk run"; they go abroad to buy cigarettes and alcohol cheaply. I believe that we may hit some of that cross-Channel trade because extending drinking hours in public places may be helpful.

I should explain another interest. My family has been in the alcohol world, but I am a peasant farmer in France farming wine and benefiting from grants. However, I am concerned about the licensing system that is now proposed in this country, in particular private licensing. I do not want to suggest that illegal activities take place, but your Lordships should be aware that in considering the development of tourism in rural areas we must take into account people who run bed-and-breakfast or small lodging houses and who want to provide meals and alcohol for their guests.

The current arrangements are these—and Customs and Excise got a bit of a beating not so long ago. We all thought that we were allowed to bring in 90 litres of wine from abroad and then we were told that we could bring back any amount provided that it was for personal consumption. "Personal consumption" means that you do not sell it. Let us take the bed-and-breakfast house which apart from providing breakfast provides a farmhouse dinner. It might like to be able to offer a glass or bottle of wine to its guests, but it must be careful because it has no licence. There is nothing on the door declaring that Farmer X has a licence to sell alcohol.

Therefore, as at weddings and so forth, people running such a business bring wine duty-free or at reduced duty rates from France or wherever and give it away with a meal. They sell the meal but give the wine away and I do not believe that they are breaking the law. I ask the Government to examine the case of the small business and consider the granting of personal licences to people, whether on a farm or in a house. who are registered for bed and breakfast with three rooms or more, so that they may have the right to sell a glass of wine or liquor of some form.

I have enjoyed this debate. The Government did not get as good a reception from some people as I would have hoped because the concept of Second Reading is to think of the objectives and then to move on. I hope that we can improve the Bill by introducing amendments on a non-party basis.

I remind your Lordships that "alcohol" is an Arab word and that we are in the middle of Ramadan. The prophet did not say, "You should not drink alcohol". He said, "If you drink alcohol to excess, it will cause problems. Better not to drink it". The Bishops also have a lot to answer for because much of the best quality wine and alcohol in the world was originally produced by the Church.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

My Lords, when one is the 25th speaker in a Second Reading debate, one wonders how much juice there is left in the orange. When the Minister introduces the Bill, as she did earlier today, by saying that its objectives are to improve choice for consumers, to boost economic activity, to promote tourism, to increase deregulation and to protect children, one is inclined to think that if one merely added "and to encourage motherhood and apple pie" one would have a perfect Bill.

But of course it is more complicated than that. The Bill synthesises neatly the tension between New Labour and old Labour attitudes. New Labour concentrates on pretty packaging and nice messages well spun. But inside the package there is old Labour, which has a fascination with regulation and a fundamental belief that the authorities, whoever they may be, know best. The mean-minded—I am sorry to use that word to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh—proposal in the Bill to end the exclusion from licensing provision of two or fewer musicians, so ably described by my noble friend Lord Colwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, is a classic example of that dirigiste tendency. So there are many centralising tendencies in this Bill.

It seems likely that this Bill will follow some familiar patterns. We are beginning with a complex piece of legislation which has 200 clauses and eight schedules, a nice title and some nice objectives. This Bill reminds me of the Enterprise Bill, for example—and what a nice title that was! However, by the time that that legislation left your Lordships' House, it had grown much longer and even more complex. as I am sure that this Bill will. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that this Bill's Explanatory Notes amount to 70 pages, I think, and that they are the longest that he has seen. The Explanatory Notes to the Enterprise Bill were 150 pages long. Ultimately, however, that was not an Enterprise Bill but a regulation of industry Bill. So fast did that legislation change that it tested even the legendary powers of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, to handle a fast-changing brief.

This Bill follows a familiar pattern in a second respect. As my noble friend Lady Buscombe said, this is only half a Bill because so much of its daily and detailed impact will be achieved through regulation, most of which has yet to see the light of day. We need to see that regulation if we are properly to scrutinise the Bill.

