HL Deb 16 January 2003 vol 643 cc355-426

3.31 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 54.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 256A: Page 32, line 10, after "applications" insert "other than by a church hall, village hall, parish hall, community centre or similar community building

The noble Baroness said: Many church halls and similar premises operate with very low budgets, and the cost of applying for a premises licence could well be prohibitive. In a small village, the turnover from a village hall is extremely modest in comparison to the turnover from, for example, the village pub. The two concerns are completely different animals. The village hall is a non-profit-making organisation with perhaps as many as two or three events a week. In contrast, the village pub is a profit-making enterprise open seven days a week.

The financial burden of applying for a premises licence in respect of a village hall is much greater than in the case of a village pub. It could well mean that the village hall would have to stop holding any events involving licensable activities, with a possibly crippling effect on its already modest finances. It is therefore essential that such organisations do not have to pay a fee as regards any application for a licence under the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Williamson of Horton

We shall no doubt come back on Report to the broader question of what we are doing about various entertainments or other performances in church halls, village halls and so on. The amendment refers simply to the question of fees.

It is a good idea for the Government occasionally to take a measure that would be popular. On that basis I support the amendment, which I am sure would be popular in many villages and small towns that put on entertainments from time to time. They would welcome not having to pay a fee under the Bill.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

I entirely support the points that have been made. The Government have already generously made clear their concerns about using churches, and the provisions are now being looked at again. In the same way, I hope that this issue on village halls and church halls will be shown the same or a greater generosity of spirit. That would enable village life not to die but to live, which we most certainly need.

Lord Borrie

I might feel sympathy with the amendment, but I am not sure that it is necessary. Surely we can all agree with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, but Clause 54 refers to what regulations "may" do in terms of imposing a fee for applications. If the Government are generously disposed towards the amendment in the process of argument here and no doubt elsewhere, when the regulations come to be made they may well do what she wants. Rather than having the provision inflexibly in the Bill, those particular places might in all circumstances be completely exempt.

Lord Avebury

The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, puts his finger on a point that has preoccupied the Committee since we started our proceedings, which is that without the benefit of knowing what is in the regulations, we have to try to put provisions into the main body of the Bill. Those who tabled the amendment need make no apology to the Committee for having put the idea forward. However, they could be satisfied, as he hinted, if the Minister gave an undertaking that when the regulations were published they would contain provisions of the kind asked for in the amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

When a government are allowed to make regulations, the idea that they will not do so is beyond the wit of human understanding, given the temptation that Ministers would face to meddle. As my noble friend Lady Buscombe says, when we come to power I am sure that we will have as much difficulty in resisting that totally delicious temptation, so surely we should not put temptation in the way of Ministers. If we do not want regulations, we should not give people the power to make them because undoubtedly they will. I speak from 30 years' experience in this House.

Baroness Blackstone

We already license events at premises of the type covered in the amendment, but the Bill should make the application process simpler. Further, the new system of temporary event notices should make it even easier to organise small community events. I tell the right reverend Prelate that we are already taking action that will help to make the sort of events that enhance village life rather easier.

We license the premises now and have done so for many years because they can be a source of nuisance for local residents when, for instance, discos are put on for young people in the area. They sometimes give rise to issues of crime and disorder and may have implications for public safety and the protection of children from harm.

The Bill continues the current scope of the licensing regime, but should make obtaining a licence easier. The real issue is the level of any licensing fee that is to be paid As my noble friend Lord Borrie said, the, Bill provides for the level of the fee to be set in regulations. It would be a very common occurrence in such Bills for regulation to deal with that sort of detail.

I hope that I can reassure the Committee that we are considering the issue, not only because we want to be popular, although that is always a nice bonus, but because we want to respond to some concerns.

Lord Carlile of Berriew

Does the Minister envisage that the regulations will allow different fees for different types of village halls in different areas? Communities vary a great deal, certainly in the part of rural Wales where I live and which I represented for a number of years in another place. Some village halls cater for minute communities, and raising substantial sums of money simply to pay the fee for such an occasion could well cripple them.

Baroness Blackstone

If the noble Lord had been in his place earlier, he would have heard me set out in great detail what the Government intend to do about fees. I will not repeat all that I said on what the different fees might be. If he hangs on a moment, I might give him the answer for which he hopes.

The Bill provides for the Secretary of State to set a reduced or, indeed, nil fee for categories of premises in the regulations. We are looking at the position of all the premises types covered by the amendment, with a view to trying to minimise the financial burden so far as we can. That may well involve waiving the fee altogether, although various issues obviously need to be considered.

The Government are committed to minimising the burden on such premises. We will make our position clear in due course. On that basis, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her reply. I was particularly interested in her reference to the possibility of there being a nil fee in certain circumstances. I will suggest a perfect example in which a nil fee could be appropriate. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, rightly emphasised the fact that there are different types of village halls in different areas, and some are more able to fund their activities than others. We must bear in mind that in many of our villages today, the village hall is all that is left in terms of a place in the community in which people can meet. The fact that so many pubs are closing in villages means that village halls are of paramount importance for sustaining community rural life.

I am grateful to Members of the Committee who supported the amendment, including the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I hear exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said: that perhaps it is not entirely necessary to raise this matter in terms of the amount of the fee, in view of the Minister's response to the previous amendment. However, this helpful debate has shown support among Members of the Committee for the importance of considering different types of premises that will attract a fee. The village hall is a classic and extremely important example of the type of premises that must surely come within that nil fee category. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 257: Page 32, line 10, leave out "(other than section 50)

The noble Baroness said: I put my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, who is unfortunately unable to attend the House today, and I have agreed to speak on his behalf.

The amendment probes an interesting point. All applications in the Bill require a fee for which regulations will, we understand, provide. However, there appears to be one exception: that is, applications under Clause 50 for the review of premises licences. Will the Minister explain why that exception has been made?

I believe that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, in the amendment was to draw attention to the fact that an exception has been made that might encourage interested parties to call for a review on any pretext. That is only a suggestion; I should not want to accuse anyone of maliciously applying for a review on anything other than a valid basis. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, for drawing our attention to the point. When an exception is made, it is only fair to ask for some illumination of the reasons that lie behind it. The review of an application will result in some expense, and that expense must be met. Is it so unfair to ask those who demanded the review to meet that expense? I am only probing the issue and look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

As I said earlier, fees will be set at a level that will allow licensing authorities to recover the costs of the licensing functions. However, we would not want fees to be extended to apply to applications for review, as the amendment would provide, because that may act as a disincentive to local residents to apply for a review where they feel that that is necessary on the grounds of the licensing objectives. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness's question. Also, it would not be reasonable to make the responsible authorities that ask for a review pay a fee essentially to fulfil their statutory duties. Applications for review, and any representations made on those applications, would be subject to the same requirements of relevance as other applications under the Bill.

Let me reassure the Committee that fees will be set at a level which will allow all licensing authorities to recover their costs, including the cost of a review. The system will be self-financing and there will be no potential for deficit for council tax payers to pick up. I hope that with that explanation, the amendment will be withdrawn.

The Earl of Onslow

Have I understood the situation correctly? If the local pub down the road applies, I can ask for a review of that licence, however irresponsible that request may be. That need not necessarily be vexatious; that is pretty hard to prove. I could ensure that the pub owner ran to considerable expense to counter a situation that may turn out to be not vexatious but on the verge of being a vexatious objection. Why should he be forced to run to expense without any possibility of getting that back? I ask the Government to consider that. I thought of that point during the Minister's answer and I am trying to be helpful.

Baroness Blackstone

I am sure that the noble Earl is trying to be helpful. I said that any request for a review has to be relevant. If it were not relevant, the review would not be allowed. I believe that that answers the noble Earl's question.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her reply and appreciate that on a couple of occasions we have gone over the issues relating to fees. This is an important area and it is certainly worth exploring, as we have done. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Onslow for his intervention. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 258 to 271 not moved.]

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Duty to keep and produce licence]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 272: Page 33, line 6, leave out "at the premises

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 276.

The amendments are intended to make life easier for the holder of the premises licence. As it stands, the Bill makes it obligatory for a copy of the original premises licence to be kept at the premises and to be produced on request. It must be appreciated that for many companies operating multiple sites, the original premises licences will be kept at head office, not at unit level. It appears very onerous for companies to have to obtain copies of the full licence for keeping at all sites. In the case of pub companies, that can mean thousands of outlets. In addition, the summary of the licence must in any case be displayed in each unit, just in case a constable or an authorised person asks to see it. A copy of the licence will always be available to the police and anyone else in the local authority through the registration process. Introducing a seven-day period in which to produce the full licence or a copy of it appears reasonable and is in line with the situation relating to driving licences. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

I rise to speak to these amendments, to which I have added my name. I want to raise two issues with the Government. First—this issue has been raised in relation to earlier parts of the Bill—a premises supervisor can be responsible for more than one premises. The link between the premises supervisor and the premises itself therefore appears less important than it once was.

My second point is that, as the licences will in any event be on-line and thus available to the police for perusal, I cannot necessarily see the need for a document to be physically present at the premises, especially as that will cause an enormous amount of paperwork which has to be kept up to date. Of course, I am not saying that the premises licence would not be kept up to date, but it seems that we are moving away from a paper-based to a more on-line-based system. In the light of that, it would be as easy for the police to check the licence on-line as it would be to scrutinise the document.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The provisions in Clause 56 are designed to allow a constable or authorised person to check on the spot and on an ad hoc basis, when appropriate, whether the activities carried on at the premises are carried out in accordance with the premises licence. I fully recognise that a policeman might be checking whether a licence provides for the selling of alcohol beyond midnight. The summary document that is likely to be available at the public house would suffice and would meet that requirement.

However, I believe that the Committee will recognise that the licences which it is proposed will be issued under the legislation will, in many cases, be far more extensive than that. A policeman may go along to check whether particular rooms in an inn are being used according to the licence or whether children should be there at certain times. The question of whether the conditions of the licence, reflecting the extension of the opportunities we are providing to licensed premises, were being complied with would not be evident from the summary document but only from the main premises licence. We maintain that a policeman would need to be able to check that at the time. If an abuse were occurring, he would need to put a stop to it immediately.

Lord Avebury

Presumably the police officer who was visiting the premises would have ascertained that beforehand by looking at the licence on-line so that he would know what he was coming to inspect.

Lord Davies of Oldham

That presumes that the policeman set out to do precisely that and had full knowledge of the potential offence. However, we are looking at circumstances in which, as part of their normal duties, the police inspect premises when a concern is raised. For example, they may just have received a complaint from local householders that the music in a pub is loud and offensive and causing great aggravation. The question is whether the pub has the appropriate licence to engage in that form of entertainment. If it has, it is possible that the policeman will ask for the windows to be closed or that he will make some other simple request. However, if the licensee is offending against the licence and has no right to engage in such an activity, the policeman must put a stop to the abuse. He can do so only if he is able to check the full text of the licence.

Members of the Committee are suggesting that every policeman has easy and immediate access to all on-line information. I am well aware that such access is used with regard to certain motoring offences at present, and I understand that it is not always used without distress because weaknesses appear in the records. But, in this case, a policeman may be acting precipitously to enforce the law, as he would be obliged to do, and he must operate on proper grounds. The only way that he can be assured of being on proper grounds is to check what the full licence of the premises contains. We maintain that comparing such a licence to a driving licence, which may be required to be submitted within seven days, would not enable immediate police enforcement to take place.

The Earl of Onslow

The noble Lord reminds me of pre-war war Ministers defending the use of horsed cavalry. The licence is on-line. "Plod" is asked to check. He will check the licence before he checks the premises, otherwise he will say, "We think you might be doing something wrong. Can we see if you are by what your licence says?". The on-line facility is supposed to make life easier both for individuals and for enforcement authorities. Surely it is far more sensible to allow these matters to function with access to the on-line licence.

Presumably, when the policeman presses a button, up will come the line on his laptop computer carried in the police car—the police do have access to such equipment. If someone rings up and complains about noise, the police will say, for example, that it is a matter for the environmental health people or that the place where the noise is coming from does not have a licence. The alternative is to look for the licence, which will have to be duplicated all over the place. I believe that it is possible for such work to be carried out electronically and not by horsed-cavalry means.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his reply. I listened carefully to what he said. Indeed, his response appeared to be entirely reasonable, although clearly Members of the Committee a re not completely satisfied with it. I shall take care to read what he said in Hansard and, for the moment, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 273: Page 33, line 8, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— (b) the premises supervisor

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 273, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 274 and 275. These amendments are straightforward. Clause 56 deals with the duty to keep and produce the premises licence. As the Bill stands, the situation is confused. It introduces a person at the premises who has been nominated specifically to keep and produce the licence if required. That position seems to be superfluous. A specific designated premises supervisor has already been nominated; now we have a person whose only role is to produce the premises licence if required. There must even be a notice at the premises specifying the position of the latter individual.

Our amendment would simply remove the requirement for that individual and insert instead "the premises supervisor". Every premises already has someone in charge. Surely the easiest solution is if the individual—that is, the manager of the premises—holds the personal licence and has the job of producing the premises licence on demand. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am sure that the Committee would not wish me to make my "designated premises supervisor" speech again. I do not believe that any new issues are raised by these amendments, other than those that we have already discussed. However, there is a new misunderstanding. The amendments would require all premises to designate a designated premises supervisor. Of course, designated premises supervisors are required only in the case of alcohol licences. Therefore, the amendments would be inappropriate for places of public entertainment or late-night refreshment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his response. Clearly this is another good reason why we should, as the Minister kindly suggested earlier, agree to have a meeting to discuss the whole issue of designated premises supervision. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 274 to 276 not moved.]

Clause 56 agreed to.

4 p.m.

Clauses 57 to 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [The general conditions]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 277: Page 35, line 18, leave out "two days" and insert "48 hours

The noble Baroness said: Clause 61 sets out the conditions that need to be complied with before premises can be counted as a club for the purposes of Part 4 of the Bill. One of the conditions is that the members of the club may not be admitted as members without an interval of at least two days between their nomination or application for membership and their admission. The reason for the two-day break is to ensure that the system is not abused by people simply turning up at the door of a club and being granted membership there and then. It thus enables the premises to be able to qualify as a club under Part 4. The clause reflects the existing legislation in relation to clubs.

The amendment proposes altering the words "two days" to "48 hours" so that the spirit of the legislation is met, namely by ensuring that there is a full two day break between the application for membership and the admission to membership. Otherwise, someone who applies for membership at 11.30 p.m. on a Tuesday and is admitted as a member just 25 hours later, at half past midnight on the Thursday, would qualify as a member for the purposes of Part 4. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

My amendment, No. 309A, is grouped with Amendment No. 277. It relates to clubs and door supervision under Clause 72. Concern has been expressed about Clause 72(1) which refers to club premises certificates inevitably including a condition for door supervision. It states that each individual undertaking door supervision must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. I do not believe that there is a problem with that latter part, but there is a concern that local authorities and the licensing requirements will increasingly require door supervision for all clubs. At present a club registration certificate does not include an equivalent requirement.

A number of clubs would argue that they are essentially private members' clubs, most of which are community social centres and have a restricted membership, for the reasons that have just been mentioned. Therefore, there is the risk that zealous local authorities will, over time, insist on door supervisors as a condition of maintaining a licence. That will impose on modest institutions, a number of which are under great competitive pressure from alternative leisure outlets, the expense and the complication of providing door supervisors. As I understand it, to date registered private members' clubs have been exempt from such requirements. I believe that it is worth teasing out an argument that in this limited area exemption should be and could be justifiably maintained.

Lord Davies of Oldham

As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated in introducing her amendment, Clause 61 sets out the five conditions that a club must satisfy to be a qualifying club and to be eligible for club premises certificates. The first of the five tests that a club has to pass is set out in subsection (2). That requires the minimum of two days between an application or nomination for membership and the commencement of such membership. She rightly identified why that is an important consideration. We have always insisted, and want to continue to insist, that club membership is not granted as instantaneous entry into premises, but that there is a decent interval between the application and the benefits of club membership.

The difference between us is marginal. Although the difference between two days and 48 hours does not appear to be much mathematically, there is a slight difference. The difference would be that someone who applied at 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon would receive membership by Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. under the amendment of the noble Baroness, whereas under our proposal in the Bill the membership would not be granted until the next day, the Thursday.

We maintain that we should continue with arrangements to protect club membership that has operated satisfactorily for many years. The two-day requirement has lasted for many years. It is well attested to and it works without difficulty. We have not had substantial representations that it should be changed. The change proposed is on the margin. We believe that we are better advised to stay with the tried and tested formula, that people wait that extra time before they enjoy full membership. I have no great objection to the amendment but I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it because I do not see that it significantly advances the position.

