HL Deb 20 January 2003 vol 643 cc435-92

3.1 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Corn mittee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 157 [Orders to close premises in area experiencing disorder]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 420: Page 85, line 30, leave out from "disorder" to "may" in line 31 and insert "in the area of a licensing authority, the licensing authority

The noble Lord said: I shall also speak to the other amendments in my name in this group.

The powers to close premises when there is disorder or expected disorder, or when public nuisance has been caused by noise coming from the premises, purport to be an important counterweight to the general emphasis on the grant of all applications come what may. However, as drafted, the provisions in relation to closure are limited and not exercisable by the authority best placed to determine whether the power should be exercised—namely, the licensing authority.

The amendments to Clause 157 would allow the licensing authority to make an order requiring premises to be closed for a period not exceeding 24 hours on the application of the police rather than the magistrates' court. The role of the magistrates' court should be to deal with appeals against such an order.

The amendments are consistent with the existing provisions in relation to the misuse of drugs in premises licensed for public entertainment. Under those provisions, the police may request a licensing authority to suspend a public entertainment licence when it is necessary to prevent the misuse of drugs on licensed premises. Those provisions have operated and worked well in Westminster, where collaboration between police and the city council under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has been excellent. Were the framers of the Bill aware of that productive collaboration when they drafted it? Westminster is not under such tight control as to crime that we can jettison effective methodologies.

Amendments Nos. 421 and 422 are consequential on what I have just said.

Amendments Nos. 423 and 424 to Clause 158 would permit the licensing authority, as well as the police, to exercise the powers to make a closure order for identified premises. As the power to make a closure order is exercisable in the interests of public safety or because closure is necessary to prevent a noise nuisance, the licensing authority is the more logical authority.

On Amendments Nos. 425 and 427, along with Amendments 423 and 424, it is not clear whether the police are the appropriate party to deal with noisy premises. It would be better for the local authority, with its infrastructure in place in this respect, to take on responsibility and for the police to focus their resources on serious crime. I emphasise the difficulties that the police have in dealing with crime in inner London simply because of shortage of resources. When the job could sensibly be done by others, it would be a sensible economy. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am afraid that I am not aware of the particular circumstances in Westminster to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, refers, but I shall inform myself of them. If there is anything that I need to write to him about, I shall certainly do so.

There seems to be an element of misunderstanding about the nature of these closure provisions. Clause 157 provides: Where there is or is expected to be disorder in any petty sessions area, a magistrates' court … [on the application of a police officer who is of the rank of superintendent or above] … may make an order requiring all premises—

  1. (a) which are situated at or near the place of the disorder … and
  2. (b) in respect of which a premises licence or a temporary event notice has effect,
to be closed for a period, not exceeding 24 hours". Clause 158 allows a senior police officer to make a closure order when he believes that there is likely to be disorder, on, or in the vicinity of and related to, the premises"— that is, a single premises— … in the interests of public safety". A similar order can be made in the case of noise nuisance.

Amendments Nos. 420 to 422 to Clause 157 would transfer the power to require the closure of all licensed premises in a particular area from the magistrates' court to the licensing authority. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that the restriction on the powers of the licensing authority was undesirable. The courts have similar powers now, under the Licensing Act 1964, although that Act uses the delightful phrase, "riot and tumult". It is a significant power, but not one that is used often. Recently, it has invariably been used in response to concerns about the behaviour of fans attending football matches.

I put it to the Committee that there are good reasons why the Bill should leave this power with the magistrates' court rather than transfer it to the licensing authority. First, although a closure order could be made in advance, it is designed to be made in an emergency. The police and local authority might be aware that a demonstration is taking place some weeks before and be content with arrangements for it. They might then get intelligence on the day before the event; for example, that a particular group known for causing trouble intends to turn up and cause trouble. To decrease the risk of crime and disorder, they decide that a closure order should apply to premises in the vicinity of the demonstration route. If the magistrates' court believes that a strong enough case has been made, it can sit in emergency session to provide the police with that closure power at short notice. A licensing authority would not be able to do that, so there could be a failure to deal with disorder of which there is intelligence in advance.

Secondly, we have to recognise that an order of this kind restricts people's freedom. Those running licensed premises on the route of a demonstration will almost certainly be free of blame themselves. It will be no fault of theirs that the police judge that there is a risk of disorder, but they could suffer financially from it. It could have serious consequences for innocent people. These powers should therefore rest with the court rather than with the licensing authority.

Amendments Nos. 423 to 425 and 427, in Clause 158, would allow the licensing authorities as well as the police to order the closure of a particular premises where there are concerns about disorder or noise nuisance. These powers simply carry on from the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which amended the 1964 Act. These are reactive powers designed to allow the control of disorder or nuisance. The police will have to think about the likely reaction of customers and where they are going to go to. If, for example, there were football fans from two clubs, the police might decide that, rather than close the premises, they should remove the fans of one of the clubs and leave their opponents there. However, that is a decision that can be made only by a senior police officer. It is difficult to see how a licensing authority can make that type of operational decision. I hope that these amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am most grateful to the Minister for his graciousness in saying that he would look at the particular co-operation between Westminster and the police to which I referred. I acknowledge that I was speaking primarily about crime and drugs, an ever-present problem in central London, rather more than about the type of disorder to which he was alluding—perfectly properly in the circumstances—in his response. He has been gracious enough to say that he will look at what I said about Westminster's collaboration with the police. It would be ungracious of me not to say in return that I shall look closely at what he said in reply. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 421 and 422 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 157 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Monson

Is it not the case that the obligation to close will apply automatically to all licensed premises in the area in question, including hotels, so that if there were expected to be a very serious and dangerous demonstration in Piccadilly, for example, the Ritz and the Meridien and so on would be forced to close in addition to ordinary pubs? If I am wrong in this, perhaps the Minister will reassure me on the point.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It sounds like a very good idea to me. However, I cannot think that it is as simple as that. It is up to the police to determine what would be the scope of this power under Clause 157. I think that the definition of "at or near the place of the disorder" could safely be left to the judgment of the police who are in operational charge at the time.