I fear that the Bill may follow the familiar pattern also in a third way. Judging from noble Lords' comments. I think that detailed examination of these proposals will reveal that they have not been fully thought through. Consequently, we can expect that many government amendments will be tabled. More than 800 government amendments were tabled at the Report stage of the Enterprise Bill. Although we can give the Government credit for trying to improve their legislation, the consequence of tabling late amendments is that those affected by the legislation have little opportunity to comment on the final proposals. So, however worthy this Bill's strategic objectives may he, much detailed work still needs to be done.

I begin by declaring an interest. I am a non-executive director of one of the UK's largest brewers. We operate, through tenants or managers, several hundred public houses which run the gamut from pubs in Westminster and in suburban and inner-urban areas to single pubs in villages. I therefore very much sympathise with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, about the "one size fits all" problem. Licensing provisions for pubs as different as these will be extremely difficult to devise centrally and extremely difficult to apply locally.

Given the proposal to shift licensing from magistrates to local authorities, the key task will be to obtain a fair sample of public views, first in drawing up the statement of licensing policy required under Clause 5 and then in implementing it in the various proposals for licences. Local residents are, of course, entitled to have their views heard and respected. However, we have to ensure that a vocal minority which is perhaps making unreasonable demands does not drown out the less assertive majority. As has been said, NIMBY is alive and well and living in most parts of the country. The point is particularly true as regards the role played by individual councillors, who will now find themselves in the frontline as regards controversial licensing decisions.

We also have to address the issue of conflicts of interest within the local authority itself. Many, and perhaps most, local authorities run licensed premises themselves. They will therefore be judge and jury for their own premises. That, too, needs to be looked at extremely carefully.

I very much support the proposal to split licences for premises from licences for individuals; it seems an eminently sensible idea. As I understand it, however, the two types of licence are to be co-mingled. The procedure for applying for a premises licence under Clause 17, for example, requires the name of the premises supervisor as part of a premises licence application. That seems to destroy the clarity which the Bill had previously sought to achieve.

There is also concern about the ability of local authorities to react sufficiently rapidly and flexibly to their new responsibilities. The evidence to date from the issue of public entertainment licences, for which they have now been responsible for about 10 years, is not encouraging. Cumbersome procedures, slow responses and huge variability in fees charged have been all too frequent experiences. It is also not clear from the Bill whether the Government intend to encourage different scales and procedures for the offtrade—people having licences for the sale of alcohol to be consumed off the premises—and the on-trade. Clearly, those are two different types of function.

When local authorities become responsible for all premises licences and personal licences they will have to be ready to move speedily. With 70,000 public houses in the country, inevitably changes constantly take place. They take place because licensees want to leave, because licensees have to be removed due to unsatisfactory performance or, at its most sharp, change take place because licensees disappear. When the licensee does a bunk, the first that the owner or brewery know of it is when the bar staff or people seeking to make deliveries turn up in the morning and cannot gain access to the premises a matter of hours before the pub is due to open. That will require an extremely speedy reaction from the licensing authority.

There is always a downside risk to issuing a licence, whether for a premises or a person. We have to ensure that the Bill does not permit the local authority to make the eye of the needle too narrow. Of the 70,000 public houses, about half are self-owned and operated. Such people are classic small businessmen. One can envisage such things as the "operating schedule" being used to act as a considerable deterrent to those people becoming involved in the trade.

Finally, there is the responsibility of the personal licence holder for the sale of alcohol to minors. That was a point picked up by several noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I stress that I am completely opposed to the sale of alcohol to minors, but I am not clear that we are not putting an unreasonable burden on the individual licence holder with the Bill as presently drafted.

Those of us who have teenage children, as I do, know of the dangers: first, as stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the growth of sweet lemonade-based drinks spiked with pirits—alcopops—which are highly attractive to young people; and secondly, binge drinking, which is on the rise, although I do not believe that the change in licensing hours will affect binge drinking. Those are issues we must address.

However, those noble Lords with teenage children will know that personal identifications are easily available. They can be purchased on the Internet for probably less than £15. I continue to discourage my children from obtaining such IDs, pointing out that if they are caught it will most decidedly not make a useful addition to their curriculum vitae. But clearly false IDs are in wide circulation. The serious implication for personal licence holders of the offences described in Clauses 143 to 150 need to be looked at in the light of those kind of developments.