With regard to Amendment No. 309A, Clause 72 is not the easiest clause in the Bill to understand. I acknowledge at once that the department's Explanatory Notes on it are less than accurate. The notes suggest that, in cases where premises are being used exclusively for the purposes of a qualifying club, and where the club premises certificate includes a condition that someone acts as a door supervisor or carries out some other specified security activity, the person appointed by the club does not have to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. The amendment would make the Bill have just that effect. Therefore, I willingly concede that it appears only reasonable for the Government to accept it. However, I hope to persuade the Committee that on this occasion the Bill should stay as it is and that it is the Explanatory Notes that need amendment.

Under the Bill as drafted, it will be for the licensing authority to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a club premises certificate needs to include a door supervisor or other security activity condition. In many cases such a condition will plainly be unnecessary and the provisions of Clause 72 will never arise in the first place. However, in those cases where a security activity condition is judged to be necessary, it will be important that the person selected by the club is up to the job and can be relied upon to carry it out in a responsible way.

In general, it will be for the club to exercise its own judgment about whom to use, and rightly so. The club may want to ask one of its own members to supervise admission, even if that member does not hold an SIA licence. We see no problem with that. But where a club provides music and dancing, the door supervisor has to be licensed on the rationale that those are activities carrying the highest risk of certain matters going wrong.

It is important to be clear that the Bill is not saying that any club running a disco, however small or mild, must employ a door supervisor, let alone a door supervisor licensed by the SIA. The issue of SIA licensing will arise only if the club's premises certificate includes a condition requiring the club to use a door supervisor. If there is no such condition, or the club chooses to employ a door supervisor voluntarily, it will be free to make whatever arrangements it thinks best.

In that respect the Bill does no more than maintain the position established in the Private Security Industry Act 2001. I have sought to clear up what may be a misunderstanding based on our guidance notes. Therefore, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment on the basis that what is in the Bill is reasonable and correct.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his response to the amendment. I hear what he says about there not being necessarily a big difference between two days and 48 hours. In fact there is a difference. For example, Monday at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. gives us only until Wednesday after midnight as a two-day period rather than a proper 48-hour period within which to have an opportunity to vet an application for club membership. Recently, that point was illustrated to me when I was a guest at a gaming club. It was interesting that so many of those entering that club and wishing to become members were not resident in this country. The club needed the time in order to vet the applicants properly.

So I hear what the Minister has said, but I shall consult the local authority which suggested the amendment to hear its view. On that basis, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved Amendment No. 278: Page 35, line 28, at end insert— (7) Nothing in the following condition applies to a club which restricts membership to persons of one sex. (8) Condition 6 is that the club does not—

  1. (a) in the case of a woman who is not a member, discriminate against her—
    1. (i) in the terms on which it is prepared to admit her to membership; or
    2. (ii) by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept her application for membership;
  2. (b) in the case of a woman who is a member or associate of the club, discriminate against her—
    1. (i) in the way it affords her access to any benefits, facilities or services, or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford her access to them;
    2. (ii) in the case of a member, by depriving her of membership, or varying the terms on which she is a member;
    3. (iii) in the case of a member, by offering her rights of participation in the governance of the club of lesser efficacy than a male member of the club;
    4. (iv) in the case of an associate, by depriving her of her rights as an associate, or varying those rights;
    5. (v) in the case of an associate, by offering her rights of participation in the governance of the club of lesser efficacy than a male associate of the club; or
    6. (vi) in either case, by subjecting her to any other form of detriment; or
  3. (c) in offering (whether for payment or not) goods, facilities or services to persons who are not members or associates of the club, discriminate against a woman who is not a member or associate of the club and who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services—
    1. (i) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with any of them;
    2. (ii) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with goods, facilities or services of the like quality, in the like manner and on the like terms as are normal in this case in relation to a man who is not a member or associate of the club.
(9) The following are examples of the facilities and services mentioned in condition 6—
  1. (a) access to and any use of any place where persons who are not members or associates of the club are permitted to enter;
  2. (b) accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or other similar establishment;
  3. (c) facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment;
  4. (d) facilities for transport or travel.
(10) For the purposes of condition 6(a)—
  1. (a) a person is a member of a club if he belongs to it by virtue of his admission to any sort of membership provided for by any constitution, rule, policy or practice of the club (and is not merely a person with certain rights by virtue of his membership of some other club) and reference; to membership of a club shall be construed accordingly;
  2. (b) a person is an associate of a club if, not being a member of it, he has under or by its constitution, rule, policy or practice some or all of the rights enjoyed by members (or would have apart from any constitution, rule, policy or practice thereof authorising the refusal of those rights in particular cases).
(11) Nothing in condition 6 shall affect—
  1. (a) the provision of separate facilities or services, or the separate use of facilities or services, for men and women, if the facilities or services are provided for, or are likely to be used by, two or more persons at the same time and—
    1. (i) the facilities or services are such, or those persons are such, that male users are likely to suffer serious embarrassment at the presence of a woman;
    2. (ii) the facilities or services are such that a user is likely to be in a state of undress and a male user might reasonably object to the presence of a female user; or
    3. (iii) the facilities or services are such that physical contact between the user and any other person is likely, and that other person might reasonably object if the user were a woman; or
  2. (b) the provision of facilities or services restricted to men, or of separate facilities or services for men and women, if—
    1. (i) the club exists for the purposes of an organised religion; and
    2. (ii) such restrictions or use are maintained so as to comply with the doctrines of that religion or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a substantial number of its followers."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 278, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 279 and 280 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. He sadly cannot be with us today, but I greatly look forward to the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, who will be speaking more than adequately on his behalf.

Those Members of the Committee who followed the progress of my Private Members' Bill in the previous Session will recognise the wording of the amendment. It follows the text of my Bill, which passed all stages in this House and went to another place. It is appropriate for the issue of sex discrimination in private members' clubs to be discussed in that context because it repeals Schedule 7 to the Licensing Act 1964, which deals with the governance of these clubs. That schedule states that the affairs of the club must be managed by one or more elective committees, and that there must be a general meeting of the club at least once in every year, for which the voting must be confined to members.

The Act goes on to say that all members entitled to use the club premises must be entitled to vote and must have equal voting rights. However, the rules may exclude from voting women if the club is primarily a men's club and men if the club is primarily a women's club.

Prior to the Second Reading debate I was advised by the Cabinet Office's Women and Equality Unit that the repeal of the Licensing Act 1964 would remove the discrimination contained in Schedule 7 to that Act, stemming from the use of the word "primarily". It told me that the Bill therefore represented a step forward.

I spoke to that effect at Second Reading and it was on that basis that I tabled my amendment for consideration today.

The amendment also seeks to address the issue of club facilities, dealing with matters such as women being barred from the snooker room or being made to play golf only at times when the men do not want to.

However, it now appears that the situation is not as straightforward as I or the Women and Equality Unit believed. The Bill, by repealing Schedule 7 of the Licensing Act 1964, removes the permitted discrimination by the use of the word "primarily", but it puts nothing whatever in its place. So I should apologise to the Committee for inadvertently misleading the Chamber at Second Reading.

However, I was not alone in not appreciating that instead of representing a modest step forward in providing a better deal for women as to how they are treated in private members' clubs, the Bill makes possible a step backwards to a worse situation where women are discriminated against to a greater extent than at present in the governance of clubs. I cannot believe that that is what my noble friend Lady Blackstone wishes. She has a distinguished record in combating sex discrimination in private members' clubs, as indeed does the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, on the Benches opposite, who supported my Private Members' Bill on the subject in the previous Session, and who, I am pleased to see has put her name to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

While obviously I have no intention of pressing my amendment to a vote today, I hope to hear from my noble friend that the Government will agree to amendments at a later stage that will do what I, and I believe most noble Lords, seek to achieve. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend, Lord Lester, who, as the Committee has already heard, regrettably cannot be in the Chamber today and offers his abject apologies.

The amendments are reasonable and progressive. They are similar to those passed in the Equal Status Act by the Irish Parliament. There is no difference in principle between the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and our amendments.

Amendment No. 279 seeks to ensure that, where a club offers membership to women, it must do so on equal terms with men as a condition of receiving a licence. That includes women taking an equal part in the governance of the club. It also includes women not being excluded from certain parts of the club or any facilities that are available to men.

The amendment allows for the continuance of single-sex clubs as it applies only to clubs offering membership or associate membership to both men and women. A club can choose to maintain its status as a single-sex club, but where it chooses to permit both sexes it should do so on equal terms. This issue is not just about voting rights. Amendment No. 279 inserts the condition of giving fair notice that a club does not discriminate, but it does not apply to single-sex clubs. It does nothing to violate the privacy of all-male or all-female clubs.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may say a few words on the amendment, having spoken on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, on a previous occasion. The noble Lord rightly flagged up this amendment when he spoke at Second Reading. He somewhat—dare I say—misleadingly suggested that he had support from all sides of the Chamber and that there had not been much in the way of objection to his measure at that time. He will remember that in fact there was considerable objection to his measure. There was objection from his own Benches, from the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. There were objections from some elements on the Liberal Democrat Benches—the few Liberals who remain, such as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and possibly the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. There were objections from people such as myself and my noble friend—

Lord Tordoff

Perhaps the noble Lord will give way. I have been a Liberal all my life and intend to remain one until I die.

Lord Henley

On a previous occasion I accused the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, of being illiberal. He asked me on that occasion what I knew about the Liberal Party. I pointed out that I had been a Member of the Liberal Party and that my father had been president of that great party. I was somewhat doubtful whether the Liberal Democrat Party still adhered to the same liberal traditions that the old Liberal Party used to stick to. I make that point merely as an aside. The point I wanted to make was that not everyone was thoroughly behind the views of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

I want only to make a few brief points at this stage because I am very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has no intention of pressing the amendment to a vote at this stage. Perhaps we can discuss the matter at some later stage following what we hear from the Government.

I ought to make two or three points. As this is the first time that I have spoken on the Bill I ought to declare an interest as a member of various clubs, some of which might be affected by such a measure. First, I understand that the Bill is designed to be a deregulatory Bill. As I understand the amendment it is very much regulatory and therefore it would not be appropriate to include it in the Bill. I would hope therefore that the Minister can assure us that the Government, whatever their views of the merits or otherwise of the amendment, will say that this is not the appropriate place to insert such a provision in the legislation.

The second simple point I make is that, though a member of the Conservative Party, as one who still deeply believes in all good liberal principles, I believe that this a matter that should be left to the clubs themselves. They can decide who should be members of their clubs and how they run themselves. There are strong rules about freedom of association. It is a matter for the clubs to decide how they deal with these matters themselves.

The last point I wish to put to the Minister concerns the current licensing law. Recently, there was a case of a Conservative club—I believe it was, although it may have been a golf club—that was affected by re-licensing when the licensing author ties—the magistrates, I assume—insisted that it refrain from some allegedly discriminatory activities. Were those magistrates acting within the law—I understand that the club in the end complied—or did they exceed their powers under the 1964 Act? Would it have been more proper for the Crown—again, this is a matter for the Crown—to have challenged that in the courts, or do the Government have a view about whether the licensing authorities had power to behave in that manner?

Lord Borrie

My noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester is to be congratulated on his ingenuity in framing not only these amendments but earlier ones in which he has sought to amend the Bill with the objectives—worthy, no doubt—of protecting employees and children from the passive effects of smoking or of reducing unjustified discrimination against women, which, to my mind, are beyond the purpose of the Bill.

When responding to the amendment concerning smoking many weeks ago—whenever it was that the Committee began—my noble friend Lady Blackstone emphasised that the purposes of the licensing regime should be clearly focused on public safety and the prevention of disturbance or disorder. The focus of Part 4 is clearly the same. Hence the requirement for clubs to be established and conducted in good faith, the need for various rules about people being members before they are allowed in and restrictions on the supply of alcohol. Adding conditions forbidding any discrimination against women would be wholly extraneous.

Amendment No. 278, tabled by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, makes clear in ways that the other amendment does not that it does not apply to single-sex clubs, such as the Garrick Club —I declare an interest as a member—or other St James' clubs, some of which are still men-only, or working men's clubs up and down the country, a few of which still do not allow any form of membership to women. Under Amendment No. 278, they could continue to discriminate against women. Indeed, another club, to which some of my lady friends belong, the Sloane Club, could continue to restrict membership to women.

We all know that many clubs in all those categories—and golf clubs, to which my noble friend briefly referred—allow some form of membership, sometimes called associate membership, to women. Often, women receive the quid pro quo of a lower subscription for reduced facilities and, one may say, a reduced role in the governance of the club. What I shall say about the amendment—which shows that I thoroughly dislike it in principle, even if it were not struggling to get within a Bill in which it does not really belong—is that it interferes with private relationships in private clubs and the governance of those clubs in a way that has nothing to do with good order or public safety and, in any case, has a dubious basis in principle.

For example, if a bar in a club is open to male members only, under the amendment it would have to be opened to women members at all times and on exactly the same terms. If women guests are admitted to those clubs at all, condition 6 at subsection (8)(c) of my noble friend's amendment provides that if women are not admitted to all facilities, they must be admitted to the same facilities as are male guests. If we consider working men's clubs—I owe a debt to my noble friend Lord Faulkner, who, during debates last year on the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill supplied many interesting facts and figures about them—60 per cent of them now have some form of membership for women, be it called associate membership or whatever. If the amendment were carried, they would be forced to return to being men-only, because they simply do not have the facilities and number of rooms that would be required under it.

The only exemptions allowed by the noble Lord's amendment are for lavatories and changing rooms, which would continue to be separate. I admit that there is a broader exemption if clubs exist for the purpose of a religion whose doctrines require that men and women should be separate. However, a mere inclination on the part of men to drink only with other men, not in the presence of women, would be absolutely forbidden. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, spoke, is basically as objectionable, although it may not cover mere guests—I am not too clear about that.

Under Amendment No. 280, instead of allowing male-only clubs such as the Garrick to continue as they are, as would the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would introduce a much more subtle test that will be great for lawyers, because it mentions the objectives of the club and, the essential character of the association". I shall not read out now, as I did during debate on the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill promoted by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, the objectives of the Garrick Club, which were set out in 1831. As one would imagine, they concerned promoting the appreciation of drama and the arts in general and said absolutely nothing about it being for men only. Of course, the assumption of the club's founders was that it would be for men only: they did not need to state that. But how that would be interpreted by the courts today if—an awful prospect—the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, Amendment No. 279, were carried, I do not know.

I end simply by saying that freedom of association is one of the great freedoms of which we are surely all in favour. That must include the notion of mixing with those people that we want to on this or that occasion—for drinking or playing snooker. If that excludes women on the one hand or men on the other, so be it. In private clubs, that freedom should continue.

Lord Monson

As on previous occasions, I support the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his advocacy of genuine liberalism. It therefore follows that I support what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said. Moreover, perhaps I may point out that Amendment No. 278, as distinct from the other two amendments in the group, is positively sexist. It would hit mainly male clubs that treat women differently in one or more ways, but would not touch mainly female clubs that treat men differently in one or more ways.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, may argue that such clubs do not exist, to which I would say, first, "How can he be so sure?" and, secondly, even if they do not, "What is to prevent them coming into existence in future?". I suggest that the amendment is defective on those grounds alone.

Viscount Falkland

I had not intended to speak on this subject, but as my name has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I broadly agree with the views expressed by him, my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, on the Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, especially with regard to single-sex clubs. That matter has been satisfactorily resolved, for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I do not want his remarks to leave the Committee with the suspicion that I am, in any way, a chauvinist pig, in taking that line.

For the guidance of the Committee, I must amplify some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. There would be practical difficulties for golf clubs, were the amendment to be incorporated. I am in favour of golf clubs treating men and women entirely equally, as they do in France, Belgium and many other European countries.

The Earl of Onslow


Viscount Falkland

The noble Earl shouts, "Nonsense!". I am not sure why.

The Earl of Onslow

It has something to do with English culture, in which we have men-only clubs. The idea that the French should have men-only clubs would be laughed out of court.

4.30 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

I thank the noble Earl for that. I was going to lead on to the cultural point.

Golf clubs have some practical difficulties. I belong to a leading golf club, which hosts the Women's Open championship. The men and women members of the club get on well, although the women are all associate members. As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, they pay a significantly reduced subscription for that membership. When the subject was introduced in the club, women members were asked to vote on whether they wanted any change in the situation that prevailed, in which they paid a lower subscription and enjoyed fewer— not significantly fewer—rights than men. Between 95 and 97 per cent voted against change. Noble Lords may say that they had their eye on the lower subscription. I do not take that cynical view.

The men's changing room in a golf club often adjoins a bar. The position of the changing room requires the bar to be a men's bar. There will be a separate mixed bar, where men and women members meet. That may not be a satisfactory situation, but if we were to change it, the expense to golf clubs of doing the necessary restructuring work could put many of them out of business. Everybody would be worse off.

Although I have great sympathy with what, I think, lies behind the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that we will, in the future, have a fairer system for the sexes, there are practical difficulties. Making the amendment would create enormous alarm among golf clubs.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

I support the intentions behind all three amendments. I have listened to the debate with considerable amusement, as well as interest. However, what has been said reflects the debate that we had on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, which has since been passed. Like others, I thought that that debate took fully into consideration the question of single-sex clubs allowing certain things to happen.