Clause 157 agreed to.

Clause 158 [Closure orders for identified premises]:

[Amendments Nos. 423 to 425 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 426: Page 86, line 36, at end insert— ( ) specify whether the premises must close in its entirety or simply cease the sale of alcohol.

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 426, I shall be touching on a very similar point to that just raised on Clause 157 by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. Amendment No. 426 raises a particularly significant issue. Subsection (4) of Clause 158 states the specifications that must be included in a closure order: the premises to which it relates, the period for which the premises should be closed, the grounds for the closure, and the effects of it. Amendment No. 426 provides an extra specification and is aimed specifically at accommodating supermarkets.

Although it is commendable to amalgamate the current numerous licences into one piece of legislation, I have yet to be persuaded of the effectiveness of this approach. Surely flexibility is the key. If the Bill must cover both the on and the off trade, it needs to ensure that the rules are able to vary in response to the different situations faced by, for example, a Tesco store and an inner-city nightclub.

Closure orders are a pertinent example. A supermarket sells alcohol. Therefore, it could be subject to a closure order under the Bill. Yet, it seems absurd that, whatever the reasons for the suspension of the sale of alcohol, the supermarket could not continue selling anything else but would have to shut down entirely With the closure of a premises comes the attendant loss of revenue, not to mention, in the specific case of a supermarket, the inconvenience for those relying on the store for their daily needs. Supermarkets receive precious little concession in the Bill. I ask only that we appreciate the need to acknowledge and respond to the off trade. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton

In rising to support the amendment, I make my customary declaration of interest as a non-executive director of Whitbread plc. It is important to bear in mind that we are considering a variety of different premises—not only the supermarkets, but a whole range of restaurants which may have only a small sale of alcohol. Indeed, at a good many pubs in the country, the sale of food is more important than the sale of alcohol. If, as seems likely in most cases, the closure orders result from problems arising from the misuse of alcohol, it is important that the closure order should state whether it applies to the whole premises or only to those concerned with the sale of alcohol. That would not only give a certain amount of flexibility, but meet the problem outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In my view, it would also make the whole proposal more logical and more suited to the actual circumstances. This is perhaps not the most important amendment before us. If we were allowed to give it a title, this might be called "the pub with no beer" amendment. None the less, I think that it is necessary to take account of the very different circumstances and not to get ourselves in the situation of thinking that we are dealing only with alcohol-selling pubs.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

When I first looked at Amendment No. 426, I was rather attracted to it. Although I was not aware at the time that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was going to refer particularly to supermarkets, I thought that the idea of allowing, for example, a play to continue in a theatre while closing the bar was quite attractive. Then, however, I looked at what Clause 158 provides and I was persuaded that the amendment was not necessary.

Clause 158 provides that a senior officer can make a closure order in respect of a premises if he believes either that there is, or is likely to be, disorder on, or in the vicinity of and related to, the premises", which is much more limited than just "the area"; it means "just around"—or that, a public nuisance is being caused by noise", emanating from the premises.

This power has existed for licensed premises, particularly for those selling alcohol, since implementation of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. The police have found the power very useful as a deterrent although closure orders have been issued on only a handful of occasions. It is possible that a crowd who were inclined to disorder or to making sufficient noise to constitute a public nuisance would be more of a threat if they were allowed to remain together but prevented buying alcohol at a place where they would normally expect to do so. So, if the circumstances are sufficiently serious to require the issuing of a closure order, then, subject to the views of the police, the normal practice must be to close the premises and disperse the crowd. That is what Clause 158 provides.

Let us consider the situation of supermarkets. Is it really likely that there are circumstances in which the police would be able to impose a closure order on premises of that nature as a result of disturbance or disorder emanating directly from those premises? I cannot imagine it. The only such circumstances I can think of are where a crowd of looters are on supermarket premises as a result of an event happening elsewhere. Under those circumstances surely it is right to close the premises completely rat her than merely to stop selling alcohol.

I understand the motivation behind the amendment but when one considers the circumstances in which it is likely to be used I do not think that it will apply to supermarkets except in the very extreme circumstances when the provisions of the Bill should apply.

Lord Avebury

When the Government have used the term "the vicinity of" in previous amendments they have been unable to give us any definition except, as the noble Lord has done today, by saying that it is smaller than a locality. Can he give us some practical examples? If one takes, for example, the area between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square—with which many of us are familiar—would the vicinity of establishments there embrace the whole of Leicester Square and the streets which lead out of Leicester Square towards Soho? It would help the Committee to have some idea of the dimensions of the vicinity.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

But the Bill does not just use the term "vicinity". It states, in the vicinity of and related to, the premises". Therefore, it is clear that the vicinity would include the car park or the pub garden rather than the areas mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his reply. He is probably right that the circumstances in which the measure we are discussing could be used would be fairly extreme. That said, in extreme cases there may be a problem in relation to the selling of alcohol. If a large supermarket that is almost the size of a hypermarket is affected, it may seem unnecessary to close the entire premises. However, I appreciate that such a possibility is unlikely.