I conclude by stating that of course we want to boost tourism. People certainly do not visit this country for the weather. Of course we must protect our children and young people, and of course we all support a streamlined system for licensing, with clear lines of responsibility and rapid responses. So, I certainly support the principles behind the Bill, but whether the Bill can deliver those worthy objectives will be made clear only during our discussions in Committee.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Cobbold

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene briefly in the gap in this important debate. I shall not detain your Lordships for long.

The Bill is wide ranging in its coverage yet there appears to be no reference to entertainment licences covering large outdoor musical events. I declare an interest in having been involved in many such licensed events in the past. The Bill refers to temporary event notices, but those are limited in Clause 98(5) to a maximum of 500 persons. The figure of 500 is seemingly somewhat arbitrary. My question is whether the Bill is intended to cover large outdoor musical events, be they in open air stadia, on private land or in public parks. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify that point.

8.35 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, the noble Lord made a very brief intervention in the gap, which was extremely welcome.

I would like to welcome the Bill from these Benches. However, I do so after listening to many speeches which give rise to caveats to that welcome. It is a welcome that will be tested at Committee stage.

I start by declaring an interest. I own a pub—the Redesdale Arms on the A68 on the way to Northumberland. It is on the Jedburgh Road, about 12 miles before the Border. People call it the "First and Last". It is the last pub in England and the first before Scotland. Free advertising is also an expression of the interest being shown by a member of the all-party beer group.

Although the Bill concerns licensing reform, many noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Falkland, Lord Avebury and Lord Addington, have taken the opportunity to discuss the perils of the growing trend of alcohol abuse in British cultural life. That was brought home to me when I was listening to "Woman's Hour" on Monday morning. I shall not explain why I was listening to "Woman's Hour" on Monday morning, but during the programme a police sergeant explained why people go out on Friday and Saturday nights to drink and to get drunk.

She said that we have the longest working hours in Europe; that people cannot afford to buy their own houses and so tend to live at home. There is therefore a kind of enforced adolescence which means that, come the weekend, these people feel that they have worked hard, they have earned their money and they are going to enjoy the weekend. It is almost enforced enjoyment.

That perhaps explains the scenes described by many noble Lords of people going out with the pure and simple intention of getting as plastered as possible, with all the problems that that causes for the safety of the local community and the drinkers themselves, and the inherent problem of violence.

A night on the town is not intrinsically linked with violence, although there are problems in that area. A friend of mine worked in the A&E department of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. He told me horrendous stories about the most common injury—split knuckles—which is caused by hitting people in the face. The people who do the punching cause a lot of problems for themselves. My friend said that this often happened in stress periods.

The real problem in Newcastle is the city centre and the big market, a traditional ancient centre where people drink vast amounts. I did so myself when I was a student. As my noble friend Lord Addington pointed out, in the past at drinking-up time people have tried to get as many beers down them as possible. This creates pressure on the services that have to deal with the results of throwing-out time in the kebab shop and taxi rank.

That is not to say that violence is a necessary part of an evening's entertainment. The views of the police are split over whether or not it is a good thing to try to stagger closing times—we shall have to deal with that issue—because there are not enough police to deal with the vast number of problems. The problems will not go away. Many noble Lords have said that changing the licensing hours will not change the associated problems of drink and violence, but it will stagger the times at which the police are called out to such incidents.

I should like to pick up on a number of the points raised by noble Lords. It would not be feasible in a short period of time to refer to all the issues which will be raised at Committee stage—it will be a long and arduous session—but there are a number of themes to which we will pay particular attention.

I should like to begin on a perhaps petulant note. Although the Bill, which was referred to in the Queen's Speech a short time ago, has come to us very quickly, it was noticeable that the Bill itself was not in the Printed Paper Office immediately and that the Explanatory Notes were available only last Thursday. I say this as someone who has worked hard over the weekend to try to come to terms with all the issues in the Bill. It was not made as easy as it might have been.