There is an obvious ambivalence—even hostility, in some respects—to any debate about single-sex clubs. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made some fascinating comments about the difficulties for golf clubs, but I have heard such comments about almost every other proposition. With regard to employment law, people said that women could not be allowed in because of where the men's loos were. I am not impressed by such arguments.

I am sad to say that I support the intention behind the amendments because of that ambivalence. It is important that the Minister consider the intention of the amendments and bring us back something that we can all accept in the Bill. We still have a long way to go on the subject. To most fair-minded people—I do not deny the intellectual rigour of those who have spoken on the other side—it is sad that we go on arguing in this way about single-sex clubs.

The Earl of Onslow

I am a member of the Garrick and of the Beefsteak, and I am seriously old-fashioned on this subject. Today, I am wearing a Household Brigade tie. It would entitle me to be a member of the Cavalry and Guards Club, which I am not. The condition for membership of the Cavalry and Guards Club is that one must have served in one of the Brigade of Guards regiments, the Household Cavalry or the line cavalry regiments. However, someone such as Vanessa Lloyd-Johns, who was doctor to the Household Cavalry Regiment in London, should be entitled to membership of the Cavalry and Guards Club. The point is that the condition for membership of that club is that one has achieved a certain thing.

I know that there was a frightful row in the Oxford and Cambridge Club, although I am too stupid to have gone to university. They said that women could not join the Oxford and Cambridge Club. That is silly, if the condition for membership of a club is that one must have a degree from Oxford or have served in a cavalry regiment. A woman who has served in a cavalry regiment—an Amazon—or a woman who holds a degree from Oxford or Cambridge should be entitled to be a member of the relevant club.

If we boring fellows want to get together to go on being Neanderthal and doing all the things that uncultured northern Anglo-Saxon Protestants like doing in the Garrick—including meeting the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—we should be allowed to do so, without outside let or hindrance. After all, it is possible for there to be bodies such as the Black Police Officers Association or the Black Lawyers Association. I know that it is outside the scope of this Bill, but it would be fun to think what might happen if someone were to say that there should be a White Lawyers Association or a White Police Federation. All Hell would break loose. We old-fashioned, Neanderthal male chauvinist piggies should be allowed occasionally to get together and enjoy the company of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

Baroness Buscombe

I have added my name to two of the amendments. Before I speak to them, however, I must correct the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. The Sloane Club admits men and women. My husband is an ex-member of the Sloane Club, and—believe me—he is all man. Secondly, I welcome any opportunity in any Bill to confront all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex, but, on these Benches, we are not interested in supporting any amendment that interferes with single-sex clubs. That is not what this is about.

The Committee will notice that I have not added my name to Amendment No. 278. That is because, like the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I agree with the spirit behind the amendment, but it appears to me, having read it closely, that the amendment discriminates against men. That is why my name is not attached to it. None the less, I understand entirely the spirit in which the noble Lord tabled the amendment.

The other amendments—those in my name and the name of the noble Lords, Lord Lester of Herne Hill and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond—make it clear that the preferential treatment for qualifying clubs does not apply to single-sex clubs. If a club wants to have preferential treatment, there must be no sex discrimination. If a club wishes to practise sex discrimination, it should not be entitled to be treated as a qualifying club and must apply for a premises licence like the proprietor of any proprietary club. Parliament is not interfering with how such clubs operate. It will merely deny them preferential treatment if they give preferential treatment to one sex or another. Surely there can be nothing objectionable in that.

With all due respect to noble Lords who have raised the question of associate membership, to suggest that there should be some form of discrimination is feeble. I was proud to resign my membership of the Carlton Club. I was admitted as an associate member on the ground of gender. My husband was not a member but had access to many parts of the club to which I did not on the ground that he was a man. If members wish to retain the associate membership, why not offer associate membership to men as well as women?

Lord Burnham

Perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. Is she prepared to agree that the male associate member would pay one tenth of a full membership subscription?

Baroness Buscombe

I accept that entirely. If a lady is offered associate membership at a reduced fee, it is right that the male associate member should pay, therefore, a reduced fee. That would probably be the purpose of the associate membership rather than on the ground of gender.

The debate revisits the numerous debates on the Private Member's Bill introduced during the last Session by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. In some ways it is amusing but in other respects somewhat depressing. We are in the 21st century. To hear noble Lords saying that it is acceptable slowly to introduce women into a male environment is deeply depressing. I hope that the Government will take this sensible opportunity to outlaw, if I may put it that strongly, in a way which is not regulatory, these ridiculous forms of discrimination.

The Earl of Onslow

I believe that the noble Baroness was right to resign from the Carlton Club. A condition for becoming a member of the club is that one is a loyal supporter of the Conservative Party. That should now count practically everyone out of membership. But that is another story altogether; it is nothing to do with gender.

When we old codgers want to get together, it has nothing to do with achievement. It is just men wanting to get together and being boring, but some of us like that. My noble friend makes a very different point. She may be surprised and, I hope, gratified that on that issue I completely agree with her.

Lord Burnham

I am very interested in what my noble friend says. However, perhaps she will take this opportunity to correct her remark during debate on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that it was Conservative Party policy to be in favour of that Bill and of this amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

In response to my noble friend Lord Onslow, I said at the outset that we are not against single-sex clubs. Whether they are all male or all female is fine. I stated that during debate on the Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

Speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, what I have said today to the best of my knowledge remains Conservative Party policy.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Quite a chasm has opened up in Committee with regard to this series of amendments. In responding, perhaps I may seek to build a bridge to the other side.

I have enormous sympathy for the thinking which lies behind the amendments. The noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Faulkner, will recall that on behalf of the Government my noble friend Lady Scotland welcomed a Private Member's Bill introduced in the last Session. The Government will continue to keep the matter under positive review.

I have no time for those clubs which do not offer their members, whether men or women, good facilities on a fair and equal basis. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated that that was her view. I know that some clubs continue to operate what can be described only as a second-class membership for women, or do not allow women to use some parts of the premises or to use them only at certain times. I agree with the noble Baroness. This is no way to operate in the 21st century. I am a keen golfer and the golfing world has to adjust to the changing circumstances. Many golf clubs are doing so. I hope that that will be recognised as an important step forward.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and my noble friend Lord Borrie in their contentions that the Bill is neither the proper place to tackle these issues nor the best way to do so. If I have understood the logic of the amendments, it is that we should not allow clubs which discriminate between the sexes to benefit from the club premises certificate regime. They should instead be subject to the normal premises licensing regime. This might encourage them to think again about their membership and other policies. I think that that is a rather oblique way of going about the matter.

I am not persuaded that we should accept the amendments for three specific reasons. First, the proposed amendments would not make sex discrimination in clubs unlawful but would introduce an additional requirement for the grant of a club premises certificate. The result of discrimination by the club will be that all the club members, including the person discriminated against, are deprived of the advantages of the club's certificate while no appropriate remedy will have been given to the person discriminated against. It would be a gesture rather than an effective remedy to discrimination.

Secondly, because the amendments are aimed at the wrong target—the grant of a certificate rather than a remedy for the discrimination—they do not make sufficiently clear the precise circumstances in which discrimination will lead to a refusal. For example, would a single past incident of discrimination, perhaps perpetrated by one particular member of staff at the club, override the future intentions of the club management who might express themselves in different terms? We should be faced with uncertainty and inconsistency. That would not be right in law.

Thirdly, the proposed provisions would not apply to the many thousands of clubs which do not have or seek to obtain a certificate to sell alcohol or to provide regulated entertainment. It is simply a licensing Bill with regard to alcohol and entertainment. Yet exactly the same considerations apply, quite properly, to discrimination in all clubs, wherever it occurs apart from single-sex clubs. Here we are only talking about clubs involved in alcohol sale or entertainment.

I make clear that I am not saying that discrimination in the provision of services or in the rules of admission to clubs does not need attention. I argue that it needs to be considered as part of legislation on sex discrimination or on clubs and not in a Bill about licensing. That would be an ineffectual way of addressing the matter as a club could simply evade the issue by applying for a normal premises licence.

I should like it to be clear that I appreciate that the amendments have been carefully thought through and crafted. I pay due regard to that fact and pay tribute to the skills with which the amendments have been presented. They do not therefore give rise to the normal objections and considerations of religious sensitivities. That is all included in the amendments.

However, this is not the Bill in which these skilful amendments ought to be addressed. The issues need to be discussed and debated. I think that my noble friend Lord Faulkner recognises that. He clearly set out to create a Bill that received the assent of the House, and which dealt with the issue of discrimination in the necessary breadth. The problem with regard to a Licensing Bill is that there is a very narrow focus for dealing with the issue of discrimination.

To sum up, I appreciate the thinking behind the amendments. I am ready to accept that discrimination in clubs is something which needs further attention. The Bill provides for club membership certificates. Clause 61 sets about defining the principal characteristics of a club to prevent abuse of the system. Whatever we may think of them, the type of clubs which have been described today are nevertheless clubs. They have not been set up deliberately to evade licensing laws. We are talking of bona fide clubs which have, in the past, enjoyed the benefits of licenses. Certainly, some clubs could do with some prompting to change their ways. Perhaps this debate will assist in those terms. This is not the legislation which needs to be changed in order to force the issues on the clubs.

However, I hope that some aspects of real concern will be addressed. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, as well as other noble Lords speaking to the amendment, said that we may be in danger of taking a step backwards because Schedule 7 to the 1964 Licensing Act is subject to repeal under this legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, referred to a case. As he did not specify which case I am unable to form a judgment, except to say that I recognise that there has been at least one case where the magistrates, under Schedule 7 to the 1964 Licensing Act, made a judgment of refusing a licence because they regarded the rules of the club as not meeting the requirements consistent with no discrimination.

I say to my noble friend who proposed the amendment that we shall look at this issue further. We shall be prepared to meet with him and his colleagues who wish to make representations on these matters to see whether we can, at a later stage, introduce an amendment in order to guarantee that the one thing we do not do is step backwards rather than make further progress. On that basis, I hope that we have enjoyed a vigorous and interesting debate, but largely out with the provisions of the Licensing Bill. I hope that the noble Lords proposing the amendments will feel free to withdraw them.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

The Committee will be relieved to know that I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments which we debated at some length during the passage of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill in the last Session. However, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. even though some arguments were rather familiar.

I am particularly grateful for the final comments of the Minister who has accepted that the Bill, as it stands at present, removes the element of the 1964 Act which deals with the governance of private members clubs. I accept with gratitude his offer to discuss possible amendments that can be brought forward at a later stage to ensure that the Bill does not drive us further back to the dark ages. I suspect that one or two of your Lordships may wish to do that in the case of private members clubs, although I am sure not the great majority. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 279 not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 280 not moved.]

Clauses 62 to 67 agreed to.

Clause 68 [Authorised persons, interested parties and responsible authorities]:

[Amendments Nos. 281 to 299 not moved.]

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clause 69 [Other definitions relating to clubs]:

[Amendments Nos. 299A and 299B not moved.]

Clause 69 agreed to.

Clause 70 [Application for club premises certificate]:

[Amendments Nos. 300 to 303 not moved.]

Lord Clarke of Hampstead had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 304: Page 41, line 2, at end insert— ( ) the maximum capacity of the premises,

The noble Lord said: I apologise for rushing into the Chamber late. I was attending the Select Committee on Religious Offences. I need a couple of seconds to gather the relevant papers on this amendment, which I believe deals with the number of days for the application. Is that correct?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Thomas of Walliswood)

For the assistance of the noble Lord, this amendment has already been debated.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead

In that case, I humbly apologise to the Committee. I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 304 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 305 not moved.]

Clause 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Determination of application for club premises certificate]:

[Amendments Nos. 306 to 309 not moved.]

Clause 71 agreed to.

Clause 72 [Mandatory conditions: door supervision]:

[Amendment No. 309A not moved.]

Clause 72 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 310 not moved.]

Clauses 73 and 74 agreed to.

Clause 75 [Grant or rejection of application for club premises certificate]:

[Amendments Nos. 311 to 313 not moved.]

Clause 75 agreed to.

Clauses 76 to 81 agreed to.

Clause 82 [Application to vary club premises certificate]:

[Amendment No. 314 not moved.]

Clause 82 agreed to.

Clause 83 [Determination of application under section 82]:

[Amendments Nos. 315 to 317 not moved.]

Clause 83 agreed to.

Clause 84 [Supplementary provision about applications under section 82]:

[Amendment No. 318 not moved.]

Clause 84 agreed to.

Clause 85 [Application for review of club premises certificate]:

[Amendments Nos. 319 and 320 not moved.]

Clause 85 agreed to.

Clause 86 [Determination of application for review]:

[Amendments Nos. 321 to 326 not moved.]

Clause 86 agreed to.

5 p.m.

Clause 87 [Supplementary provision about review]:

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 327: Page 50, line 23, leave out "premises licence" and insert club premises certificate

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment on behalf of my noble friend. It is a minor amendment seeking to tidy up the drafting of the Bill. It will amend Clause 87 so that it applies, as it should, to a "club premises certificate" and not to a "premises licence". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 87, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 88 and 89 agreed to.

Clause 90 [Fees]:

[Amendments Nos. 328 to 334 not moved.]

Clause 90 agreed to.

Clauses 91 to 96 agreed to.

Clause 97 [The relevant licensing authority]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 335: Page 55, line 6, leave out "each of those authorities" and insert "whichever of the authorities is agreed by those authorities unanimously to be the relevant authority, or if no such agreement is reached—

  1. (i) the licensing authority in whose area the greater or greatest part of the premises is situated, or
  2. (ii) if there is no authority to which paragraph (a) applies, such one of those authorities as is nominated in accordance with subsection (2)"

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 336.

Clause 97 makes provision in regard to the terms under which licensing authorities would be responsible for the granting of a licence if premises straddle the border of two or more licensing authorities.

As it stands, the Bill provides that the licensing authority in which the greater part of the premises are situated would be the "relevant licensing authority". If it is impossible to establish which of the licensing authorities is the relevant one under that criterion, the applicant would be able to choose which authority he preferred.

This provision does not reflect current arrangements in respect of public entertainment licensing. There is a shining example in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in respect of Earls Court, which straddles the boundary with Hammersmith and Fulham. At present, there is an agreement between the two boroughs that Kensington and Chelsea should deal with public entertainment licensing in Earls Court. The amendment would enable similar arrangements between councils to continue. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is true that there is a change here between what we are proposing and what happens now. The reason for that is that the existing requirements for having a licence are fairly onerous; therefore, it would be onerous for the applicant to have to go to more than one local authority. In the Bill we reduce the temporary notice to an absolute minimum. It is merely a notification. Under those circumstances it seems to be virtually no burden for it to go to more than one authority at the same time. In that way there is the minimum level of protection which is required for local people and yet no significant burden on the applicant. I hope that under those circumstances the amendment will not be pressed.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his response. I hear what he says. His response seems adequate in relation to the proposal in the amendment. However, I should like to take the opportunity to ensure that local authorities are content with his response. On that basis, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 336 not moved.]

Clause 97 agreed to.

Clause 98 [Temporary event notice]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 337: Page 55, line 10, leave out "72" and insert "168

The noble Baroness said: We now come to an important subject; namely, temporary event notices.

The Bill currently limits the period of any licensable temporary event to 72 hours. By this rationale, an event— for example, a music festival—lasting longer than the envisaged three days were to be organised, a full premises licence would be required.

My objection is that there are many such music festivals, most of which happen only once a year. One thinks of the Glastonbury festival, or the perhaps more savoury music and jazz festivals in many towns throughout Britain. Examples would be the Ludlow festival in Shropshire. or the Aldeburgh festival in Suffolk. It seems perverse to state that these temporary events do not fall into the "temporary event" category because they last longer than the requisite 72 hours. Surely this is hardly proof of the flexibility of the Bill or of the concern that the Government vow they have for the fostering of cultural and musical entertainment.

The Committee will note that Amendment No. 338 stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, who unfortunately is unable to be in his place today. I agreed to add my name to the amendment. In referring to the amendment, I should state the noble Lord's interest—as I should probably have done in relation to previous amendments standing in his name. I believe that he is an organiser of large events at Knebworth House. I beg to move.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead

In the spirit of trying to finish this long Committee stage as quickly as possible, I shall be brief. Amendment No. 339 is straightforward and seeks to extend the number of working days required for a temporary event notice to be considered from 10 to 28.

Anyone who has had any dealings with local authorities will know the pressure they are under when people go on leave or are sick. Ten days is unreasonable. There are 30 separate requirements under the clause and it is totally unreasonable to require a local authority officer or his department to deal with temporary event notices within 10 working days. I commend Amendment No. 339 to the Committee.

Lord Crickhowell

I should not be here at all. The consultant who was looking after me in the London Clinic earlier today told me that I was to go straight home because I have been anaesthetised for some investigatory processes. But I wanted to come to the House and speak to this matter and I hope that I am not so incoherent that I cannot make my points.