It is good to have this debate. The amendment indicates the broad spectrum of premises licences that will be affected by the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, we are discussing hotels and all different kinds of premises. Much of our debate to date has focused on the pub trade as opposed to off trade. It has been worth airing this matter. I shall revert to those involved in the supermarket trade who have held discussions with us to ensure that they are happy with the Minister's response. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 427 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 158 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Monson

Before we leave Clause 158, will the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, assure us that subsection (3) provides adequate protection for a licensee who does everything in his power to run an orderly pub but is overwhelmed by circumstances totally beyond his control? For example, he may be the victim of a vendetta. A business rival or someone else with a grudge against him could telephone the police anonymously every Saturday morning and say, "I hear that there will be a big riot tonight at the Horse and Hounds", or suggest something similar. The police would close down the premises and the licensee would lose a tremendous amount of business. However, the fault would lie entirely with someone else. The licensee would not be to blame. If the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, can assure me that subsection (3) provides adequate protection to a licensee under such circumstances, I should be very grateful.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I certainly agree that subsection (3) is written in legislative language—what you might call hieratic rather than demotic speech. However, if I am wrong about its meaning, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. But I am sure that I understand exactly what it means.

Clause 158 agreed to.

Clauses 159 to 63 agreed to.

Clause 164 [Review of premises licence following closure order]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 427A: Page 89, line 31, at beginning insert "Upon the application of either the responsible senior police officer or the holder of the premises licence

The noble Lord said: This is a short and simple probing amendment. We seek to test the Government's opinion on subsection (2) of Clause 164. We should like to insert at the beginning of subsection (2) the words, Upon the application of either the responsible senior police officer or the holder of the premises licence". As I say, the purpose of the amendment is to test the Government's thinking as regards who would initiate a review of the premises licence. At present subsection (2) states: The relevant licensing authority must review the premises licence". It gives no indication of the circumstances under which such a review would be initiated. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that I can help. Under the Bill as it stands there is a straightforward sequence of events. The police make a closure order. The appropriate magistrates' court then considers the order and any extension of it. The court has to decide whether the closure order should be revoked, whether the premises should stay closed—in other words, the order should be confirmed—until the authority has reviewed its licence order, or make a similar order unless specified conditions are satisfied. The court could state that the premises should stay closed or could open subject to certain conditions. In either of those cases the authority has to carry out a review.

The point of the review is to decide, in the light of the circumstances which gave rise to the closure order in the first place and any other relevant history, whether the authority needs to take any action in relation to the licence; for example, by adding a condition relating to door supervision or by revoking it. The review will not just consider the circumstances which gave rise to the closure on a single night. The review may look at the history of the licence since it was issued and consider any matter which is relevant to the promotion of the licensing objectives. There may have been a steady build-up of problems which came to a head on the night of the closure. Those would be important considerations for the licensing authority and the matters should be addressed whether or not the police or the licence holder want them to be. The licensing authority's role is to promote the licensing objectives.

If the court decides that the premises should stay closed for the time being, the licence holder will, of course, want the authority to carry out a review. The effect of the Bill is that the premises will stay closed until such a review has taken place. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will consider that that is right. I also acknowledge that, if the police have concerns about the continuation of the licence as it stood before the closure order was made—in other words, if there are more long-standing problems—they too will want the authority to review that licence. But I do not think that that adds up to a case for accepting this amendment. Indeed, I do not think that that was the intention. If taken literally, the amendment would add to the bureaucracy of the licensing scheme. Under the Bill as drafted the authority has to undertake a review and reach a decision on the licence within 28 days. Under the amendment, someone has to write an extra letter seeking a review. I hope that that explanation is satisfactory.

Lord Redesdale

I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I accept his definition. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 164 agreed to.

Clauses 165 to 168 agreed to.

Clause 169 [Relaxation of opening hours for special occasions]:

3.30 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 428: Page 93, line 40, at end insert— ( ) Where the local licensing authority considers that a period ("the celebration period") marks an occasion of exceptional local significance, it may make a licensing hours order.

The noble Lord said: Clause 169 permits a relaxation of opening hours only by the Secretary of State. Where such relaxation is justified by an occasion of exceptional local significance, the amendment argues that the power should be exercisable by the local authority as the licensing authority.

I should like to give an example local to my own experience. My wife and I live within three miles of the tallest maypole in the country. The village in vicinity celebrates that record on May Day. Alcohol always enlivens the dancing, which in that particular context goes back centuries. I do not suggest that we are given to Saturnalia in rural Wiltshire, but it is a proper celebration. It is an annual event, so it is not exceptional in terms of chronology, but it will be exceptional until some other village or community erects a taller maypole.

I realise that, as with New Year, the annual nature of the event might give rise to an annual dispensation, but in other regards it seems that such a matter could frankly be left to the local authority. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

I rise to support the amendment, as it gives a degree of flexibility for a very local event.

Baroness Buscombe

I also rise to support the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The amendment has been presented with the noble Lord's customary affability. I recognise the strength of the case, but we seek to resist the amendment.

I think that the noble Lord's illustration applies to a place of fairly modest population. The likelihood is that, across the length and breadth of our country, a very large number of small local communities have good cause for celebration at least once a year. On a range of occasions not as frequent as once a year, local opinion may feel that a celebration merits an extension of the licence. The result would be very significant inconsistencies across the country, in terms of the application of licensing hours orders. As the noble Lord clearly recognised, the clause already provides that the Secretary of State can make allowance for an exceptional event in a locality.

Although the main thrust of the Bill is deregulatory, it is important to maintain some consistency in the way in which licensing authorities administer the new regime. Despite the noble Lord's strong presentation of the case, we feel that there is sufficient flexibility in how the Secretary of State operates dispensation for local celebrations of significance.

The key point is that Parliament must always have to approve some relaxations, because the order may be made only by an affirmative resolution. Relaxing hours in London would raise significant issues for the Metropolitan Police. Therefore, we think that the proper forum for such decisions is Parliament. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the strength of that case.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his reply. Curiously, the note that he read out at the end of his speech—it was delivered to him during the course of it—appeared to belie the rest of his answer. The previous stance, which he adopted until dispatches arrived from elsewhere in the Chamber, implied that there were any number of events of particular local significance and that it would be quite wrong to take the privilege of looking after them away from the Secretary of State. The Minister did not use precisely those words, and produced other arguments in relation to that point. He now tells us that any such order actually requires endorsement by Parliament.