Furthermore, the guidance that will make up such a large part of the Bill's provision is still unavailable. Copies of it have been passed to me by interest groups, but I have found it impossible to get hold of. I know that these are only draft guidance notes, but it seems outrageous that at Second Reading we have had to acquire knowledge of large parts of the Bill by means of handouts from interested parties rather than being provided with the notes as parliamentarians.

I have one major question for the Minister. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will be able to answer it when he replies to the debate on her behalf. When will the guidance notes be available, and will they be available in their final form before the Bill completes its passage through this House? It seems to be a growing trend that guidance notes, which are the means of policing a Bill. are not available until after the legislation has reached the statute book. The draft guidance notes that I have seen are extremely good. However, the White Paper was an extremely good document but the Bill does not reflect its aspirations.

I turn to issues of particular concern. The first relates to personal licences. When I read the Bill, I was surprised at the complications that are envisaged in achieving a personal licence. The idea of the personal licence is a very good one. In conjunction with the premises licence it has been part of our party policy and we support the proposal. However, I have difficulty with the fact that local authorities are meant to organise the issuing of personal licences. It would be far more sensible for a central authority to issue the licences, in the same way as the DVLA issues driving licences. They could then be administrated centrally—we are dealing with an industry that is spread throughout the country.

I know of a case in point, where a pub manager working in Newcastle came to London. Under the new system of the personal licence, a licence would be issued to that person in Newcastle and for the 10-year duration of the licence he would have to deal with the Newcastle authorities whenever he wanted to move or when an issue arose in regard to the licence. That seems unfortunate.

This will also impose a huge burden on local authorities. One of the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is that—laudably—the Bill is attempting to cut red tape, bureaucracy and cost. One of the ways of cutting cost would be to take this enormous burden away from local authorities. I am particularly concerned because, having asked local authorities about this, none seems to have a set system under which the personal licences would be distributed. Which computer system would be used? It would make sense that the systems should be compatible. but experience of many other schemes shows that that is rarely the case.

Secondly, premises licences seemed an excellent idea when they were proposed in the White Paper. However, the Bill makes it clear that supervisors will have to be adjoined to the premises licence, which takes away some of the more fluid aspects of that licence and makes the situation difficult—especially when, say, a new manager comes along, having had his licence issued in a different local authority area, and has to go through all the different paperwork. This is an important point, as the Bill specifies that 48 hours will be given for objections to be made. There could be a great deal of bureaucratic difficulty and to-ing and fro-ing in relation to the licences, which will add to the costs for publicans and pub groups.

The third issue—raised by many noble Lords—relates to the public entertainments licence. The noble Lord. Lord Colwyn, made reference to it. I know that he has done a great deal of work on the matter so—much so that a year ago he was thrown out of the Red Lion for trying to blow his own trumpet! He was the third musician from this House to try to do so, the of hers being the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who is not presently in his place.

Many issues arise in regard to the provision of live music. I am unable to touch on all of them now. It is strange that the Government are taking such a hard line against unamplified music. I understand the difficulty with amplified music. This seems to be a real issue, which could result in cultural destruction. Much oral tradition is passed down through folk singers in pubs. The imposition of those stringent requirements could be a difficulty.

The Minister will say that public entertainment licences can be added to any pub as part of the variation. I have a question for him: to what extent will a pub have the right to have one or two musicians playing unamplified music regularly? Will that right be granted automatically? If not, contrary to the Government's proposition that this will be a great opportunity. it will be nothing of the sort. The Bill might take away many organisations' ability to provide live music, even though in many cases the live music provided is covered by all the noise and nuisance statutes to which any pub is subject. That seems very unfair. The word "puritanical" has been used. The Government are being slightly puritanical; however, I am loath to use that word because the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is not in his place to correct me.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, raised the issue of fees in respect of local authorities. I have seen some of the issues arising out of public entertainment licences and the abuse of those licences by certain councils—Camden, Westminster and Islington, to name but a few. It is ironic that it is those councils who are lobbying about fees and about the loss of public entertainment licences. The Government are right to set fees centrally, as long as they are not too arduous for small businesses and are not geared to suit larger premises. A major problem will be a one-size-fits-all system, because the fee for a large pub in London will differ from that for a rural pub.