The only previous occasion on which I have taken part in debates on the Bill was when we discussed the issue of events taking place in churches and schools. That seems quite a long time ago. I know that the Government are reconsidering their position on churches. I spoke then, as I speak today, because of my interest in musical and charitable events.

After the debate on churches, I received a letter from Lady Digby, who, for something like 30 years, has organised the Dorset Music Festival—an event of enormous importance and of the very highest standard—which takes place largely, although not entirely, in country houses. She expressed her great concern about the legislation with which we are confronted because she feels that it will make it extremely difficult in future to hold such an event.

Many of the concerts are held at Mintern, the home of Lord and Lady Digby, but also at other country houses in Dorset. The whole business of having to go to people and say, "We want you to hold a music event in your house but, by the way, you will have to go through a licensing procedure and perhaps have people looking at the premises and deciding that this and that is not suitable", will not make the holding of such events easier.

When I drew this aspect of the matter—which we did not debate on the previous occasion—to the attention of my noble friend who is moving the amendment, she pointed out that this particular clause in the Bill is highly relevant because, in many cases, such events would be subject to a temporary events licence. On looking at the clause, however, some of my concerns still exist for the reasons my noble friend has outlined.

It is true in the case of the Dorset Music Festival that, as it is spread over the summer, 72 hours may be enough to cover a couple of concerts held at a weekend. But I can think of music festivals, charitable events and other events arranged by a number of organisations in country houses and places of that kind which may last a week. The main locations at the Aldeburgh Festival, which has been referred to by my noble friend, will no doubt be licensed anyway, but many of its performances are held in churches and some in private premises.

I know of one individual in the West Country who is most generous in making his house available for charity events, but I am not sure what will happen to events of this kind when the Bill comes back at Report stage. I am unlikely to be in the country at that time to deal with the amendments in regard to the churches and any thoughts which come forward on that issue, but I strongly support the amendment which seeks to extend the duration from 72 hours.

We should be encouraging events of this kind; certainly we should not be discouraging them. At a time when the Government have expressed an interest in supporting the upkeep of country houses—huge burdens of expense are incurred in keeping them open—they may well be holding events themselves which are entirely appropriate in order to strengthen the financial position of such houses.

We should not support legislation which makes the holding of such highly desirable events much more difficult or even impossible. I have only recently turned my attention to these amendments—indeed, I have spoken to my noble friend about them only within the past 48 hours—and it may be that, on their own, they are not quite enough and that we will need to come back and look again at the issue. I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say. I am sure that they do not want to obstruct the holding of important musical and charitable events of this kind and will want to give them the maximum flexibility. I warmly support the amendment moved by my noble friend.

Lord Colwyn

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Crickhowell on being so steady on his feet. We should give credit to his anaesthetist. Having worked at events such as these over many years, I also support the amendment. It seems sensible that when a lot of money is spent putting up temporary structures the licence should last for longer than three days; it should be extended to a week. That would be sensible and the Government should give the matter serious thought.

Lord Monson

I, too, support these liberalising amendments, in particular Amendment No. 363A, bearing in mind that they are to some extent counterbalanced by Amendment No. 341 in this group and Amendment No. 340 in the next group. If these amendments are agreed, they would be a necessary counter-balance.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe

I hope the Committee will forgive me for speaking again. I have been dilatory in looking at the grouping—I did not speak to all the amendments in the group—and perhaps I may take a little time to refer to them.

In addition to our concern about the time period for a temporary event, we are also concerned about the reference in the clause to the number of people allowed to attend such an event being less than 500. Amendment No. 338, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, seeks to address that concern.

It is not unlikely that a temporary event may be organised which would expect to attract more than 500 people. We should like to know why the figure of 500 has been picked as a cut-off point. We realise that the attendance of a large crowd of people may cause additional concern in regard to public safety. We appreciate that it was felt that there should be some upper limit. But we wish to probe the Government on their choice of 500, which we believe may constrain the organisation of many temporary events in the future.

Amendments Nos. 363 and 366 are very important. We believe that the restrictions and conditions in Clause 98 will have a decidedly negative effect on the performance and organisation of temporary events which are a focus of community life in this country.

As to Amendment No. 363, sites such as community halls host temporary events more frequently than five times a year. I recall saying at Second Reading that my local village hall in Goring and Streatley would come to a standstill by February because we have events there every night. In circumstances where it would not be proportionate to require a full premises licence, there may be exceptions where one is required. However, allowing only five events a year would be very restrictive for many premises. It seems a very low limit. Our proposed extension to 30 a year is sensible, reasonable and reflects our desire to encourage and facilitate temporary events.

Amendment No. 366 is desirable in a different way. It concentrates on subsection (7), which addresses the minimum time limit before the beginning of a temporary event within which a counter notice may be issued by the licensing authority. The Bill states that, until 24 hours before an event is due to begin, a counter notice may be issued prohibiting that event from taking place. That would be not only disruptive but a potential disaster for event organisers. It would leave only a day to cancel arrangements which may have been made a long time in advance and to notify those who had planned to perform at, or attend, the event. Temporary events may be organised at short notice, which is probably why the period of 24 hours was chosen. Amendment No. 366 proposes an extension of the 24-hour minimum period to 72 hours as, we believe, a fair compromise between event organisers and attendees, and the licensing authority.

Amendment No. 363A is also included in this group. I apologise for returning to these points. Clause 105 imposes a limit as regards temporary event notices. It provides that a licensing authority must issue a counter notice: first, if the premises user is a personal licence holder who has already given 50 temporary event notices in the same calendar year; secondly, if the premises user does not hold a personal licence but has already given five temporary events in the same calendar year; or, thirdly, if five temporary event notices have been given in respect of the same premises in that year.

We take issue with the third restriction. It would create enormous difficulties for village halls, whose income depends on the hiring out of the premises for events that might include licensable activities. Noble Lords will also note that I have another amendment to this subsection. It would permit village halls to have 30 events involving licensable activities a year. On reflection, that modest amendment is not sufficient for village halls and similar buildings. Thirty events a year is simply not enough for village halls, so we urge this amendment on your Lordships also.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The amendments in this group would have a mutually contradictory effect. That is not the fault of those who moved them, but the result of how the grouping was done. Let me repeat our aim as regards temporary event notices. We are trying to identify those applicants and events that are so rare or modest as not to be licensable activities. Many events will benefit because they are licensable activities already, and therefore the requirement to provide a temporary notice is a good deal lighter than what happens now. That is the intention of the Bill. The "light touch" system is to benefit those who do not generally engage in the business of carrying on licensable activities—that is to say, those who do not have a personal licence—by allowing them, for example, to hold a fundraising event in a hall without a premises licence.

When we discussed the early part of the Bill, noble Lords expressed a huge number of fears about new events coming into the scope of licensing. We are now making it clear that many of those fears were unjustified. In other words, the temporary event notice is a simple way of providing the minimum notification, if you like, for events of this kind, which ought not to concern bureaucracy. But there must be a certain number of safeguards, and we need to protect the system from abuse by unscrupulous people who might seek to evade the licensing system. So, we have set limits.

First, as referred to in Amendment No. 338, we have set a limit of 500 people. In our consultation, some people wanted the limit to be higher; others wanted it to be lower. I do not think that anyone suggested that it be taken away entirely, because events of more than 500 people—particularly those with significantly more—are of a size close to events that cause disturbance; for example, raves. I do not know how many of Lord and Lady Digby's concerts or performances involve more than 500 people. I suspect that few houses in Britain could accommodate more than 500 people.

Lord Crickhowell

I dealt with the point about duration, which is much more important. However, as someone who has suffered from raves, I accept that there must be a limit, and that a limit may be useful.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Then, I can divide and rule among the proponents of these amendments. We must find a figure. Five hundred may not be exactly the right one, but the police and others have suggested that it is a reasonable figure. Additional protection in Clause 158 gives the police the power to close down for up to 24 hours premises for which a temporary event notice has been given and a temporary licence granted, where they are a source of noise, nuisance or disorder likely to threaten public safety. We hope that that will not happen often, but it is a tool in controlling events such as raves. There are other more administrative limits to prevent abuse of the scheme.

However, we think that temporary licences should be just that: temporary. We stipulate 72 hours. That covers, for example, a whole bank holiday weekend. If we made it a whole week, as Amendment No. 337 proposes, personal licence holders, who can hold 50 events a year, could hold events, admittedly in different premises, without any licence other than a temporary event notice. That does not make very good sense.

The temporary event notice covers the sale of alcohol. Surely, it is not unreasonable in those circumstance to say that in any one premises there should be only five temporary events a year. The neighbours of those premises would not be sympathetic to the idea of such events happening 30 times a year as proposed. Village halls are a different matter. They already require both licences to sell alcohol and public entertainment allowances. The Bill would not increase the burden on them. I gave the example previously of the school sports club situated opposite my house. Not more than live times a year, it holds a rave-up, with hugely noisy music until four o'clock in the morning. We either try to go away or we grit our teeth and bear it. If it were 30 times a year, we would get much more stroppy about it. Amendment No. 363 goes over the top.

On fees, the Secretary of State can set a nil or reduced fee for these categories of premises. He can do that in regulations. But, even if there were no waiver or reduction of fees, halls such as village halls could be expected to pay fees of around £100 for a premises licence application. That is not much if it covers 30 events a year. There is also an annual fee of £50 for the licence. We think that a temporary event notice will involve a fee of about £20, which is minimal.

As for notice, the arguments work in the other direction. I say to my noble friend Lord Clarke, who seeks to restrict the use of temporary event notices, that we do not see why a local authority should require more than 10 days' notice of an event. We are not talking about a licence application but a simple document. Of course, there is some pressure on resources. We have recognised that by extending the notice period from the five days, which we set out in the White Paper, to the 10 days in the Bill. However, we consider that 10 days is the limit. The notice given to the police and coming from the police and any counter notice fits in with the 10-day period.

As it stands, this is a very deregulatory measure. It goes as far as we think it is safe and reasonable to go in view of the protection of local people. We do not think that it can conceivably cause any detriment to those organising music festivals of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, described. The Aldeburgh festival would require a licence as it is a big event. But, surely to have in any one premises an event lasting up to 72 hours, five days a year, is generous.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord sits down, he has made some not unreasonable arguments against some of the amendments in the group. But I think he will agree that he has not succeeded in demolishing the powerful case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for Amendment No. 366. In fact, I do not believe that he referred to it at all. It concerns the giving of a notice.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I believe that I said that once you have accepted the 10-day period as being more reasonable than the 28 days which have been proposed, the other time periods for notices to and from the police, and from the local authority as a counter notice, fit in with that.

Lord Crickhowell

I agree with that last point. It is unreasonable to have a short notice period for a major event to which people may come from all over the country. That matter needs to be pursued. I accept some of the arguments about raves from which I have suffered in the valley in which I live. I do not feel strongly as regards the exact number of people one stipulates. I refer to the figure of 500. But the point that seems to me does need to be pursued is that of the 72-hour period. Many festivals that take place up and down the country last a week. Of course, a festival can take place over a long weekend or a bank holiday weekend, but it seems to me wholly unreasonable that the kind of important music festivals which now occur in large numbers and are of great importance to the people who attend them and the musicians who take part in them should be restricted in the way that is proposed. I hope that the Government will think hard about the amendment, which ought to be supported, that seeks to extend the period from 72 hours so that at least events can take place that cover a whole week.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not want to prolong the discussion and I do not know whether I should make helpful suggestions of this kind, but one is not going to have a week-long festival five times a year in the same premises. One could use up three of one's five licences by making the period nine days.

Baroness Buscombe

Before the Minister sits down, I ask a question following on from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Monson. I am not convinced that the Minister gave a full reply to Amendment No. 366. The Bill states that a counter notice may be issued prohibiting an event from taking place up to 24 hours before it is due to begin. Event organisers would have to respond to a counter notice within that very short time frame. They would have to warn people coming to the event and cancel all the entertainers and performers taking part. The necessary expense would probably already have been incurred in terms of setting up the event. We are asking for an extension of that time under Amendment No. 366 from 24 hours to 72 hours. Does not the Minister agree that that is entirely reasonable?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

What happens when, two days before, the mobile homes and the motor caravans start rolling into the field?

Baroness Buscombe

We understand that the Bill seeks to liberalise laws with regard to entertainment and alcohol. The Minister expects the worse scenario. I consider that a period of 72 hours is more reasonable. I am grateful to noble Lords, in particular to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, to my noble friend Lord Colwyn and others who have contributed to the debate. This is an important aspect of the Bill. It is an area which has caused considerable concern. We have been absolutely inundated by lobbying from all kinds of organisations, associations, those who organise festivals and by people who are deeply concerned that events will be constrained in a way that they consider unreasonable. We on these Benches will consider what the Minister said in relation to our request for 30 events a year. We may reconsider that number and come back on Report with a reduced number. However, I feel strongly that five events a year is mean.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

When the noble Baroness talks to the people who have expressed their concerns to her, will she remind them that an occasional permission to sell alcohol is limited to 24 hours maximum under the present law? Will she remind them that there is no such thing as a temporary public entertainment licence under the present law? One has to apply for a full licence with all that that entails. Is not that a lot more onerous than what is proposed in the Bill? Before I sit down, I should say that I have been too helpful. One cannot run three licences back to back. There must be 24 hours between them.

Lord Crickhowell

I have to say so, having reread the clause.

Baroness Buscombe

I shall take note of what the noble Lord said in relation to current law. But here we are repealing current laws and looking at new legislation. Areas in the new legislation are causing concern. We are all doing our job of scrutinising the Bill carefully and closely to ensure that as many of those beyond the Chamber as possible are assured that the Bill will prove reasonable and will not impose too much expense and prescription on their future events. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 338 and 339 not moved.]

Clause 98 agreed to.

Clauses 99 to 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Objection to notice by the police]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 340: Page 57, line 20, leave out "crime prevention objective" and insert "licensing objectives

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 340 is consequential on Amendment No. 190, which I would have moved on Monday if I had been here and which was not moved in my absence. I recall an earlier debate to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, replied, which embraced this concept and subject, so the principle has already been discussed.

The amendment asked for wider consideration beyond merely crime prevention, considering that wider licensing objectives had been set out in Clause 4. I appreciate that the police may not be qualified to make the wider judgment, but that could be resolved by the police taking advice from the local authorities as well. The logic is contained in Amendment No. 343 likewise, which is the only one to which I shall speak. My other amendments in the group are all consequential.

Amendment No. 343 and its consequential amendments would introduce the right for an interested party or responsible authority to object to a temporary event notice. The temporary event might involve large numbers of people engaging in licensable activities in the open air, or otherwise, over what could be a three-day period. Such an event is as likely, in principle, to give rise to crime and disorder, threats to public safety, disturbance, public nuisance and potential harm to children, as a permanent licensed event. In principle, therefore, there should be the same right for interested parties to object. I beg to move.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead

I speak to Amendment No. 342 and my other amendments in the group, which are consequential.

The amendment would widen the scope of this clause from the police authorities to the relevant authorities. The title of the clause would be, Objection to notice by the relevant authorities". The intention is to widen the consideration. After all, we are passing on the responsibility for granting licences to local authorities. The right to object should be widened to include such people as the fire officer, the licensing authority and the other relevant authorities that we have discussed recently.

The consequential amendments are all in the same vein. They would widen the rights of objection, without debarring objections. Every amendment includes the reference to the police as part of the consideration.

Baroness Buscombe

The noble Lord, Lord Clarke, referred to matters that we have debated previously and which we all agree are important objectives. When a premises user wants to hold a temporary event, he has to serve a copy of the notice only on the relevant chief officer of police, who can then give an objection notice if he believes that allowing the premises to be used for the temporary event would undermine the crime prevention objective. That notice is then considered by the relevant licensing authority, which can serve a counter-notice.

The procedure ignores the other licensing objectives. It seems as if public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm is irrelevant as regards temporary events. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, would correct what appears to be a clear error, and we very much support them.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I knew that, having defended my left flank on the last group of amendments, I would have to defend my right flank on this group, but I am a little taken aback to find myself being attacked by the same people on both the left and the right flank. The last group of amendments was intended to extend the scope of temporary notices. I hope that I gave a reasonable series of reasons why it would not be wise to do so. This group of amendments would in large part nullify the temporary notice procedure. If all these other people were required to be notified and had the power to intervene, we would not have the light touch procedure for temporary notices which everybody has talked about. On Second Reading the Liberals were full of it, talking about the protection of the arts and music in this country and the arguments for not imposing a stifling bureaucracy on all these worthwhile local activities. Yet here we have the noble Lords, Lord Brooke and Lord Clarke, trying to make it much more difficult for those things to happen.

The Bill's proposal is designed to be a light touch reflecting the temporary nature of the events and the use of the premises for a temporary period. The amendments would make life difficult for a large number of people who might be running ad hoc events for charities, schools or churches. We expect them to take advantage of the simple temporary event notice system that we have designed.