If that is the case, the Minister has reinforced our argument. It would seem extraordinary if every event such as that involving the maypole that I described required an order. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, indicated that the problem would apply to many other small local events, but the Minister himself corroborated that parliamentary action would be required on every occasion.

Before I agree to withdraw the amendment, it would be prudent to give the Minister a second chance to respond when he has got his ducks in a row, which happens to be peculiarly apposite in relation to my maypole example.

Lord Davies of Oldham

How could I resist such an invitation? However, I am a cricketer, so getting ducks in a row is not always as attractive to me in those terms as it is in terms of shooting.

Let me re-emphasise what I sought to point out in my earlier argument. I commented on the small population of the area to which the noble Lord made reference. He also said that an annual dispensation might be required. We are talking about a limited community, and we have a very large number of limited communities across the country. If the amendment were agreed to, the dispensations that would go on would be legion. They would be such as to transform the nature of the Bill. For that reason, I sought to emphasise that we needed some consistency across the country.

I also emphasised that such consistency would be subject to the decision of the Secretary of State, and an affirmative order would be required for emendations to the Bill. The House will have seen such orders on the likes of New Year's Day and, of course, last year's Golden Jubilee. They are exceptional circumstances. That is the position at present, which I am seeking to sustain within the framework of the Bill.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I apologise for pressing the Minister further. Is he saying, as I could readily understand, that the parliamentary order would apply only if something was an annual event such as New Year or May Day? Would it apply to all the cases of exceptional local significance? I think the sensible thing for me to do is to wait for an answer, and then respond.

Lord Davies of Oldham

No, what I am indicating is that we think that exceptional occasions across the country will be few and far between. The noble Lord will recognise that the instances that I gave are the only two that I could bring to my mind from last year. Orders appear before the House each year in relation to, I think, the extension of licences at the New Year's celebration. On all other occasions and in all other circumstances, the existing licensing laws apply. Although the Bill is of course deregulatory—it devolves a great deal to the local licensing authorities—we suggest that extensions should properly be reserved to the Secretary of State.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I think that we have teased out during the course of the short debate the fact that the Secretary of State will be extremely severe in terms of the number of exceptional local celebrations that he is prepared to allow.

I acknowledge that there is an argument in favour of the case that the Minister made. He would obviously wish to limit the number of cases with which his civil servants have to deal. Members of the Committee who can recall the St Trinian's films will remember the cameo performance by Richard Wattis as a civil servant in the then Ministry of Education, dealing with complaints about St Trinian's. If the provision were extended across the country, the life of a whole host of civil servants would be rendered disagreeable in the way that his character's patently was.

Although it is not for me to comment if the Government choose to be extremely tight and restrictive in terms of events of such local significance, we have had a decent opportunity to debate the issue back and forth. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 429: Page 93, line 42, after "licences" insert "and club premises certificates

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 430 and 431.

Amendment No. 429 amends Clause 169 so that it applies, as of course it should, to club premises certificates as well as to premises licences. That would allow clubs as well as other licensed premises to take advantage of any relaxation of opening hours for special occasions. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendments Nos. 430 and 431: Page 94, line 7, leave out ", in relation to a premises licence, means" and insert "means—

  1. (a) in relation to a premises licence,"
Page 94, line 9, at end insert ", and
  1. (b) in relation to a club premises certificate, the times during which the premises may be used for qualifying club activities in accordance with the certificate"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 169, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 170 [Activities in certain locations not licensable]:

[Amendment No. 431A not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 431 B: Page 94, line 25, at end insert— ( ) at premises in respect of which a licence under the Gaming Act 1968 (c. 65) is in force and the premises are being used wholly or mainly for the purposes of gaming to which Part 2 of that Act applies,

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 448A.

The amendments relate to a concern—it is really a technicality—about casino and bingo clubs. We believe that the concern would be overcome by the amendments, which seek to avoid duplication and contradiction arising from the creation of a separate licensing system for casino and bingo clubs in the Licensing Bill and the proposed gambling Bill.

Casinos and bingo clubs have always been subject to separate but complementary regulations from other places of entertainment. Gambling regulations are intended to prevail over other regulations where they apply t o casinos and bingo clubs. It is for precisely that reason. for example, that the British Casino Association succeeded in obtaining an exemption for casino and bingo club staff from the Private Security Industry Act 2001, very late in the day. The exemption was not granted to leave staff outside the law; it was simply realised by the Government, after discussions with the gaming industry, that they were already covered by tighter legislation under existing gaming law.

The Government have signalled their intention to maintain that separate and distinct but complementary regime for casinos and bingo clubs by proposing a new gambling Bill, which we understand is scheduled to be introduced in the 2003–04 Session and which has been widely consulted on. Given that the gambling Bill will introduce a new licensing regime for casinos and bingo clubs, it appears appropriate at this stage to exempt casinos and bingo clubs from the proposals for liquor premises licences under the Licensing Bill to avoid the possibility that casinos and bingo clubs will have to reapply for licences under two different regimes, or that the Licensing Bill will have to be amended at a later stage to accommodate the demands of the gambling Bill.

Introducing some minor amendments to the Gaming Act 1968 would allow for the continued regulation of all activities in bingo clubs and casinos under existing gaming legislation, by virtue of the grant and annual renewal of gaming licences, until such time as the new gambling Bill comes into force.