My noble friend Lady Harris talked about police powers. I was interested to hear that police opinion is split. That seems to reflect many of the briefings we have received. The police, especially the Association of Chief Police Officers, seem to welcome the Bill, but with big caveats. I support the Government's position, as expressed in the introduction to the Bill, on the closure of problem premises for 24 hours. That seems a very eminent and sensible solution. The Bill gives the police far more powers, perhaps more than they need, to deal with problem premises. However, the 24-hour closure of a pub is an excellent and non-bureaucratic way of dealing with a localised, immediate problem.

Many noble Lords raised the issue of whether councils or magistrates should be the licensing authority. I was surprised by the view that magistrates are to be removed because I thought the provision that magistrates will be used as the court of appeal was excellent. I was concerned that the court of appeal would be within the local authorities. Moving the appeals system from local authorities is an eminently sensible decision.

I particularly support the views on community events that the right reverend Prelate expressed. This Bill seems to incorporate much smaller community events, an issue that we will return to in Committee.

I have taken far too much of the House's time at this time of night. I shall finish on one aspect that perhaps has been overlooked—publicans. Over the weekend I sat down with my local publican in The Albert in Primrose Hill—that is obviously going to be worth a free beer—and discussed with him some of the provisions of the Bill. The best people to talk to are often those who have to deal with the regulations that will be involved. Everybody has talked about the stress areas of the big market or Soho. That is obviously important, but many of the provisions will not affect the local pub. Local pubs will obviously make some provision for later times, maybe on a Saturday night, but I do not believe that many of them will stay open until three or four o'clock in the morning.

Pubs have done excellent work in addressing one of the major problems that happens in city centres—the problem of people going out to get drunk—-because it is culturally unacceptable to get drunk in you r local pub and people are stopped from doing so. That is often due to the skilful way in which publicans manage the people who use their premises as the cultural hub of' their community.

I welcome the Bill, but I very much hope that some of the over-bureaucratic aspects that seem to have been added since the White Paper can be sorted out in Committee.

8.51 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am sorry that you have got me instead of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, but as you will have gathered, her voice collapsed today. We managed to send her home at about half-past seven. I hope she is taking appropriate measures. I also apologise for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, apparently did not have access to the Bill or the Explanatory Notes, as he was supposed to have. It was read a first time on 14th November. I understand it was put in for printing on the same night and I am told that the Explanatory Notes were available on Monday 18th November. I apologise if they did not reach him. I can only say that since I did not know that I was going to have anything to do with the Bill until a quarter to one today, he has had a lot more opportunity to see the Bill than I have.

I could sum up the debate with the words, "Yes, but". Everybody who has spoken has said that we must make some fundamental changes to a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation, with legislation going back to the 18th century, and almost certainly a lot further back. However, there are serious reservations on all sides about certain aspects of the Bill—perhaps not reservations about the provisions, but concerns about what might or might not be in the Bill. Is the Bill really deregulatory or has it become too bureaucratic? Is adequate attention being given to the needs of local residents? Is there adequate provision to protect children? What about the transfer of licensing powers from licensing magistrates to local authorities? Is that a centralising move, as some have said, or is it a truly decentralising move? If it is decentralising, is it likely to cause problems of conflict of interest? Is there enough opportunity for local conditions to be applied?

A more fundamental issue, on which there was no consensus as far as I could tell, is the likely effect on drinking habits. By opening things up, is the Bill likely to discourage binge drinking? Some people think the opposite.

Various specialist issues, such as music and licensing for churches and village halls and so on, were also raised. I have 20 minutes, after which I will sit down, because those are our new rules. However, that means that I shall have to write to an awful lot of people.