Where is the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury? Why is he not here answering on my behalf? The amendments would provide for the police to consider all the licensing objectives. They would allow the fire authority to issue objection notices and would allow a licensing authority to issue counter-notices following consideration of all the licence's objectives, not just the crime prevention objectives. Is that what we want for school fetes, weddings, church fundraisers and discos in the village hall? Why should people be asked to jump through these additional hoops? There is no need to expand the number of bodies needed to scrutinise temporary event notices. There is no reason to widen the grounds. As long as the police are satisfied with the proposals and they meet the appropriate conditions on permitted limits, there should be no additional bureaucracy. I thought that that was the thrust of a large part of the argument in the early stages of our consideration in Committee.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead

My noble friend mentioned objections within the limits. The Committee has already rejected any limits on people attending such events. Is he really saying that the fire authority and the authority charged under the Bill to grant the licences are all and sundry? The licensing authority and the fire authority are essential if the comments made earlier in our Committee proceedings about public safety are to be taken seriously.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I did the opposite. I opposed an amendment that would have removed the limit of 500. I was defending a limit. I was defending the fact that temporary event notices should be available only five times in any one year in any one premises. I was defending the limit to three days. I was restricting temporary event notices to what I thought was reasonable against amendments that would have opened them up. It is only right now that I should defend temporary event notices from amendments that would make life enormously more difficult for school fetes, church events and all the other events so dear to the hearts of those who took part in the early stages of the Committee. Anybody who is concerned about the restriction to prevention of crime should bear in mind that that is a wide definition. If there were any suggestion that there was a threat to children from under-age drinking or grooming by paedophiles, that would be covered by prevention of crime. The police could intervene on those grounds. That is wide enough.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am in no way seeking to provide myself with a defence against the Minister's initial charge, but I seconded the amendment spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, in the previous grouping and I have moved the lead amendment in this group. My position has been consistent throughout. I am not sure how comfortable I have been about being consistent, but I have been consistent.

To some extent we are back to the issue of one size fits all. I hope we do not have a tragedy in one of the larger events contained within these provisions as a result of not having had tighter regulation. I am aware of the remarkable British capacity for thinking of reasons for not doing things. On the whole it is a characteristic that does us a disservice as a nation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 341 and 342 not moved.]

Clause 102 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 343 not moved.]

Clause 103 [Counter notice following police objection]:

[Amendments Nos. 344 to 353 not moved.]

Clause 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 [Modification of notice following police objection]:

[Amendments Nos. 354 to 361 not moved.]

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 [Counter notice where permitted limits exceeded]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 362: Page 59, line 16, leave out "or (4)" and insert ", (4) or (4A)

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 364, 365, 367 and 368.

It cannot be right that a person whose application for a full premises licence is refused after a hearing and for good reasons should nevertheless be permitted to operate on, say, Thursday, Friday and Saturday each week for five weeks while he waits for his appeal to be heard, or can open anyway even if no appeal is lodged. Amendments Nos. 362, 364, 365 and 367 are designed to prevent that potential abuse taking place.

Amendment No. 368 is different. Here I may be becoming inconsistent, which comes of having the responsibility of moving amendments on behalf of more than one organisation. I may be stigmatised by the noble Baroness as over-libertarian. She spoke earlier of one of my amendments being draconian. This amendment could not be accused of being Procrustean, but it has the admirable characteristic—I seek to keep a straight face; I am conscious that there is a certain inconsistency in what I am saying—of making decisions about temporary events truly local. It also has the virtue of being a great deal less complicated than Clause 105.

Because we seek to make progress, I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I ask a question about subsection (2). It is unclear to me how the licensing authority will know whether a personal licence holder has exceeded his limit of 50 temporary events a year. Will he give the Government's thinking on how that limit will be monitored? I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I said earlier that I had one group of amendments attacking me from the left flank and a second group of amendments attacking me from the right flank. Now in one group of amendments I have the same person attacking me from the left flank and the right flank simultaneously. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brooke!

Clause 105 sets out the circumstances in which a local authority must issue a counter notice; that is, the number of notices given in respect of individuals and premises. An individual who does not hold a personal licence can give five notices a year and a personal licence holder can give 50, but no more than five can be given for any one premises within a year. The answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is presumably that the licensing authority will have received and added up the number of previous notices. On whether there is a more complicated answer than that about more than one licensing authority, I shall see whether I receive an answer in time to give it to the noble Lord. If not, I shall write to him.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I thank the Minister for giving way—doing so gives someone elsewhere slightly longer to prepare an answer for him. I was going to ask precisely that question. The national implication would produce the problem.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

One route that immediately occurs to me as a way around the issue is for the applicant to have to say how many times in the same calendar year he has done that; if there is any reason to doubt it, that would be the justification for the counter notice.

Amendment No. 368 would allow a licensing authority to permit temporary events as it sees fit, having regard to the licensing objectives and its statement of licensing policy. That is local flexibility carried to its extreme—I believe that even the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, would agree—and would make the situation very difficult. Some local authorities might be more liberal than is provided for in the Bill and others might be less liberal. A charity might find itself about to do something in Nether Wallop and not in Middle Wallop if they were in different licensing authority areas. That does not appear to make good sense.

The limits set out in Clause 105 are there for a reason. There need to be safeguards to protect the system from being abused. Although it might be argued that a licensing authority has particular duties and will ensure that that does not happen, there are other more important reasons for leaving the limits in place. It is important that those who might benefit from the system know how many times they can give such notices in any one year, and can plan accordingly. They need to know how to plan their fund-raising activities, for example. They need to know whether they need to ensure that they have a personal licence holder it' they wish to sell alcohol. They need to know whether they should apply or encourage others to apply for a premises licence for a place that is used perhaps four times a year. And we need a degree of consistency throughout England and Wales.

The other amendments would prevent temporary event notices being given in respect of a premises for which an application for a premises licence had been rejected within the year. I understand the logic behind that. If the premises was not deemed suitable for a premises licence, it must be unsuitable for a temporary event notice. However, that thinking does not take account of differences in activities or the duration of the carrying on of those activities. Applications for a premises licence could be rejected for a number of different reasons and are considered necessary to promote the licensing objectives.

Unless otherwise requested, a premises licence is not time limited and the considerations will be different from those at which a one-off event takes place. For example, a premises licence could have included the intention to stage live music seven nights a week in the middle of a dense residential area. That could be refused on the grounds of public nuisance after objection. But that should not prevent an individual from seeking to arrange for a concert, a ballet troupe or an exhibition over the course of a single weekend. In any case, a temporary event notice must be copied to the police so that they can issue an objective notice if there is conflict with the crime objective. Again, what we have here falls between the objections raised but I believe that it stands up after the consideration given to it by the Committee.

6 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am sorry that Mafeking has not been relieved in terms of the answer to the 50 events. But I congratulate the Minister on producing out of his own head at least the capacity for a running total, which would obviously necessitate the honesty of the person who was keeping it.

With regard to his objections to the other amendments, after a Minister has spoken wisely and well, it is often said from these Benches that we shall take the matter away and read carefully what the Minister has said. I hope that, on this occasion, the Government might look at the hypothesis that I put. I can see nothing that would be more likely to bring the legislation into disrepute, particularly in rural areas, than if someone were refused and yet were able, within the law and in terms of how the regulations stand, to conduct such events in the interim until the next stage of the process was taken.

I do not in any way seek to press the matter on this occasion—not least because we are trying to make progress. But if the Minister were to nod his willingness to consider the matter again, I should much appreciate it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Between the Committee and Report stages of any Bill, I go to sleep with the Bill as amended in Committee under my pillow.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I think that it must make for an uncomfortable pillow, but that is a matter of great reassurance. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 363 to 368 not moved.]

Clause 105 agreed to.

Clauses 106 to 108 agreed to.

Clause 109 [Personal licence]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 369: Page 62, line 14, after "alcohol" insert "or provide regulated entertainment

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 369, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 415 and 416. It will be nice to reach the 400s. Clause 109, as drafted, provides a definition of "personal licences". It includes only licences permitting an individual to sell alcohol by retail or to supply alcohol by, or on behalf of, a club. These are two of the activities defined as "licensable activities" under Clauses 1(1)(a) and 1(1)(b) of the Bill. However, paragraph (c) of Clause 1(1) also provides for, the provision of regulated entertainment", to be a licensable activity.

The definition of "personal licences" under Clause 109 should be extended to include persons providing regulated entertainment. The provision of regulated entertainment is a licensable activity and therefore should be regulated under the provisions relating to personal licences.

The current definition of a "personal licence" would not provide for a licence to be required by a person providing discos for young teenagers where no alcohol is supplied. There would therefore be no effective regulation of the people supplying such services, although they could conceivably hold convictions for offences such as indecent assault.

The definition of "regulated entertainment" at paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 contains various examples of other activities which would not necessarily involve the sale of alcohol on the premises and which may be attended by children and young people who are possibly unaccompanied.

Requiring personal licences only for the sale of alcohol implies that the licensing objectives are less important when alcohol is not sold. Yet the risk of crime, disorder, safety and the protection of children is equally important in the provision of entertainment where no alcohol is sold. The amendments to Clause 133 are consequential on the amendment to Clause 109. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

As the noble Baroness has indicated, the amendments seek to extend the personal licence provisions in the Bill. The Bill provides that individuals who supply alcohol or are responsible for the supply of alcohol must have a personal licence. The amendments take a step towards requiring individuals who provide public entertainment or late-night refreshment to have a personal licence.

In the Government's view such a step would involve creating a substantial new burden on business which is quite unnecessary. The personal licence arrangements set out in the Bill are based on the clear proposition that particular care is needed to ensure that individuals who supply alcohol are fit and proper to do so. The personal licence provides that assurance.

Experience has taught us that there are risks associated with the commercial supply of alcohol—drunkenness, disorder, exploitation and excess— which it is prudent to control by ensuring that those undertaking the supply are honest and competent. No human activity is free from risk, but in our view the risks associated with the provision of public entertainment or late-night refreshment without alcohol are not so great that a system of personal vetting is needed. The difference reflects the difference in the nature of what is provided. Entertainment or late-night refreshment can be associated with disorder, nuisance or other problems if not properly conducted or controlled, but the activities themselves are not problematic.

In contrast, alcohol is a substance that, as well as causing pleasure, is potentially hazardous to health and rapidly changes the way in which people behave. It is not reasonable to place all the activities covered by the Bill on the same level, which is the burden of the amendments. If we conceded that anyone providing any form of public entertainment, say a folk song recital, had to have a personal licence, where would matters end? Everyone would need a personal licence to carry on any trade or related activity.

To give the local authority a discretion to waive such a requirement, as I recognise that Amendment No. 370 envisages, is no solution. There is no reasonable basis for exercising it and there would be groundless inconsistency across the nation if such an amendment were accepted. The effect would be a needless distortion of competition across the land. I recognise the intentions behind the amendment but I do not believe that people involved in those other activities that are licensable under the Bill are involved in the same kind of activities as those who sell or provide alcohol. That is why I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Redesdale

Before the noble Lord sits down, I apologise for not being in my place at the beginning of the debate on this amendment. He has raised the point about a personal licence for a folk song recital and I have been waiting for a relevant amendment on which to raise an issue.

While we have been dealing with the rights of people to carry on entertainment, such as folk singers' performances and the like, there has been correspondence between the Minister in another place, Dr Kim Howells, and the Human Rights Joint Committee. Recently Dr Howells replied to the Joint Committee. In considering how to take forward future amendments to the Bill, it would help noble Lords greatly if a copy of that reply could be placed in the Library. I understand that the reply sent to the Joint Committee has not been made publicly available. If it were placed in the Library that would help considerably.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I was shuddering in my seat as the noble Lord rose to his feet. I thought he was bringing in a dimension for which I was singularly ill-briefed to cope as an addition to the amendment. But I understand that he has taken the opportunity of asking for additional and proper information. I shall take steps to see that that is done.

Baroness Buscombe

In response to the Minister, first, I support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. In recent days, we have been lobbied at some length regarding that matter. It is clear that there is a serious issue regarding human rights that we shall all have to consider with care between now and on Report.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 369, 415 and 416, I am, as the Minister knows, concerned about the possibility of unaccompanied children being allowed to enter all kinds of premises without restriction. That is a possibility. I shall not say that it will happen because I am sure that in many circumstances the owners, managers or directors of various organisations in charge of these various licensed premises will not necessarily want to admit children. But there will be situations in which it is possible. Indeed, the Government seem intent on liberalising alcohol laws and viewing them in the same light as entertainment. Lumping together entertainment and alcohol is a real problem, in particular in relation to children and young people.

I shall consider the issue with much care between now and Report. I hope that the Minister will as well. I do not understand why we must have the possibility of unrestricted and unaccompanied access by children of any age to all those licensed premises included in the Bill, whether lap-dancing clubs or a folksong recital. The Bill encompasses a huge breadth of different types of premises. The Government should consider with care the possibilities to which this could lead.

In dealing with a previous amendment, the Minister referred to the possibility of grooming by paedophiles. We appreciate that the Government have been considering that matter and the possibility of legislation in relation to paedophiles grooming children on the Internet. Incidentally, we asked for such legislation three years ago in relation to the Criminal Justice and Police Act. Why are the Government giving these opportunities to paedophiles and others in the Bill? I cannot understand that. It is an issue that adds a considerable burden to the entertainment industry, which it could well do without.

I heard what the Minister said. I am not satisfied. However, for today, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 370 not moved.]

Clause 109 agreed to.

Clause 110 [The relevant licensing authority]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 370A: Page 62, line 21, leave out "which granted the licence" and insert "where the personal licence holder is normally resident or where the personal licence holder is registered as the premises supervisor.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is almost self-explanatory. It allows a personal licence holder to apply to the authority where he is resident. The issue refers to an earlier debate we had at some length about personal licence holders and which authority they should register with.

We have a problem with the fact that someone in Newcastle can apply for a personal licence, be granted it for his first pub, and then perhaps move to London, but he would still have to deal with the licensing authorities in Newcastle. We have discussed the idea of a central register that could deal with the entirety of the subject. The Government have shown that they are unwilling to accede to that, so we advance on the assumption that it would be good for personal licence holders to be able to deal with the local authority in which they are based. That would make the paper trail a good deal less burdensome, especially if licensees had been managers of several different venues since they first received the licence. That would make the system more streamlined and acceptable.

I was discussing the Bill with members of the industry, and they said if they found that one local authority was far more efficient at dealing with personal licences, managers might move people lo an area for a couple of weeks so that they could say that that was their local area and receive their original personal licence there. A central office of a beer group could then deal with one office and with people whom it knew. We might realistically end up with one authority that had several pub company headquarters located in its area dealing with a disproportionate number of personal licence holders, just because it would be more convenient for the pub companies to deal with one authority.

It is a logical and simple step to provide that personal licence holders should be able to deal with their local authority—not a local authority based up to 400 miles away. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe

In this group, I shall speak to the Question whether Clause 110 stand part of the Bill and Amendments Nos. 388, 396, 402, 403 and 405. On the second day of Committee, I broached the topic of personal licences when I discussed whether there should be some form of central authority to handle them. I do not intend to press that point again, but I shall briefly reiterate one issue that has prompted me to oppose the Question that Clause 110 stand part of the Bill and to table the amendments.

Clause 110 states: For the purposes of this Part the 'relevant licensing authority', in relation to a personal licence, is the licensing authority which granted the licence". If the holder of a personal licence moves from, say, Cornwall to Leeds, the relevant licensing authority will still be the local authority down in Truro and all the information about the individual's personal licence must be processed through Truro, not Leeds. I am sure that the Committee will agree that the relevant authority for a personal licence should change as the holder of the licence changes his residential location. That is only common sense.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful for the way in which noble Lords have presented the amendments. I am unable to accept them, but I recognise that they are advanced in a constructive vein to solve a problem, and I shall seek to explain why the Government have a slightly different perspective on the question of the efficiency with which we can discharge obligations on personal licences.

As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, the lead amendment would give responsibility to the licensing authority for the area in which someone applying for the grant or renewal of a personal licence lives, or where a person is supervising premises on which alcohol is supplied. We have no strong quarrel with what I take to be the aim of the amendment. However, it is not necessary. For the sake of the efficiency of the system, it is desirable to have one licensing authority for personal licences and their renewal. The question is how we guarantee that there is one authority to do that.

The amendment is unnecessary because Clause 115(2) already makes it clear that an applicant who is ordinarily resident in the area of one licensing authority must apply to that authority for the grant of a personal licence. It will be the relevant licensing authority for all time in respect of that personal licence and will be the authority to which applications for renewal must be made. We do not want applicants shopping around for personal licences—I am not sure that the noble Lord would want it either—even though the Bill provides for a common standard. The reference in the amendment to registration as premises supervisor is also unnecessary. By virtue of Clause 19, the premises supervisor must already hold a valid personal licence if alcohol may be supplied on the premises concerned.