The Government have already accepted that it is now proposed that existing liquor licences for all establishments selling alcohol will "roll over" to the new regime in April 2004, without the need for fresh applications. Thus, the Government clearly recognise the need lo avoid duplication where possible. As the Licensing Bill is presently drafted, therefore, casinos and bingo clubs will, we believe, be the only organisations that will have to bear the cost of applying for duplicate liquor and gaming premises licences. One of the objectives of the Bill, as we know, is to reduce the financial burden on industry and streamline the licensing process, but in the case of the gambling industry it will achieve exactly the opposite. In so far as casinos and bingo clubs are concerned, that is a clear case of over-regulation where it is not necessary. Indeed, it is contradictory and will lead to confusion and conflict. The Government's thinking, so far as casinos and bingo clubs are concerned, is clear, as set out in the White Paper on gambling reform, A Safe Bet for Success. That report states: The government does, however, accept that it would not be appropriate to give local authorities unfettered discretion to determine whether or not a premises licence should be issued or on the conditions attached to licences … government agrees … there will be a need for clear statutory criteria against which all premises licensing decisions should be made". Clearly, therefore, the Government have anticipated that casinos and bingo clubs will be subject to specific statutory guidance under the gambling Bill when it comes to consideration of their licences. It would therefore be very odd for the Government to set down one set of guidelines for all licensed premises from the moment that the Licensing Bill passes, only to change it for casinos and bingo clubs once the gambling Bill passes.

In practical terms, that means that the gaming industry would face the following situation: first, existing liquor licences would be "rolled over", pending the gambling Bill; secondly, new licences for new premises or for redevelopment would be granted by local authorities under the licensing legislation; thirdly, identical casinos and bingo clubs will therefore operate under different licensing criteria depending on whether their licence was granted before the Licensing Bill or after it; and, fourthly, new premises applications would have to be re-submitted once statutory criteria are laid down in the gambling Bill, which means that the original application has in essence to be made for a second time.

In Scotland, we are already experiencing the effects of a "dual regime", where local authorities seek to attach conditions to liquor licences that conflict with gaming legislation and the statutory advice of the Gaming Board. We could therefore have a position in England and Wales where local authorities exercise discretion during the interregnum between the Licensing Bill, once it has been enacted, and the gambling Act, in direct contravention of existing gambling legislation.

A solution would be to make some simple amendments to the existing Gaming Act 1968, by way of the current Bill, to permit all activities conducted in casinos and bingo clubs to be controlled under the current gaming legislation, until such time as the gambling Bill is passed.

It is worth noting that an almost identical amendment was put through Parliament this year to allow casinos to offer live entertainment. The regulation of such entertainment is now therefore governed by the gaming licence for the premises under the Gaming Act 1968. An example of a similar practice exists in relation to the Casino Act of the Isle of Man, which, by Section 8, authorises the licensing authority—the Isle of Man Gaming Board of Control—to grant a liquor licence to the holder of a casino licence. By contrast, other licensed premises in the Isle of Man—or should that be "on the Isle of Man"?—are required to obtain their liquor licences from the licensing court chaired by the high bailiff. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

We support the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

The amendments in some respects anticipate the gaming Bill and the noble Baroness will not be surprised when I tell her that I can give no firm commitment about when that Bill will be introduced.

Once local authorities are responsible for licensing premises in their areas—not just as the licensing authority for alcohol, entertainment and late-night refreshment but also for gambling—in principle, it certainly makes sense to envisage a single licensing procedure for casinos and bingo clubs. We envisage that the licensing committees which will be set up under the Bill would in due course be empowered also to deal with gambling licensing matters. Bingo clubs and casinos would therefore be able to make one application to one body. Such a streamlining of the present arrangements could bring about substantial savings for business, and also for the police, local residents and others with an interest. However, it would be wrong to pre-empt the future reform of gambling licensing through piecemeal provision in advance of a full and detailed consideration and proper debates in this House and another place about what will be appropriate for that future position.

I am afraid that the amendments would be a rather unsatisfactory short-cut to that future position. In the first place, the amendments would leave the magistrates with responsibility for alcohol licensing in relation to one group of premises, when they would no longer have it for any other group. Therefore, we would need administrative systems and expertise would have to be maintained for that purpose. Magistrates would have to acquire a new responsibility in relation to entertainment licensing which they might eventually have to relinquish to local authorities.

We cannot treat licensing functions as a kind of "ping-pong" between magistrates and local authorities. That would be unfortunate. Worse than that, the provisions of the Licensing Bill would not apply and thus the criteria and safeguards that we have spent such a long time debating would not extend to bingo clubs and casinos. If the amendments were made to the Bill, the provision of licensable activities in those clubs would not benefit from the in-built protections in the Bill of expert scrutiny and representation but would, in effect, be at the magistrates' discretion. If that was no longer considered the right approach in licensing all other premises, why should it be so for bingo clubs and casinos?

The Government readily acknowledge the case that the noble Baroness made for rationalising licensing responsibilities but we believe that it needs to be done properly. The amendments do only half a job and therefore we cannot support them. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 431B.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her reply. I believe that the immediate response from the gaming industry will be that the Bill does only half the job. I hear that the Minister is unable to confirm and give reassurances today that there will be a gaming Bill. But there appears to be every probability of such a Bill and certainly that industry hopes very much that it will appear in the next Session.

I believe it fair to say that the Bill we are currently debating puts the gaming industry in a difficult position—that of being between a rock and a hard place. Without the amendments, the industry will be subjected to a dual regime. Some 850 individual premises will be involved and therefore the issue is not negligible. It should be stressed that, by exempting casinos and bingo clubs, the Government would not be leaving other establishments, such as, for example, pubs with fruit machines, outside the law. With great respect, I do not believe that it is a good argument to say that that would be the only group remaining to be reviewed in terms of licensing applications by the magistrates' courts. Magistrates' courts will have to be maintained in order to hear appeals from all other licensed premises. Indeed, because of the current system, magistrates' courts are already blessed with people who are entirely competent, able and, I am sure, perfectly willing to carry out their current role in relation to all licensing applications.

I do not want to detain the Committee but I believe that the Minister's response will prove disappointing to the gaming industry—that is, to those involved with casinos and bingo clubs. I shall talk to them further and gauge their response to the Minister's reply. But, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 170 agreed to.