I want to say something about the scope of the Bill before I start on as many of the issues that have been raised as I can. First, judging from some of the speeches, one would think that the Bill was making 24-hour licensing compulsory. Of course it is not. People will apply for whatever licence they want. If they want to close at ten o'clock in the country or anywhere else they can do so. If they want to apply for a licence to close later, they can do so. I do not think that this is in any sense what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, called a "one size fits all" Bill. It is designed to enable people to apply for the licensing hours that they want. Secondly—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

My Lords—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, if noble Lords will forgive me, I do not think that I ought to reply to interventions.

Secondly, I want to look at the Long Title. It states that this is a Bill to, Make provision about the regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol, the provision of entertainment and the provision of late night refreshment, about offences relating to alcohol and for connected purposes". It is not about domestic violence, unprotected sex, smoking, sex discrimination, gambling, sexual attraction in birds or the taxation of alcohol and cigarettes. Any noble Lord who referred to those subjects, as many did, and expects me to respond will not receive much of a reply.

I begin—as it was the first issue to be raised—with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, on the guidance. It is not draft guidance but the framework for guidance. I have not seen it at all so I come to it absolutely fresh. It is in the consultation phase at the moment and will be published by spring 2003; in other words, it will be available for some but not all of the consideration in Parliament. However, the important element—the powers and functions of the licensing authorities—will not be found in the guidance. That is on the face of the Bill for us to debate.

I hope that I may refer to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, without provoking him to rise to his feet. I hope that he will accept that we have to balance adequate consultation with parliamentary scrutiny. I also hope that he will agree that that, combined with the fact that the guidance is to be had regard to, not to be obeyed implicitly, puts the matter in the proper context.

Saturation and cumulative effects were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. We have considered the matter carefully and we take the view that limiting the number of licensed premises in a particular area is not practical. I recognise the arguments for that, but where a planning application is required for a new licensed premises it will have been considered fully by the local authority. There would be no point in the licensing system duplicating the planning regime. If we started to refuse new licences on the ground of saturation, would that not result in a skew towards the older established premises, some of which may themselves be the source of disorder? There might be considerable commercial objection to freezing the licensing situation in any one area on the basis of the number of premises involved.

London and inner London were mentioned by the noble Baronesses, Lady Gardner and Lady Thornton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. Inner London has seen a reduction of 11 per cent in the number of on-licensed premises over the past three years. I do not think that that problem is getting worse or that dramatic remedies are required to deal with it. In any case, the Bill contains a number of measures that are designed to benefit local residents. Local residents will have a stronger voice than ever before in licensing decisions. The establishment of clear licensing objectives on crime and disorder and public nuisance will govern all licensing decisions.

There has been much reference to Clause 4, which mentions the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety. the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. But it does not state that the Bill will deal with those fundamental social problems. It states: A licensing authority must carry out its functions under this Act…with a view to promoting the licensing objectives". Licensing authorities will, or will not, be able to promote those objectives to the best of their ability. But this is not a Bill to reduce crime. This is not a Bill to convert the morals of the English and Welsh people. That cannot be done, and I am surprised that so many in the Liberal Democratic Party think that it can.

It is true—I refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, on this point—that residents, police, environmental health officers and others will be able to call for a review of licences. There will be a great deal of opportunity for that. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that accident and emergency departments of hospitals would be able to do that. There will, of course, be police powers to close on the spot premises that are a source of disorder or noise nuisance—a point to which reference was made on a number of occasions, particularly effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for which I am grateful. There will also be police powers to confiscate alcohol in sealed containers.

Fundamentally, we are saying that the introduction of flexible hours is intended to widen consumer choice and reduce the density of drinkers in existing centres and at existing limited times. It may not fit in here, but I resist the idea that we should revert to fit and proper judgments on individuals or to any vague ground put up by the police or anyone else. If we restrict ourselves, as the Bill does, to unspent convictions, we shall achieve measures that can be enforced, whereas I am far from sure that other matters can be enforced.

A number of speakers, including my noble friend Lady Thornton, raised the important issue of problems that occur outside licensed premises. I make it clear that we do not intend to make licensees responsible for the activity of patrons away from their premises. However, we believe that the provisions of the Bill will reduce the opportunity for concentrations of disorder, if I may put it in that way. The fact that the proposed measures will be enforced in conjunction with the planning authorities and the police powers to which I have referred and the fact that the Government are taking steps to improve the infrastructure of our cities, particularly late at night, by the provision of night transport, litter collection facilities and so on, should make some difference.