The other problem with the noble Lord's amendment is that it appears to assume that all applicants for a personal licence will live in the area of a licensing authority—that is, in England and Wales. I have no doubt that the vast majority will, but some will live in other parts of the United Kingdom and some in other parts of the European Union. Provision must be made for them as well.

The Earl of Onslow

Why does someone living in Aix-la-Chapelle need a personal licence to run a pub? He does not need it. It has nothing to do with the licensing authority in Truro. As I understood it, the noble Lord said that some applicants may live in other parts of the European Union, but they need the licence to run a pub in Leeds or Truro, not in Aix-la-Chapelle.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Someone may live in Paris and run a licensed establishment in London. The place that someone gives as their place of residence may be some distance from the licensed premises. Not all publicans live above the pub, although some do. In fact, the noble Earl is probably reflecting the fact that in all the hostelries that he visits—as I do—the publican lives on the premises. However, we are talking about a wider range than that.

We must be able to ensure that there is a personal licence for everybody involved in the trade. We want one location in which someone can acquire a licence, and we want that location to remain valid for them. We must avoid the problem with the constant mobility of people applying for licences.

Lord Redesdale

I take the Minister's point on board. He has strengthened the argument that I wished to get across, which was that, when someone initially applies for a licence, there is nothing to say that they have been a permanent resident in the area for just two weeks. Someone could turn up in whatever local authority area they wished and apply for a personal licence. Someone working for a particular group of pubs may be required to apply for a personal licence in a particular authority's area, so that everyone is dealing with the same authority, which causes fewer difficulties. Many pub companies will have pubs throughout the country, but they may ask their trainees to register for a personal licence in a certain authority area.

The issue has not been addressed by the Bill. The permanent residence test is not very difficult. Someone need be there for only a couple of weeks and say that they are a permanent resident to register for the personal licence. It will cost some authorities more than others if some pub companies decide to register a vast number of their personal licences in one authority area. That will create disproportionate costs for that local authority.

The Earl of Onslow

Obviously I am being stupid. I cannot understand. If I have a licence which says that I, Michael Onslow, is capable of running a pub—I accept that any local authority which gave me that licence should be struck off, but that is altogether a different issue—that licence runs out after 10 years. I used to work in Truro. I now work in Scunthorpe. Why cannot I say to the Scunthorpe people, "Here is my old licence. I am of good character, I have not gone down the drain, and I am still capable of running a pub. Please will you renew the licence"? That seems eminently sensible and easy. With modern communications, the information goes on a computer database and everyone knows who you are. That is not asking for anything complicated. The Inland Revenue computer is seriously complicated. But that action seems perfectly sensible.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I agree with the noble Earl that that is not excessively complicated but neither is the system we propose. On starting out in the trade one takes out a personal licence in the area in which one lives. What is complicated about having to go back to that area for the renewal of the licence? It is right that modern communications facilitate mobility. But, by the same token, modern communications make it easy for a person in Newcastle to apply to Truro—from which he obtained his original licence—for renewal, against the guarantee that he meets the requirements specified in the Bill for the granting of the licence.

We seek to keep the system as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible. We are on the same wavelength. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and I seek to provide the least complicated system possible. Over a period of time people will need to renew personal licences. I had hoped to convince the noble Earl that I have to take into account those people who do not live in English or Welsh local authority areas which come within the purview of the Bill. We have to have a structure which makes due allowance for those people.

The noble Earl will recognise that we all apply for documents from outside our area every day of the week. One thinks of a driving licence, passport, or almost any other document one needs. One is lucky if the local authority provides it. Even if it is the local authority, one is lucky to regard that as inherently a better service than elsewhere.

For simplicity, insisting that a person obtains the first licence from his local authority area if he lives in an English or Welsh local authority licensing area and goes back to that base when wishing to renew that licence seems to make eminent sense. It is the basis on which the Bill is constructed.

The Earl of Onslow

I have a firearms licence and have a shotgun licence. I live at home. The Surrey constabulary deal with it. If I were to move to Leicestershire or Yorkshire and had to renew my firearms licence or shotgun certificate, I should have to renew it with the Leicestershire or Yorkshire constabulary. I do not say that one should not renew with Truro as opposed to Scunthorpe. But if you live in Scunthorpe why cannot you renew the licence in Scunthorpe as opposed to having to travel or write to Truro? My suggestion seems sensible and easy. It is the simple solution. The Government have put forward the complicated one. That is all I suggest.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The Government will have to take that castigation from the noble Earl. I have no doubt that it will not be the worst castigation we receive from him in the next few months. We take a different view on that particular matter.

The remaining amendments in this group introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raise a similar issue. They require the licensing authority, when dealing with an application for the grant or renewal of a personal licence, or some issue relating to the continuation of the licence, to refer the issue to the police force for the area in which the individual concerned is living. Members of the Committee will appreciate from my earlier remarks that the effect of Clause 115(2) will generally already be the position. Where an applicant is, at the time of the application, living outside the United Kingdom, these amendments will put the licensing authority dealing with his or her application in some difficulty. It would mean that the local authority would have to deal with a foreign police force.

The more sensible procedure—the one laid down by the Bill as drafted for cases such as these—is that the licensing authority should refer the application to its own local police force so that it can be responsible for pursuing any necessary inquiries on a police to police basis. Generally, I do not believe that licensing and local authorities would welcome such an obligation; namely, to contact police forces which may be a considerable distance away or potentially outside the United Kingdom.

I do not believe that these amendments will improve the Bill. It might be argued that Amendment No. 405 caters for the case in which someone holds a personal licence from one licensing authority, moves to a different part of the country and commits an offence. This is a judgment on balance. We recognise that there is not much between us on these issues, and we believe that it is best to have a clear relationship between one licensing authority, one personal licence holder and one police force. If authorities have to deal with a whole range of police forces, it will be a recipe for confusion and there will be a risk of a breakdown in communication. It is better that police forces communicate with each other using the well-established channels for that purpose, than that local authorities take on that particular burden, it is on that basis that I hope noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Redesdale

Before I withdraw the amendment, I should like to ask one question, not to delay the Committee, but as a matter of clarification so that we do not have to bring this matter back at a later stage. I am concerned that, at an earlier stage, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that one of the reasons for not having a central register was that there could be an issue of appeals; namely, that a central register could not deal with appeals. They would be dealt with by local licensing authorities. I may have completely misunderstood the situation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I made two points regarding a central register. First, yes, we might work towards a central register. It was proposed that there should be one immediately, but that would cause unnecessary delay. Secondly, a central register would not replace local registers because a central registration authority would not be able to hear appeals.

Lord Redesdale

I thank the noble Lord for that answer. He said that we regularly deal with organisations that are based all over the country or, in some cases, are not in this country at all. Therefore, the preferred option would be a central register. I thank the noble Lord for his answers. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 110 agreed to.

Clause 111 agreed to.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 371: After Clause 111, insert the following new clause—

"MEANING OF "SERIOUS OFFENCE" (1) In this Part "serious offence" means a relevant offence to which subsection (2) applies and in respect of which a custodial sentence of at least 30 months was imposed. (2) The relevant offences to which this subsection applies are—

  1. (a) any sexual offence, within the meaning of section 161(2) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (interpretation),
  2. (b) any violent offence, within the meaning of section 161(3) of that Act,
  3. (c) any relevant offence under the Theft Act 1968 (c. 60) or the Theft Act 1978 (c. 31), and
  4. (d) any relevant offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (c. 45).
(3) In subsection (2) "custodial sentence" has the same meaning as in section 76 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (meaning of "custodial sentence").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 371, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 375, 384, 386 and 387, 390, 393, 395, 397 and 398, 400, 406 to 409, 411 and 412 to 414.

Clause 118 makes various provisions regarding an application for a personal licence. A licensing authority must grant the application if, the applicant is aged 18 or over … he possesses a licensing qualification … no personal licence held by him has been forfeited in [the previous] five years … and … he has not been convicted of any relevant offence or any foreign offence".

If those conditions are satisfied, the licensing authority must grant the application. There is no discretion in the matter. That is the case, even if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the granting of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective.

That cannot be right. If the chief officer of police is satisfied that the granting of a licence would undermine the crime prevention objective, we on these Benches feel that it is essential that the licensing authority should consider the chief officer's views. The licensing authority can always reject his views, but at the very least it should consider them. The chief officer must, therefore, be given notice of any application for a personal licence so that he can then form a view as to whether or not the granting of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective.

We also feel that if an applicant for, or the holder of, a personal licence has been convicted of a serious offence, the application for a personal licence should be dismissed or the personal licence should be forfeited.

The Bill as drafted merely provides that where the applicant or the holder of a personal licence is convicted of a relevant offence—which would include a "serious offence"—the licensing authority must notify the chief officer of police, who then has to form a view as to whether or not the granting of the licence or the continuation of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. If he forms such a view, he must then give the licensing authority an objection notice, which is then considered by the authority.

We on these Benches feel that as regards serious offences the application for a personal licence should be dismissed, or the personal licence should be forfeited. As to what we mean by a "serious offence", we have had regard to subsections (2) and (3) in Clause 112, which make a distinction as regards certain specific offences; namely, any sexual offence …any violent offence … any relevant offence under the Theft Act 1968 … and … any relevant offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981".

The distinction made in the clause is between convictions where an offender is sentenced to either more or less than 30 months' imprisonment. Under the Bill as drafted, if an applicant for a personal licence is convicted of such an offence but is not sentenced to more than 30 months, the conviction is disregarded and, if all the other conditions are satisfied, the licensing authority must grant the application.

We find that extraordinary. We feel that if an applicant has been convicted of one of these specific offences, at the very least the chief office of police should be entitled to object. If a sentence of more than 30 months has been imposed, the application should be dismissed. We can see no justification whatever for the view that someone convicted of such a serious offence and sentenced to more than 30 months' imprisonment should be a suitable person to hold a personal licence.

We have also provided for a change in the burden of proof where the applicant or the holder of a personal licence has been found guilty of a relevant offence. We believe that the burden of proof should be on him to satisfy the authority that the crime prevention objective would not be undermined by the application being granted or the licence not being revoked.

I regret to say that in formulating the test that the burden of proof is on the applicant or the holder of the licence it has been necessary to use double and triple negatives—which we feel state the test correctly, but which also mean that the relevant subsections require very careful reading. We should be grateful for any improvements to the drafting which could be considered on Report. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I support these amendments. I shall speak briefly to Amendment No. 371, which seeks to insert a new clause—"Meaning of `serious offence"—in order to make clear the importance that we place on these offences. They should be included in the Bill. Amendment No. 375 seeks to delete the subsections which refer to the fact that a relevant offence must be disregarded if a custodial sentence of at least 30 months is not imposed, and then go on to list, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, the relevant offences. We seek to insert what constitutes a "serious offence" in the proposed new clause at Amendment No. 371.

As to Amendment No. 384, ACPO has provided me with a briefing. In regard to criminal convictions it states: We would like to see a more robust system for ensuring that those individuals with criminal convictions of a type which indicate that they should not be involved in the running of licensed premises, are excluded, There should be a police right to object to the grant of both a personal and a premises licence". In a longer briefing note, ACPO goes on to state: We have serious concerns over the issue of personal licences to those individuals with certain convictions … As a general observation we would contend that there should be certain offences or a category of offence which ought to disqualify a person from obtaining a personal licence for the period that the conviction remains unspent. We do not believe that the Licensing Authority should have the discretion to grant a personal licence in respect of such offences". Finally, ACPO states that, we believe that the Licensing Authority ought to be under an obligation to consult the police in respect of every applicant for a personal licence and that the police should have the right, in exceptional circumstances and based upon the licensing objectives, to object to the grant of a licence to that individual". Those are the substantive parts of many of the amendments so ably referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. We support these amendments.

Lord Redesdale

I shall speak to Amendment No. 414A, which is grouped with these amendments, it is a probing amendment which seeks to establish whether the Government agree that once the offences listed on the licence are spent they should be removed from the licence on application by the personal licence holder. It seems unfair that minor offences which would not discount a personal licence holder from holding a personal licence should remain on the licence for a long period of time. If the offences are relevant perhaps they should remain on the licence. But do the Government believe that certain offences should have time limitations and at certain points should be removed from the licence?

Baroness Blackstone

Under the present arrangements the licensing justices operate a somewhat subjective test of whether a licensee is a fit and proper person. In the Bill we define more objectively the circumstances in which the licensing authority must refer an application to the police to ascertain whether they have objections. The proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that all applications for personal licences should be notified to the police has overtones of the rather vague "fit and proper person" test that the Bill seeks to replace with a more objective and transparent system, with clear criteria for qualification for a personal licence.

When we published the White Paper we said that we would look at objections in the case of serious offences. There has been a great deal of debate on how to define "serious offences". The drift of Amendment No. 371 —most of the remainder of the amendments are consequential—and Amendment No. 375 is to include in the relevant offences crimes for which people receive short sentences. That would make it more difficult for people convicted of less serious offences to obtain personal licences. It is important to emphasise that we did not simply dream up a list of what we thought were serious offences. The list of offences was prepared in consultation with the stakeholders, including the police, and was cleared with ACPO as containing all the appropriate offences.

Our consultations with the police led us to make a distinction between offences attracting a custodial penalty of 30 months or more involving dishonesty, violence or a sexual element, and those attracting a lesser sentence. In the case of someone sentenced to fewer than 30 months, the conviction would not trigger a reference to the police. I do not claim that it is easy to decide where to draw the line between more and less serious offences. To some extent, any line is bound to be arbitrary.

The principle underlying the provisions of the Bill as it now stands is simple. On the one hand, we recognise that the possession of a personal licence puts its holder in a position of some responsibility. It is, therefore, important that the licensing authority should be able to decide, in the light of police advice, whether someone with a serious criminal record is or is not suitable to carry out that responsibility. On the other hand, we ought not to exaggerate the dangers and provide for all offences to trigger a reference to the police. The amendments would mean, for example, that anyone convicted of any offence involving dishonesty, for however short a period, which had not yet been spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, would risk being unable to obtain a personal licence. Someone already in possession of a personal licence would run the risk of having it revoked. Anyone convicted of an offence—shoplifting, for example—would be in that position, even if punished by no more than a fine.

We accept that, where the offence is serious, as reflected in the sentence passed by the courts, a question arises about whether a person should be a licence holder. But not all offences covered by these amendments are necessarily serious. The licensed trade certainly needs responsible people. But it is unrealistic to regard it as suitable only for those without a stain or blemish of any kind on their character. However, I recognise the strength of feeling of both noble Baronesses about the issue. I am ready to make a commitment to look at it again and consider whether a licensing authority should be able to refer to the police an application for the grant or renewal of a personal licence by someone who has been convicted of a relevant sexual or violent offence or one involving dishonesty, even where the applicant received a custodial sentence of less than 30 months. With that assurance, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Amendment No. 393 and its consequentials raise points related to the grant or rejection of a personal licence where there has been a conviction for a relevant offence. The licensing authority, when considering the objection notice from the police, must reject the application or the renewal if—and only if—it considers it necessary for the promotion of the crime prevention objective. These amendments would change the basis upon which the licensing authority undertakes its function in this respect. First, there would be a duty on it to be satisfied about the matter. Secondly, the test would be whether granting the application might undermine the crime prevention objective.

The primary duty in the Bill is on licensing authorities to carry out their functions with a view to promoting the licensing objectives. These amendments would introduce a different assessment to be made by the licensing authority where it does not have the expertise to reach an independent view. Our intention is to have a transparent judgment based on previous convictions where the police have given their expert view to the authority, and then to empower the authority to reject applications where there is good reason to do so. This is an assessment that the licensing authority can make having held a hearing on the police objections. But they need input from the police.

Amendment No. 414A tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, would place on licensing authorities a new duty to respond to any requests from a personal licence holder to remove information about a spent conviction. At first glance the amendment does not seem unreasonable. I recognise that it is a probing amendment, but it is unnecessary and would add bureaucracy to the personal licensing arrangements.

Under Clause 112 a conviction for a relevant offence must be disregarded if it is spent. If there is a conviction during the validity of a licence, that conviction in due course becomes spent. It follows that when the licence holder comes to renew the licence, the authority must disregard the conviction. I hope that that answers the question that has been asked. In the light of what I have said, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her reply. However, we are not happy with it. Clearly, there is a strong difference of opinion here as regards how important it is to ensure that those in charge of licensed premises are utterly responsible. Publicans are regarded as upstanding members of the community. It is tremendously important seriously to confront these issues in relation to the crime prevention objective.

We are concerned that a licensing authority must grant an application if the applicant is over 18, possesses a relevant qualification, no personal licence previously held by him has been forfeited in the previous five years and he has not been convicted of any relevant offence or foreign offence. However, there is no discretion there. We believe strongly that there should be discretion.