Clause 171 agreed to.

Clause 172 [Exemption for raffle, tombola, etc.]:

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 432: Page 95, line 41, after first "prize" insert "in excess of £100, or the total of all money prizes exceeds £250,

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 432, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 433. These are innocent little amendments, designed to carry out the wish and will of the Government in a way that I hope and believe is fairly inoffensive. As the Committee will see, they relate to the exemption for raffles and tombolas. Clause 172 is already constructed to have within it protections against misuse of the probing amendments that I am putting forward because a raffle must be promoted as an incident of the exempt entertainment.

In responding, perhaps the Minister can cast more light on what is meant by the phrase "incident of an exempt entertainment". For example, if a rugby club holds a dance and, arising from that knees-up and in order to raise substantial funds for the club, it decides to have a raffle which will be drawn at the dance, would that raffle, even though it was extensive, be an incident of an exempt entertainment?

Whereas in the old days raffles were homespun affairs with the tickets often sold entirely at the fete, match or lecture, these days that is rarely the case. That is partly due to the fact that our communities are now far more dispersed. One cannot rely on people being at an event when the tickets are sold and one wants to tap other sources of sale. Without the amendments I propose or ones that strike at the same problem, the exemption here will be less useful than the Government may believe.

Therefore, as the Committee will see, in Amendment No. 432 I say that if there are money prizes, which would normally be sufficient to knock a raffle out of the exemption, the exemption will apply if those prizes are not more than £100 for any single prize or £250 in total. Those figures are perhaps too large, but noble Lords will see the point, if there is a single money prize of £5—I know of several raffles with small money prizes—one is sunk and has to enter the whole business of obtaining a licence, giving temporary notice to the police and the licensing authorities, filling in a questionnaire and doing so 10 working days before the event—all the regulatory burden that causes a headache for small organisations.

The second amendment is designed to overcome the problem to which I have just referred; that is, unless every single ticket at a raffle is sold at the event, again, one is taken out of the exemption. I put it to the Committee that these days there are extraordinarily few raffles of any kind where a few tickets are not sold beyond the portals. Indeed, the opposite is true for several of them because they aim to raise money for charity. I hope that that is sufficient to explain the purport of the two amendments and I hope that the Government will smile upon them. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe

We support the amendments. The sums referred to in Amendment No. 432 are very modest. We should be interested to hear from the Minister the rationale for a complete ban on money prizes. If the Minister opposes the amendment, what detrimental effect could these modest money prizes have on the licensing objectives? We question whether it can seriously be argued that such modest money prizes would in some way be detrimental to the licensing objectives.

We support Amendment No. 433 because there must be many functions where a raffle is held and where raffle tickets are sold before the function takes place. There will also be events when tickets are sold at the function but when the result is announced on another occasion. Surely, that is irrelevant as regards the promotion of the licensing objectives if the raffle or lottery is a relatively modest one. If the expenses of the lottery are less than £2,000, I should have thought that that could be regarded as modest. Such a raffle or lottery is hardly likely to offend against the licensing objectives.

Lord Monson

I, too, believe that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has made a very good case for the amendments. As he said, the amounts could possibly be reduced slightly. I am not sure about that, but I hope that he will stick to his guns and, if he gets no satisfaction today, return to the matter at the next stage.

Baroness Blackstone

Under the existing law, the provision of alcohol as a prize in a raffle at a village fete constitutes a sale and, for that reason, an occasional licence is required. The Government recognise that that is a silly position and that is why this exemption has been introduced.

However, in introducing it, it is necessary to ensure that certain conditions are fulfilled in order for the exemption to apply. The alcohol offered must. for instance, be in sealed containers in order to prevent unscrupulous individuals or clubs from running raffles where every prize might consist of a pint of beer and in that way get round the normal requirements for a licence to sell alcohol.

Inevitably, we have had to define what is a small lottery or raffle and what should be properly within the normal law. In doing that we have tried to be consistent with the existing law covering lotteries and not to introduce anomalies. The Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 defines "small lotteries" incidental to bazaars, sales of work, fetes, dinners, dances, sporting and athletic events and other entertainments of a similar nature.

It goes on to establish certain parameters, 'which include that no money prize be offered. If money prizes are offered, the lottery would be unlawful unless it meets the general provisions of the 1976 Act and one of the permissions available under that Act can be granted. I think that there would have to be a lottery permit.

For the sake of consistency, we have adopted those criteria as the characteristics of a small lottery. Charities are aware of those rules and tailor their lotteries to meet the criteria. For that reason I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, thinks that money prizes are still offered for those kinds of events or raffles. It makes sense to mirror the lottery rules in the Bill. The Bill should not be a back door way of circumventing the requirements of the 1976 Act.

The first of the amendments would allow the exemption to apply even where cash prizes are available. Admittedly the sums are not very high; I accept that they are modest. Nevertheless, in the light of what I have said I am surprised that raffles and tombolas still provide cash prizes.

On the face of it, the amendment does not seem unreasonable in that it allows the offering of alcohol and cash prizes with no requirement for a licence under the system. However, I stress that the purpose of the exemption is to benefit small events such as village fetes and charity fundraisers. As I have explained, conflicting exemptions under different provisions in different laws could produce confusion.

The second amendment provides that a lottery could benefit from the exemption even where tickets were sold or issued or the result declared other than at the appropriate premises so long as the total expenses incurred did not exceed £2,000. My objection to the amendment is on similar grounds to the first. The requirements reflect the requirements of gaming law, and to amend them would lead to confusion. The issuing of tickets and declaration of the result must take place at the same premises as the entertainment in order to ensure that only the small events of which I have spoken are included. I believe that the example of the rugby club mentioned by the noble Lord would be caught. Larger lotteries, including those where tickets are sold prior to the event, should be caught.