I turn to the point concerning churches, village halls and places whose primary purpose does not come within the purview of any licensing legislation. I can give an assurance straightaway that bell ringing and carol services do not require licences. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London knows, there has been a disparity between the situation in Greater London and areas outside Greater London, in relation to which we have to make a distinction. We must rationalise that position and make the same provision for both London and other areas elsewhere. Our position is that where churches are not used for religious activities but for secular performances. there is no justification for treating them differently from any other charitable body that seeks to raise money.

The issue here is the risk to the public at any public entertainment venue. That risk is neither increased nor diminished by the fact that it is staged by a charity rather than a commercial body, nor is it increased or diminished by the fact that it is conducted in a consecrated building. We shall make it clear in guidance that it would be wholly inappropriate to attach disproportionate conditions to licences affecting churches and other charitable institutions. Incidentally, raffles and lotteries arc not covered by licensing procedures, provided that the alcohol is in sealed containers, and I believe that most raffles and lotteries comply with that requirement.

I turn to the question of the transfer of power from licensing justices to local authorities. The present position is that there are five different licensing regimes with local authorities and one with licensing justices. I stress that that involves licensing justices, who act in an administrative way, not magistrates' courts. We are reducing those six regimes to one. Surely that must be a worthwhile rationalisation. Currently, justices handle only liquor licences and local authorities handle all the rest.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that there is of course no intention to phase out magistrates' courts; I believe that she was being mischievous in suggesting that that had been said. She wanted a denial and she has got it.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, I point out, once again, that I am only quoting what we were told by an outside organisation. It said that it had been told by officials that magistrates' courts were being phased out.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, if I were the noble Baroness, I should be wary of secondhand quotes of that kind. It is not true.

I turn to the cost of enforcement, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. It must be more economical to have a single licensing regime, in which one puts in one application for liquor licensing and one adds on to that all of the other elements that one wants. I think of those other elements as music and dance, but that is old-fashioned wording.

The fees that are charged for licences will be set nationally, but they will be varied for different types of establishment. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, one does not set the same fee for a huge central London pub as one does for a village pub. One does not set the fee for an outdoor rave event—I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Walpole—as one does for an event in the village hall. To avoid disparity between local authorities setting their own fees, it is right that central government should initiate the fees. I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is not with us. It is important that the body should be responsible to the local community, but we should take steps to ensure that it is not subordinate to any particular pressure group within the local community. We expect that the local authority panel undertaking licensing will not contain the councillors from the ward in question.

Local authorities will be able to impose conditions on a licence where it is necessary to do so in order to promote the licensing objectives. Their discretion will come into play only in cases in which a relevant representation has been made.

With reference to Clause 177 and in relation to local authorities, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, used the phrase, "Not in my backyard". The protection to which I have referred deals adequately with that point. Local authorities deal with local matters and they have the right to do so because they are elected to do that. Surely that is the right way for the Bill to be drafted.

There was some misunderstanding about the nature of licensing policy which local authorities will draw up and review every three years. I make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in particular, that that will be the policy of local authorities, not that of the Secretary of State. In so far as the Secretary of State will impose by regulation, he will do so in relation to matters such as methods of consultation and time periods for consultation, for example, which have to be the same throughout the country, rather than in relation to the policy that the local authority will draw up for the scope of restriction by licensing in its own area. Because the licensing system will be a single licensing system for all of the aspects that we have discussed, we estimate that it will save the industry just under £2 billion over the first 10 years.

I turn to the issue of how the costs will be set. They will be set centrally at a level that will recover the full costs of the licensing regime. That will avoid the problem of the variation, which has existed in the past. Following on from the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I do not believe that it would be a good idea to set the level according to the amount of alcohol consumed. After all, that is taxed with duty and VAT, and that would interfere with the cost-recovery principle. Of course, my noble friend Lord Evans is entitled to a positive answer on the matter. Proper consultation on licensing fees will be carried out with local authorities and representatives of the businesses affected. That will include the associations of clubs for whom he spoke.