We are grateful to the Minister for agreeing to reconsider issues in relation to serious offences. We believe strongly that if an applicant or the holder of a personal licence is convicted of a serious offence, that person's application should be dismissed outright or the personal licence should be forfeited. We do not believe that the gravity of the offence should be examined by a licensing authority.

The hour is late and we are determined to progress as far as possible this evening. I shall read with care what the Minister said. There are other issues in relation to the burden of proof on which I am not satisfied with the Minister's response. However, as I say, we shall read her remarks with care. I suspect that we shall return forcefully to this matter on Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 4 [Personal licence: relevant offences]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 372: Page 115, line 35, at end insert— An offence under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12).

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 372, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 373 and 374. There is a single principle involved with different applications.

Despite the fact that the licensing objectives in subsection (2) of Clause 4 include public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm, the definition of "relevant offences" in Schedule 4 does not include offences under the Environmental Protection Act, offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act or offences in relation to the protection of children from harm. Accordingly, any number of convictions of a personal licence holder for breaching noise nuisance notices served upon him under the Environmental Protection Act—constituency Members of Parliament will know how relatively weak that Act is as an amulet against noise nuisance, especially out of doors—or any number of convictions for offences resulting in the endangering of his customers or staff under health and safety legislation are, under the Bill, simply not relevant to whether or not he should be granted or allowed to retain a personal licence. These amendments are intended to rectify that omission. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

The schedule includes two categories of offences. First, there are offences under licensing law or relating to the proper conduct of licensed premises. If someone is convicted of such an offence, it is an issue for the licensing authority. Secondly, there are serious offences under general criminal law, including offences involving dishonesty, violence, or sexual offences. Here, too, it makes sense for the licensing authority to consider whether the individual convicted of such an offence is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

Although unsuitable people should not own or run licensed premises, I fear that the amendments would go too far and could catch people who would be perfectly suitable. So far as offences under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 are concerned, Schedule 4 already covers sexual and violent offences.

The same issue of relevance applies to health and safety and environmental nuisance offences, including excessive noise offences. Let us suppose that someone has in the past run an engine repair workshop and been punished for failing to comply with an abatement notice in respect of dust and fumes coming out of his workshop. If he subsequently decides that he wants to run a pub, why should the previous conviction, which the court might have regarded as a relatively minor matter, be relevant?

The amendments would take Schedule 4 far beyond its proper purpose. The objectives in the Bill that the schedule supports supply a reasonably precise test as to whether someone is a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The amendments would make the test much more vague and therefore less satisfactory and would expose people to a form of double jeopardy, which is disproportionate to the risk to the public.

In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

In principle, I am desirous of fulfilling the Minister's expectation.

However, this is another occasion on which the legislation is in some danger of being brought into disrepute. I understand the Minister's arguments but, given the four licensing objectives, if relevant evidence in any of the three categories to which I referred is to be disregarded, despite being clearly unconducive to good order, the legislation is in danger of falling into disrepute. That is a particular danger if anything went wrong in any of those three categories.

It is a probing amendment. We may need to return to the matter later, but I understand the Minister's arguments and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 373 and 374 not moved.]

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 112 [Meaning of "conviction']:

[Amendment No. 375 not moved.]

Clause 112 agreed to.

Clause 113 [Period of validity of personal licence]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 376: Page 63, line 10, leave out "ten" and insert "five

The noble Lord said: I shall also speak to Amendment No. 377, which is consequential on Amendment No. 376.

Under the Bill, the grant of a personal licence is "automatic", provided that the applicant is, aged 18 or over … possesses a licensing qualification … no personal licence held by him has been forfeited … and … he has not been convicted of any relevant offence".

I recognise, as I did on one occasion this morning, that my amendment may be subjective. However, I aver, as I did this morning, that given the qualifications that I have just quoted, a 10-year period over which a personal licence has effect should be reduced to five years. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The noble Lord was kind enough to say that his suggestion of five years was a subjective judgment. All judgments on length of time on such issues must have an element of subjectivity. We do not see any significant advantage in reducing the period of validity for a personal licence from 10 years to five. The Bill requires the holder to notify the licensing authority of any change in their name and address and if they have been convicted of any relevant offences or foreign offences during the period of validity of the licence. Any failure to do so would be an offence. The ability to check and keep control of the proper fitness of the licence holder to enjoy the benefits of that licence is safeguarded.

Reducing the period of validity, as the noble Lord suggests, would put an additional burden on law-abiding personal licence holders. In addition, it would increase the administrative burdens on the licensing authority. The noble Lord will see that a major theme in the Bill is keeping such burdens to a minimum. I hope he recognises that we have some justification in resisting his amendment, which I ask him to withdraw.

Lord Avebury

The noble Lord says that the licence holder has to notify the licensing authority of any relevant convictions that may be sustained during the period of operation of the licence. How will the licensing authority know if he fails to do that? Somebody holding a personal licence could simply ignore the obligation that the noble Lord has mentioned, even though he is committing a criminal offence by doing so. He may think it is worth his while not to notify the licensing authority so that he can continue with his job.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The noble Lord is asking how we deal with those who take risks in breaking the law when we have not been able to identify that the law has been broken. Of course the operation of the licensing activity is meant to be properly regulated. If he failed to convey the information to the licensing authority and therefore effectively forfeited his right to be a licence holder but was still continuing in the premises, anything untoward that occurred on those premises that might occasion the interest and activity of the police or the licensing authority would put him in very severe jeopardy.

We have to recognise that people will sometimes take risks when they think there will be a material advantage to them. We have a valid and viable structure in place in the industry that we believe will guarantee that those who participate in it are proper holders of licences. Any attempt on their part to lake risks in these terms would be a serious thing to do. Although the offender has an obligation to convey the information, the court also has the information and would bring to the attention of the licensing authority the fact that an offence had been committed of a significance that fell within the purview of the authority. The licence holder who commits the offence will be mindful of the fact that others are all too well aware that it has been committed.

Lord Avebury

The offence might be committed in the area of another licensing authority and might have nothing to do with his functions as the holder of a personal licence. For example, he might be convicted of shoplifting somewhere remote from the area in which he is operating as the holder of a personal licence.

Lord Davies of Oldham

If it is an appropriate offence, the court will be aware of the fact that the person before it holds some trust from the community, namely that he holds a licence. Therefore, steps would be taken to ensure that the authority was notified.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

The Minister recognised that I accepted that I was being subjective. He said that I was being subjective about "five", but I was actually being subjective about "ten". As I had to be subjective about something else instead, I was then subjective about "five".

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his intervention, which seemed extremely pertinent. If someone commits an offence after his personal licence is two years old and does not have to renew it until he has held it for 10 years, he has eight years still to hold it, admittedly with considerable risk attached at the end of that time. Nevertheless, he may well think that eight years is a better bet. If he has only three years to go he may take a different view. I agree that that is also subjective and conjecture. So that we can make progress at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 377 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 378: Page 63, line 21, leave out "And

The noble Baroness said: This is a small but important point. Something seems to have gone wrong with the drafting. When I was at school, we did not begin sentences with the word "And", and I hope that we are not going to start now. I beg to move.

Lord Monson

Although I was probably at school long before the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I am afraid that I often start sentences with "And" in letters, articles and so on. If I were to write a book, I would probably do so in that. However, I do not think it seemly in an Act of Parliament. The word is also quite unnecessary, as it does not add anything to the clause. Like the noble Baroness, I am at a loss to understand how it has found its way into the Bill.

Lord Davies of Oldham

We recognise the contributions of both Members of the Committee and how helpful they have been in making the Bill more felicitous in its drafting. However, the "And" is there for a reason. It may be infelicitous, but I will not have it removed.

The word "And" is in its place to differentiate those events that would bring the period of validity of a personal licence permanently to an end—forfeiture or revocation—from those that would result in its temporary suspension. The offending "And" does a job, I am afraid. I stand subject to criticism if the drafting is less felicitous than it ought to be, but I shall not accept the amendment, as it would remove a crucial part of the subsection.

Baroness Buscombe

I want to offer a couple of alternatives. Could we not try under subsection (3), "A personal licence ceases to have effect when it is revoked under section 122 or forfeited under section 127; and"? Could we not have a comma there instead of a semicolon and continue, "and (4) a personal licence does not have effect"? Could we try beginning subsection (4), "In addition, a personal licence does not have effect during any period"?

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monson. The drafting shows an unseemly disregard for grammar. I am disappointed, because I do not believe that the Minister has given a good reply. There is no good substantive reason to use such appalling grammar, but he remains seated.

Lord Davies of Oldham

No. I need the noble Baroness to give way before I can intervene. I could not afford to be both rude and incompetent on this issue. If the noble Baroness presses the issue, and if more felicitous phraseology can be found, particularly if it involves the use of the often derided semi-colon and would improve things, we should certainly consider it.

Viscount Falkland

I have a group of schoolchildren coming very soon to the House and I was going to show them the Bill as an example of how we worked. However, now that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has pointed out this inelegant usage, which would make Fowler—of Fowler's English Usage—turn in his grave, perhaps it is not a good example because it uses such clumsy syntax. I am sorry to see the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, shaking his head; I look upon him as something of a cultural icon in this place.

Baroness Buscombe

I should neither add to nor detract from that. I thank the Minister for his reply and for agreeing to revisit the grammar. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 113 agreed to.

Clause 114 agreed to.

Clause 115 [Application for grant or renewal of personal licence]:

[Amendment No. 379 not moved.]

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 380: Page 64, line 2, at end insert— ( ) An application for the grant or renewal of a personal licence must be accompanied by a list of licensed premises at which the applicant has been employed, or in respect of which he has played a part in the management in the five years preceding the application.

The noble Lord said: Under the Bill as it is currently drafted, applications for a personal licence are made to the licensing authority in the area in which the applicant is ordinarily resident. In the absence of a centralised, computerised database of personal licence holders, the licensing authority in those circumstances may have little or no information about the applicant or his qualifications and experience. The amendment would ensure that an applicant was required to disclose the licensed premises at which he has been employed or in respect of which he has played a part in the management in the five years preceding the application.

I point out that the pub in our hamlet in Wiltshire was rated the best pub in Wiltshire two years ago and has been rated the second-best in the county for the past two years. However, its management has changed four or five times during the eight years that we have been its customers. Its reputation is such as to bestow glory and credit on anyone who has managed it. I do not in any way suggest discredit. That is an index of how rapid mobility is in the trade. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 383, which deals with a "fit and proper person". I again refer briefly to an ACPO briefing. It states: We have significant concerns over the way in which it is proposed that the 'criminal element' is prevented from becoming involved in the licensed and public entertainment trade and using the opportunities which these businesses afford to further their illicit pursuits. We recognise that the 'fit and proper' test is no longer appropriate within a modern system of regulation, however, its replacement must operate as effectively". I have also received notification from the North Yorkshire Magistrates' Courts Service, which sent: me a copy of the good practice guide of the Justices' Clerks' Society, which refers to "fit and proper" persons. It states: The form is completed by the applicant for a licence and handed in to the court. This is then used as the basis on which magistrates ask questions to establish his/her fitness. The Justices' Clerks' Society has recently suggested that the form should be amended to make it clear that the applicant need not refer to convictions which are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974". I am of course very happy about that. It goes on: In addition to the pro-forma, the magistrates will also usually have available a report from the local Police Licensing Officer setting out the result of the Police's enquiries into the applicant's background". At Second Reading I said that, having been a former licensing magistrate some years ago—I declare that—we took very seriously the fitness of an applicant when trying to determine whether a person was suitable to hold a licence.

I shall give the Committee an idea of the kind of questions that we were looking at. The criteria for the granting of a justices' licence were: the age and experience in the licence trade; the training that was undertaken or proposed to be undertaken and any qualifications arising therefrom; the character of the applicant; knowledge and understanding of the licensing law; knowledge and understanding of any conditions and undertakings to which the licence may be subject; an expressed intention in the case of a protection order that the applicant intends to apply for the transfer of a licence; an assurance that the applicant is not in any way disqualified from holding a licence; and that the applicant exercises effective control and supervision over the premises. Those are the criteria which we used as licensing magistrates and which I hope will be used in the future. I very much hope that the Minister is able to address that matter in his response.

In Amendment No. 383A we seek to shorten the time limit to three years from the five years proposed. Where the clause states, no personal licence held by him has been forfeited in the period of five years ending with the day the application was made", we propose to substitute a period of "three years".

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe

I support the amendments and everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, said. The issue here is the credentials of the holder of a personal licence. The "fit and proper person" test has been removed, doubtless because, much to the relief of those who feel that it is too vague and variable, there may be different judgments as to what constitutes "fit and proper" and that may lead to unfair refusal.

However, with the removal of the "fit and proper person" prerequisite, we lose the personal element. Someone may meet every requirement on paper but may be a particularly unsavoury character. The responsibility of selling and providing alcohol is, as we are all aware, not something to be lightly entrusted to an individual. Alcohol brings with it a great many potential dangers, which noble Lords have spoken about again and again in relation to this Bill.

That brings me to my first amendment—Amendment No. 382. I wish only to air the idea that perhaps the age limit for personal licensees should be raised from 18 to 21. A problem with that might arise for those who work in the off trade, many of whom are under the age of 21. This only serves to point out, as I shall assert when speaking to a later amendment, that many problems are associated with having a one-size-fits-all piece of legislation which covers supermarkets and retail outlets as well as clubs.

I shall not continue to speak at length on these amendments. I am sure that a great many—perhaps there are not that many; that is a shame—Members of the Committee are waiting to disagree with me. I wish merely to provoke debate. The question of credentials for personal licences deserves discussion.

Lord Davies of Oldham

We have listened carefully to the debate on these amendments and have seen some merit in them. But I am having difficulty with some of them. Amendment No. 380 carries the extraordinary dimension of increasing significantly the burdens of administration on those concerned with administering the Bill, when it becomes an Act. The noble Lord will recognise that, while we are seeking throughout to simplify matters, his amendment would increase significantly the burdens in terms of the information required.

Also, I ask the noble Lord to consider whether his amendment would be fair to personal licence-holders. That is all. The only possible use to which licensing authorities could put the information which it is suggested should be provided to them would be in seeking to exert an increased and possibly arbitrary degree of control in deciding whether or not to grant personal licence to individuals, depending on whether or not they have been associated with problem premises during their careers. They may have been associated with problem premises but have had absolutely no responsibility of their own. They could have held quite a limited role with regard to the activity and the failure may have been at a much more senior level of management. Here we have the suggestion that such people should bear the full responsibility.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. It is the responsibility of a licence holder and someone looking after a public house to be responsible and to run a good house; otherwise, the licence can and should be taken away.

Lord Davies of Oldham

But we are not talking about the designated premises holder; we are talking about the personal licence holder with potentially fewer significant responsibilities in respect of the role they play. There is no doubt that Amendment No. 380 would create a circumstance in which people would be tarred with the same brush because of the establishments where they had worked when they had not been the sole responsible person for such establishments. They may have played a significant part because of the privileges enjoyed as the licence holder to sell alcohol, but they are by no means the creator of, nor are they responsible for, the environment in which difficulties may have occurred. Yet here we would have a circumstance in which their licence may not be renewed because of those facts.

On the amendment that suggests that the minimum age qualification should rise from 18 to 21, I can think of no responsibility in this country that we deny to 18 year-olds, except being able to stand for election to another place. I would be surprised if noble Lords considered that that is the comparator for this role. These days the age of majority is 18 for a whole range of enormously responsible roles in our society. Therefore, I have great difficulty in seeing the advantage of moving the responsible age in this case from 18 to 21.

Amendments Nos. 383 and 385 seek to introduce what was graphically and well described by the noble Baroness as the fit and proper person test. The problem with that test is that there is a widespread judgment that it is opaque and that it can be subjective and unfair because it varies from time to time and across the country. It will be recognised that we have considered the way in which licences have been administered and granted in the past; it is not just an administrative change from magistrates to local authorities.

Is there a more transparent and open system by which people can be judged on their fitness to play this role? Clearly, we have set out the criteria in the Bill for the basis upon which individuals will qualify for a licence. The criteria will work for the industry, for individuals who want to work in the industry, for the licensing authority and for the public. The system gained widespread support during the long period of consultation that was undertaken on this matter. We could not possibly have arrived at judgments on how we set out to replace a tried and trusted system, but one that everybody recognised had weaknesses and disadvantages, without the widest consultation. The Bill enshrines what we have developed on the basis of that consultation and what is acceptable across the area. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords recognise that at this stage we cannot accept what appears to be a relatively minor amendment but which actually challenges an important element of the Bill.

Amendment No. 383A would reduce the period for which an individual would be prevented from obtaining a personal licence—because of forfeiture of a previous personal licence—from five to three years. I am sure that we could play the seeking game. I think the noble Lord corrected me earlier when I talked about the subjective aspects of some of these figures, but they are much more a question of judgment. The industry would like a much shorter period than the one in the Bill. In fact, it probably would not want any time limit. Others, and noble Lords, say that it should be extended. The Government have reached a position that we think strikes the right balance. Therefore, I hope that this amendment will not be pressed.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I and other Members of the Committee have done our best to be co-operative in order to enable us to finish the Bill today. It is not for me to say, but I am not sure that being dismissive of arguments produced from the Opposition Benches at this hour is a sensible policy for the Government to adopt. It is their Bill; I just remark on it.