Furthermore, £2,000 might pay for the supply of a considerable amount of alcohol if the exemption was misused by unscrupulous people to get round the licensing system.

In my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, following Second Reading, I promised that I would check that the Bill did not conflict with provisions in gaming legislation. I hope that he will now be assured that it does not but that his amendments would result in such a conflict.

I see no reason why the conditions that the amendment seeks to remove should cause concern to any of the many charities and individuals which have written to my department on this subject in recent months. I do not believe that any have written about this issue. In the light of my comments and my explanation as to why we have set the proposals for raffles and tombolas in the way we have, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

I am grateful to the Minister for her full reply. I confess, although one should not, that I was rather persuaded by her comments on Amendment No. 432, and shall take them away and carefully read them.

The reason the Minister has not received many letters regarding Amendment No. 433 may be that if the general public took as long as me to understand Clause 172, they might still be pondering it. It contains a triple negative, which is not quite a record for legislation but is pretty good going. Indeed, I was touched by her concern for the confusion which might result from the amendments being accepted, given that the whole world is in a state of abject confusion about such matters now, let alone with Clause 172 included. The noble Baroness may reflect on the effect of Amendment No. 433; I certainly shall. If she sends her officials on to the highways and byways she will find that a great many such raffles are now being held as part of the existing law with sales outside and beyond the event at which prizes are announced. However, reflection is a good habit, and that I shall do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 433 not moved.]

Clause 172 agreed to.

Clause 173 [Prohibition of alcohol sales at service areas, garages etc.]:

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 434: Page 96, line 29, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 434 to 436 relate to Clause 173, which prohibits the sale of alcohol at service areas, garages, and so forth. I have no problem with the prohibition of alcohol sales at motorway service areas. However, I have concerns about the wider implication for the garage ban. Bearing in mind that the Government have repeatedly stated that this is a deregulatory Bill, this provision increases regulation. It shows an unfair and unnecessary bias against small, independent businesses.

Local shopping facilities are under pressure. All political parties accept that, agree with it and believe that that is a shame. The village shop is under pressure from the local supermarket. The local post office is under pressure because of the ending of benefit payments through post offices. The petrol station is under pressure because of the pitiful margins on the sale of petrol, and the garage is under pressure because modern technology means that new units are replaced rather than repaired. The decline of all that has led to what is called by the Social Exclusion Unit "shopping deserts".

In order to survive, as many as possible of such functions need to be combined together to provide an economic unit, which would include the ability to sell alcohol. It is because of that that many forecourt stores have emerged in the past 10 years.

What can be the argument against allowing garages with shops attached to sell alcohol? There can be really only one; that is, that it increases the likelihood of drinking and driving. However, that is so marginal as to be irrelevant. If we consider the reality, who goes to a garage to buy a bottle of alcohol and then sits in his or her car and drinks it? What happens is that they might go home, in which case they can do what they like, or they might go on to a party. If they become inebriated at a party, they would probably do so whether or not they bought a bottle at their local garage. Furthermore, practically, there has been no evidence of an increase in this problem since the law permitted a wider range of alcohol sales in forecourt stores in the 1990s.

There are two further aspects to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee. What is the logic of enabling an off licence to be set up in a village street 25 yards away from the village garage? As far as I can see, that could happen under these proposals. The result will be that one will have two shopping units in the village and probably both will be forced to close because they are uneconomic.

Even worse is the position of the local supermarket. In one's local newspaper, Tesco, Sainsbury's or Safeway will often advertise petrol as a loss-leader as a reason to shop with them. We now have a situation where one can go to Tesco and fill up one's car tank with petrol and its boot with booze but one cannot buy a six-pack of beer in one's local garage shop and thereby support the continuation of a shop in one's village or locality. Where is the fairness in that? It is one law for the big boys and another for the small ones.

We have already dealt a blow to local garages. As the noble Baroness kindly confirmed to me in writing, if they have so much as a microwave or offer a hot cup of coffee after 11 p.m. they will need a licence. That blow has increased the regulations they will face as a result of the Bill. The Labour Party has shed crocodile tears about village shops. If the Bill is not changed, it will help to hasten their demise by prohibiting the combination of services and units in the way that I have described.

Amendment No. 434 seeks to leave out the words, premises used primarily as a garage or which form part of premises which are primarily so used". That is an extraordinarily wide definition and will mean that no village garage will be able to sell alcohol.

Amendment No. 435 seeks to leave out another—if I may so call it—Lord Davies of Oldham type clause, where, the Secretary of State may by order amend the definition of excluded premises". Therefore, later on we may find that an already strict interpretation can be made even stricter if the definition is changed in regulations. Amendment No. 436 is consequent on the amendment. I hope that noble Lords will support me in striking a blow for the village shop, the village garage and the village off-licence.

Baroness Buscombe

I support the amendments of my noble friend, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. This subject caused a considerable amount of debate among colleagues. Some felt quite strongly that the exemptions were right and others felt that my noble friend's amendments were right. It was interesting that the more we asked people whether alcohol is sold in garage forecourts, the more we realised that most people think it is already. Can the Minister tell us whether there are pertinent examples to exempt the selling of alcohol in garage forecourt stores? Some of my noble friend's illustrations emphasise why in practice it does not make sense to have this exemption for licensed premises.

The effect of the amendments is to allow the sale by retail or the supply of alcohol from premises used primarily as a garage or which form part of such premises without a premises licence. I emphasise those last few words. The amendment would not permit the sale of alcohol from garages without a premises licence. A licensing authority would still have to decide whether to grant a premises licence in respect of those garages.

We believe that the decision whether to grant a premises licence for a garage, thereby permitting the sale of alcohol, should be left to the relevant licensing authority, rather than this absolute prohibition in the Bill. There may be circumstances where it is acceptable that alcohol could be sold from a garage, to which my noble friend has already referred, particularly—we stress "particularly"—in rural areas.