I want to make an important point relating to the issue of music. The premises licence would cover any combination of permissions for alcohol, public entertainment and late-night refreshment. It would, of course, include music. No renewals would be involved. We estimate that the fees would be in bands ranging between £100 and £500 with a higher fee for large-scale, one-off events, such as pop festivals. That is because of the amount of inspection required for festivals of that kind. There will be an annual charge to maintain a revenue stream to cover continuing inspection and enforcement. However, we shall consult on those charges and we do not believe that they will be very large. The noble Lord, Lord St John, was concerned about that point but I believe that he can be reassured. It is possible that the bands will also affect lump fees in London.

I have reached 20 minutes. I am in your Lordships' hands.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard should be too inhibited by a limit of 20 minutes. There is no new rule in this respect. The only new rule concerns finishing by 10 o'clock. We have three-quarters of an hour to go should he wish to take a proportion of that time to respond to a few more points than he would otherwise have done. He should not be too inhibited by the time limit.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords. I am most grateful. I turn to what is clearly a passionate concern—of mine as well as of others—and that is the subject of music. I believe that there has been a profound misunderstanding of what the Bill seeks to achieve. It was suggested that by abolishing the two-in-a-bar rule, which we all agree was completely anachronistic, somehow we are damaging the possibilities of live music. That could not be further from the truth.

The truth of the matter is that the considerations that we must take into account in licensing music are two-fold: one is noise and the other is safety. It does not matter whether the music is live or canned from a noise or a safety point of view. In the past, canned music has been allowed and live music has been discouraged by the two-in-a-bar rule. If we make adequate provision for noise safety—I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, my noble friend Lord Pendry, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the noble Lord, Lord Skideisky—then we are meeting the requirements of licensing. But there will be no additional imposition on licensed premises because, as I said, the licence for live music will be an integral part of the premises licence. It will cost no more than obtaining the alcohol licence in the first place.

My view is that there will be an explosion of live music as a result of removing the discriminatory two-in-a-bar provision. The simplification will apply and the inclusion of this measure in an alcohol licence will also apply, regardless of how many musicians are involved. If live musicians make an unacceptable noise which disturbs local residents, then they will be subject to penalties in the same way as applies to canned music. But they will not be discriminated against.

In the guidance we can and will make provision for sound insulation. We can consider whether there should be standards measured on decibel levels. We can provide for fines on licensees who disregard or ignore the provisions of a licence. That is provided for in Clause 134. We can have capacity limits, although anyone who has spent much time in New York bars does not think too much of fire department capacity limits. Of course there are health and safety provisions. But I believe that the provisions for music are enormously to the benefit of live music.

I shall say a few sentences about the protection of children. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke as though there was unrestricted access for children. That is by no means the case. We shall have easier access for children because we have been told by all kinds of people, not just the tourist industry but people from this country, that it is absurd that children should be excluded from pubs as they are now. Tourist families like to eat with children in pubs. They think it is a great attraction of this country. It is a nonsense that they should be excluded. It is a nonsense that children of five years and above can drink alcohol in a pub garden or in a family room. That must be got rid of.

So, yes, there will be access for children, but the sale of alcohol to children will be illegal anywhere. The Bill will introduce a clear prohibition on the sale of alcohol to children, not necessarily by proof-of-age cards. I think there are major difficulties with them.

I recognise the difficulties of servers in pubs in recognising those who are under age. Those problems are not made worse or better by the Bill, but I do not deny that they exist.

I do think that I have now exhausted the patience of the House. I believe that this is fundamentally a good Bill. One has to look only at the list of repeals in Schedule 7 to the Bill to realise how far we have gone in dealing with the ragbag of conflicting and out-of-date legislation which has applied to licensing over the past century or more. I believe that the issues raised in debate today are worthy of detailed attention in Committee. I am sure that they will have that. Many of the points raised can be answered by a closer and more accurate scrutiny of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second lime, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at nineteen minutes past nine o'clock.