In particular, the Minister treated my amendments as though they verged on the juvenile. I was extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for her intervention. Against that background there was a touch of Gruyere about his own arguments. He said that it would be inconvenient for people to have to tell the licensing authority where they had been because of the risk that a licensing authority might not be sufficiently intelligent, if there was anything that was questionable, to take the trouble to investigate it. On the other hand, he is prepared to let through the fact that someone may have been in charge of what the noble Baroness referred to as a "less than good house", which would work against that person—in terms of the common weal—when he came to have his licence renewed. If a person is not obliged to make any reference to a role, there is no reason to suppose that the licensing authority will ever know that he actually had it.

I do not say that my argument overrides that of the Minister, but I do not think his argument overrides ours by a sufficient margin for him to be as dismissive as he was of the amendments that we have tabled. It may well be that it is the hour that makes one slightly testy, but we have been doing our best to help throughout the day. For the purposes of the debate I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment. However, I think that we may make more progress in the next half an hour if there is a greater willingness to see some virtue in the amendments being moved from this side. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 115 agreed to.

Clause 116 [Individual permitted to hold only one personal licence]:

[Amendment No. 381 not moved.]

Clause 116 agreed to.

Clause 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Determination of application for grant]:

[Amendments Nos. 382 to 388 not moved.]

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 389: Page 65, line 3, leave out subsections (5) and (6) and insert— ( ) An authorised officer of the licensing authority to whom the application is made or the chief officer of police may object to the granting of a personal licence by giving the licensing authority a notice (' -an objection notice").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 389, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 392. Under Clause 118 only the police have any right of objection to the grant of a personal licence. Their right to object arises only where the applicant has been convicted of a "relevant offence" and the chief officer of police is satisfied that granting a licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. The amendments are designed to enable the licensing authority itself—although not other "interested parties"—to raise an objection to the granting of a personal licence, so that a hearing would be held at which the merits of the application could be fairly considered.

I give one example, which I suppose goes back to what we were discussing in the previous group of amendments. Once upon a time, rather more than 40 years ago, I was responsible for creating the headhunting industry in the United Kingdom. I am gratified that an acorn has become an oak in the ensuing 40 years. It was reasonably commonplace for individuals, especially at lower levels of businesses, to falsify their curricula vitae. There is no reason why the police would know that that had happened, but it is potentially dangerous not to have such a matter investigated, especially as a personal licence is what it says and inaccuracy threatens to infect the system. I do not want to make too much of the matter, but I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful that it is the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, moving this amendment, because that gives me the chance to repair the damage done on the previous set. I responded in the way that I did simply because I considered that one amendment lacked judgment on the question of fairness for the individual concerned. We were clashing less on technical issues than on a judgment of fairness and how the process would work. We have carefully thought through the issues and I was merely defending our stance on what we considered fair to the individuals concerned.

However, this amendment covers a much more technical aspect, as the noble Lord will recognise. I hope that he appreciates that we are seeking through Clauses 118, 119 and 122 a much more straightforward and less bureaucratic structure to obtain a personal licence. The clauses also provide a safeguard to ensure that applications from those with a criminal past are properly considered by the police with a real power of objection.

The Bill sets out three absolute requirements and one trigger for closer examination: a past conviction for a relevant offence. The amendments would make the position a great deal more complicated, put more obstacles in the way of honest licensees and create considerably more bureaucracy. Amendments Nos. 389 and 390 give power for a licensing authority officer to object to the issuing of a personal licence. Coupled with a requirement for a hearing in the case of all such objections, that would open the way for some licensing authorities to interfere outside their area of expertise and, perhaps, frustrate the intention behind the Bill. The police are the experts on crime prevention matters, not local authorities, who will be the licensing authority. That is why we seek to ensure that the triggers in the Bill relate to the activity of police, not the licensing authority itself. On the basis of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I have no difficulty in recognising that a police matter is for the police. I do not seek to argue that white is black or black is white. However, the fact remains that inspectors, especially, in local authorities form clear views about a whole host of people who are engaged in the licensed trade. We have to a degree debated this before, but that information will go for nothing under the Bill, potentially to the detriment of the trade. The Government may argue that we need not concern ourselves with the state of the trade under the Bill, and that that advantage should be dispensed with. We know the hour; I shall not press the matter further. I thank the Minister for his opening remarks and the poultice that he applied to our previous debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 390 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 391: Page 65, line 12, at end insert "subject to such conditions as the authority thinks fit having regard to the licensing qualification possessed by the applicant

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 391, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 394, 399, 401 and 410. I hope that I shall please the Committee by being incredibly brief.

There is a world of difference between the retail sale of alcohol at a small corner shop and running a nightclub attended by hundreds of people at which the manager must supervise numerous employees selling alcohol in various parts of the club. The Bill makes no distinction between those extremes for the purposes of a personal licence. There should be scope to grant personal licences subject to conditions depending on the licensing qualifications held by the applicant for a licence. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she moved the amendments.

The amendments would give licensing authorities the discretion to attach conditions to personal licences. Under the terms of the Bill, the licensing authority's responsibility is relatively straightforward: it must satisfy itself that the applicant meets the prescribed qualifications. If the applicant has relevant convictions and the police object to the issue of a personal licence, the authority must consider those objections also. If the authority is satisfied that an applicant passes the required threshold, it will grant the licence; if not, it will refuse the licence. That is how the Bill is, and that is how it should remain.

The stipulation of added qualifications would vastly increase the bureaucracy and would complicate matters significantly. We must be clear about what we are discussing: there is an important distinction between personal and premises licences. It is right that premises licences should be subject to conditions set by the licensing authority. Those conditions define how the supply of alcohol is to be conducted. There is no need to overlay that system with a further set of conditions attached to personal licences. On that basis, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his reply, but I found it extraordinary. If I were managing a small corner shop and a large, popular nightclub, I would demand of the individuals—never mind the premises—different qualifications with regard to their ability to perform the relevant functions. It would make sense for there to be some additional training or a requirement for more qualifications for somebody who will have the enormously responsible task of managing a nightclub.

The hour is late, and we have worked hard today. I will not detain the Committee any longer than is necessary. I shall examine in Hansard what the Minister said, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 392 to 394 not moved.]

Clause 118 agreed to.

Clause 119 [Determination of application for renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 395 to 401 not moved.]

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clause 120 [Notification of determinations]:

[Amendments Nos. 402 and 403 not moved.]

Clause 120 agreed to.

Clause 121 [Duty to notify licensing authority of convictions during application period]:

[Amendment No. 404 not moved.]

Clause 121 agreed to.

Clause 122 [Convictions coming to light after grant or renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 405 to 409 not moved.]

Clause 122 agreed to.

Clause 123 [Form of personal licence]:

[Amendment No. 410 not moved.]

Clause 123 agreed to.

Clauses 124 to 126 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Forfeiture or suspension of licence on conviction for relevant offence]:

[Amendments Nos. 411 and 412 not moved.]

Clause 127 agreed to.

Clause 128 agreed to.

Clause 129 [Court's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

[Amendment No. 413 not moved.]

Clause 129 agreed to.

Clause 130 [Licence holder's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

[Amendment No. 414 not moved.]

Clause 130 agreed to.

Clause 131 agreed to.

Clause 132 [Licensing authority's duty to update licence document]:

[Amendment No. 414A not moved.]

Clause 132 agreed to.

Clause 133 [Licence holder's duty to produce licence]:

[Amendments Nos. 415 and 416 not moved.]

Clause 133 agreed to.

Clauses 134 to 136 agreed to.

Clause 137 [Defence of due diligence]

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 417: Page 75, line 5, at beginning insert "Subject to subsection (3),

The noble Lord said: I am sure the Government will reject the amendment. It has not been their wont to accept many amendments. In an earlier amendment I asked the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to be robust. On this amendment, I ask him to be amicable.

The purpose of the amendment is to protect performers who are brought before the justices for contravening the legislation. The Bill sets out severe penalties for performing without an entertainment licence outside a pub. It is a probing amendment to ascertain the Government's view on how strictly the provisions should be adhered to.

I was going to raise the human rights issue but I shall await the letter from the Minister which will be placed very soon in the Library. I shall not press the amendment. However, under human rights legislation the freedom of individuals to express themselves is extremely important. We do not believe that individuals who have performed musically should face the consequence of the law to the extent that may be provided.

The Minister will probably say that it is very unlikely that the provisions will ever be enacted. However, under the old system of public entertainment licences unfortunate cases have been reported in the press. Landlord licensees have faced prosecution and fines due to the fact that people in their pubs danced or were singing along to entertainers. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe

I support Amendments Nos. 417 and 418, to which I and my noble friend Lord Luke have added our names.

7.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that I can persuade the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that Amendment No. 417 is unnecessary.

There are two particular problems with these amendments. First, an element of variation is introduced into the "due diligence" test. Clause 137 states that it is a reasonable defence that a person charged with an offence, took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence". Amendment No. 418 proposes that, instead of exercising all "due diligence" to avoid committing the offence, the person "acted reasonably". I do not think that the amendment is an improvement. The definition of "due diligence" protects those involved. There are plenty of precedents for it. "Acting reasonably" is more vague, adds nothing and may actually take something away.

Secondly, Amendment No. 418 singles out a particular group of people; namely, performers. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made clear, the offence with which we are concerned, is, carrying on unauthorised licensable activity". In this case, I presume that the noble Lord is referring to presenting a performance that should be licensed but has not been. Clause 137 also covers, exposing alcohol for unauthorised sale and, keeping alcohol on the premises". I do not believe that we are concerned with that.

Performers are protected by the "due diligence" provisions in Clause 137. I sympathise with and love performers, but I do not believe that they should be treated differently from anyone else. There must be a proper defence against an inadvertent breach of licence conditions—that applies to everyone, including performers. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the clause as drafted covers those points.

Lord Avebury

Is a performer who is not inside the premises liable to commit an offence if he has not exercised "due diligence"? I am thinking of plays performed in pub gardens adjacent to a pub where the performer may be unaware that the garden is subject to licensing restrictions. I should not have the faintest idea, if someone invited me to act in a pub garden, whether I should make stringent inquiries of the landlord as to whether that activity was permissible.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not understand how a performer could not know. A pub garden is clearly part of a licensed premises, just as a pub room is. That argument could apply to almost any offence.

Lord Redesdale

This has been a probing amendment. One of the issues we wanted to raise was the severity of fines that could be imposed on performers for transgressing the rules of the licence. We believe that they are excessive. Obviously the issue of music and entertainment is one where we have a divergence of view from that of the Government.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not want to prolong matters, but I failed to answer the point regarding penalties. Normally, a penalty will be trivial: there will be no significant penalty, or no penalty at all. Performing in a pub garden will not attract a huge penalty. But let us take the example of what happened on Brighton beach last year, when a performance attracted incredible numbers of people. many of whom were injured. There must be a maximum penalty which is adequate for that kind of case.

Lord Redesdale

I am glad that the Minister has put that point across. Although the penalty should be proportionate to the offence, the very fact that the maximum penalty is so great is causing a great deal of concern to many performers.

Our views diverge on the provision of entertainment. It is an area on which we shall focus at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 418 not moved.]

Clause 137 agreed to.

Clauses 138 to 142 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 419 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Listowel moved Amendment No. 419A: Before Clause 143, insert the following new clause—

"ALLOWING CHILDREN INTO LICENSED PREMISES In pursuit of the licensing objective in section 4(2)(d), children under the age of 14 should only be allowed into licensed premises when accompanied by an adult over the age of 18 unless the licensee can show in his (or her) operating plan how the premises will be made suitable for this age group.

The noble Earl said: I shall be as brief as I can. The Bill introduces significant changes for the access of children to licensed premises. Currently, a child under the age of 14 can enter a licensed premises only with a children's certificate, and then only if accompanied by a person over 18 years of age. The Bill does away with such constraints. My amendment would prevent an unaccompanied child under the age of 14 from entering licensed premises unless the licensee can demonstrate how he is making his establishment suitable for young children.

My intention is to ensure that licensees are ready to meet the particular needs of those under the age of 14. One recognises that bowling parlours and pizzerias now need licences, and that more and more family-friendly premises are coming into being which families enjoy and which are very valuable. At the same time, licensees should not only protect children from direct harm—for example, by providing non-smoking areas—but also ensure that children are not exposed to examples of poor behaviour or to the wrong messages about alcohol. So, for example, such licensees should make it clear in their operating plan that they will not be offering "happy hours" and similar promotional activities likely to lead to binge drinking in adults.

Members of the Committee will be well aware, from earlier debates, of the problems caused by binge drinking. I simply remind the Committee that the 1999 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs found that 56 per cent of 15 to 16 year-olds had taken more than five drinks on a single occasion in the previous 30 days. I understand that 30 per cent of this age group reported this behaviour as occurring three or more times in the previous 30 days.

My amendment may be imperfect in form, but I should like an assurance from the Minister that there will be a means to ensure that children in licensed premises will have access to non-smoking areas, and that children will be protected from witnessing irresponsible drinking. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

I am grateful to the noble Earl for introducing the amendment, which we support. As our debates have continued, our position has slightly hardened in terms of the safeguards that will be needed for the access of unaccompanied children. When the Bill began its passage, I believed that such provisions would be included. However, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made it clear at an earlier stage that it would be up to the landlord—as under the present system—whether unaccompanied children should be allowed in such premises. It could be a point of contention, and I am not sure that the Government have made their case that unaccompanied children over the age of 14 should be allowed in, given all the present difficulties—especially those associated with the landlord facing penalties for serving those who are under age. Adhering to the age of 18 provides a much easier cut-off point.

Baroness Buscombe

I support the amendment. It is very similar to an amendment brought forward earlier by this side of the Committee. I am not sure of the extent to which the noble Earl has been in his place during our debates on the Bill, but if he had been in his place he would know that this is a subject to which I have returned repeatedly—beginning with Second Reading—because I feel very strongly that the Bill is not a proper vehicle for liberalising unrestricted access. Perhaps that is not the correct way of putting it, but liberalising our alcohol and entertainment laws should not be conducive to allowing unaccompanied young people and children unrestricted access to licensed premises.

The Government have said that they will consider the issue between now and Report stage. We appreciate that. Many people have contacted me over the past weeks and expressed their deep concerns about the issue of allowing children into licensed premises. I hope very much that the Government will take those concerns on board.

The Earl of Listowel

I was unavailable for earlier days in Committee. I consulted colleagues who have been following the Bill but they did not seem to be aware that this issue had been raised before. I should have checked Hansardto ascertain whether it had.

If the Minister feels that this matter has been rehearsed before, I will be very happy to read his previous response. However, if the Minister has not had a chance to answer before, I should be grateful for a full reply, even at this late hour, because of the importance of the issue.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I confess that I have had a chance to rehearse the arguments before. Entirely inadvertently, I had not noticed that the noble Earl was not in his place—he is such an assiduous attender—and so, as it was grouped with other amendments on which we had a substantial debate, I addressed the issue contained in his amendment. I am reluctant therefore to rehearse the arguments in full again at this late hour.

I recognise the concern in all parts of the House—it is shared by the Government—that we must get this part of the Bill absolutely right. It is very important that we should extend the opportunity to make pubs family friendly. An attempt was made in 1994 to liberalise the licensing laws and to increase the opportunities for young people to participate in pubs, particularly those who went with their parents into certain parts of pubs. The number of applications for the extension of these opportunities has been pathetically small. This is a reflection of the fact that, despite the intention of liberalisation with proper safeguards, it just did not work.

So, within the framework of the Bill, we are having a second shot at creating a more liberal and family friendly framework while at the same time having a proper regard for the issues raised by the noble Earl in both his amendment and his speech. Other noble Lords have participated in this debate for a second time and expressed similar opinions.

We recognise that this is a significant part of the Bill. I cannot accept the amendment. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but it would take me until well beyond the witching hour to identify them. The noble Earl will forgive me if I do not do so. Although I cannot accept the amendment, I can assure the noble Earl that we recognise the extent of the feeling on the issue, which he exemplifies but which has also been expressed from both the Opposition Benches. We will look at the issue further to see if we can come up with an amendment that meets the requirements.

On that basis, I ask the noble Earl, at this hour of the evening, to accept our good intent. There is time for us to engage in consultation on this very important issue. I hope that, on that basis, he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Listowel

I thank the Minister for his helpful reply and the assurance about future work on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 143 to 156 agreed to.

Lord Grocott

I beg to move that the House do now resume. Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Lord Grocott

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. In so moving, it may be helpful if I inform your Lordships that the usual channels have agreed that we now plan to conclude the Committee stage of this Bill next Monday, 20th January, as first business after Starred Questions.