We appreciate that it would rarely be acceptable for alcohol to be sold from a garage. The obvious reason is the assumption that people will get drunk while driving. But surely a licensing authority is best placed to consider the individual circumstances of each case. A blanket ban imposed by Parliament would have an unwarranted effect on garages where it is appropriate that a premises licence should be granted.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has made out an overwhelming case for the amendment. However, if the Government resist—as I fear they might—perhaps I may suggest a compromise. My compromise will not go as far as the Minister, or I for that matter, would like but it would be better than nothing. In doing so, I shall revert to a point I made at Second Reading. As the Minister is, I am sure, aware, Scandinavian governments are traditionally very strict about alcohol sales to the point of being positively puritanical. They have relaxed a little in recent years, but nevertheless their rules and regulations are still much stricter than those in this country.

However, a certain type of alcohol, known as light beer and light cider, which contains less than 2.2 per cent by volume, is treated much more benignly and. can be sold at many outlets where sales of stronger beers, wines and spirits would be totally forbidden. There is a logical reason for that, which is that this beer is so weak that it is almost impossible to get drunk on it. In a nutshell, the more one drinks the quicker one excretes it.

Clause 186 provides that drinks containing less than 0.5 per cent alcohol can be sold anywhere. Not many people find that particularly appealing. Although the 2.2 per cent beer is not as pleasant to drink as the 3.5 per cent or above, it is still better than nothing. Many people greatly dislike—for example, if they want to have a picnic—sweet fizzy drinks that are full of artificial flavouring and colouring and so on.

So I think that that would be a perfectly reasonable compromise. I know the Government cannot give a snap answer, but perhaps they might like to reflect on it before the next stage.

Lord Redesdale

I support the amendment. I speak to the issue raised in Amendment No. 436, which seeks to leave out subsection (c)(i), which is the retailing of petrol. The noble Lord made the point that local shops and garages are under pressure. I know that for a fact because I used to own a petrol station, which unfortunately went out of business last year because petrol margins were so short and we were making more out of the shop sales. It might have helped if the shop had sold alcohol.

I am not convinced by the argument that sales of alcohol on forecourts would lead to drink driving because anyone in a car can drive to an off-licence. However, one issue I wish to raise is that there seems to be a slight dichotomy in the Bill, which is that one reason many local garages are going out of business is that most people in rural areas shop in superstores. They will drive 30 to 40 miles to go to a superstore and at the same time fill up with much cheaper petrol. I know this is the case throughout the country.

Can the Minister give an indication whether any of the big superstores, such as Tesco or Sainsbury's, will be affected by subsection (c)(i)—the retailing of petrol—because most superstores have a garage attached to them? At what point do those garages come under that provision? It seems unfortunate that forecourts will be penalised. However, the very arguments that have been made against garages selling alcohol could also be applied to these superstores which sell alcohol until late.

Lord Crickhowell

I support my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts and seek clarification. I confess that I buy my whisky at the Sainsbury store on the other side of the river here and fill up at the same Sainsbury—as, I dare say, do other Members of the Committee. However, my questions arise from the situation in a little village that I know near my home in Wales. I am not sure what constitutes premises that are primarily a garage. There is a village store that has some petrol pumps on one side. The chap comes out of the store to sell the petrol and frequently, while he is filling my tank, I go into the shop to buy goods. At exactly the same distance on the other side of the store is the village pub. So if anyone wanted to occupy the time while the tank was being filled, he could pop into the village pub and buy some drink.

However, without looking at the accounts of my friend who runs that operation on a monthly or annual basis, I could not begin to know whether he is selling more goods in his shop or petrol, or whether that varied from year to year or month to month. Exactly how are the garages to be affected defined? Finally, if I owned a garage in a village and the village shop next door decided to establish separate companies and called one "Village Shop Ltd" and the other "Village Garage Ltd" but continued to operate them alongside each other, would I get round the provision or not? We are in jungle territory, and I should like to know exactly how we get out of the jungle.

Baroness Blackstone

The prohibition as it affects garage premises does not prevent licensing authorities, as at present, from licensing the sale of alcohol at garages at which the primary use of the premises—in effect, the intensity of their use by customers—is not as a garage. The clause defines use as a garage if the premises are used for the retailing of petrol or derv, or the sale or maintenance of motor vehicles.

Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and others suggested, we have made the provision in recognition of the fact that the garage shop often plays a vital role in rural communities, where it may be the only store in a locality. We therefore do not intend to remove the special provision, which currently allows around 550 garages in England and Wales to sell alcohol. Indeed, if the garage owned by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was making more profit from items sold other than petrol, it could almost certainly have obtained an alcohol licence and could continue to do so under the Bill. I do not know whether the noble Lord will consider buying back the garage in the light of that. However, to respond to the noble Lord's point about superstores, they will be able to continue to sell petrol if they want to.

The Government do not believe that all garages should be able to sell alcohol, as that would undermine hard-won gains in combating drink-driving. As I have implied, we recognise that in certain rural areas the garage shop may also be the only convenience store, so it is not practical to ban its sale from garages entirely where most of the premises' customers use its services for purposes other than buying petrol. However, after careful consideration, our view is that it would be inappropriate to allow sales of alcohol from all garages—which would be the effect of the amendments—for exactly the reason that I mentioned a moment ago: it would undermine the hard-won gains in combating drink-driving achieved during recent decades.

Baroness Buscombe

I hope that the Minister will forgive me for intervening at this point, but surely the principle in relation to drink-driving would apply whether or not the premises were used primarily as a garage.

Baroness Blackstone

I recognise that the question posed is perfectly reasonable, but it is a matter of considering the balance of different issues. It would be unreasonable for the Government to prevent a shop that was the only local shop from selling alcohol because it happened also to sell petrol on the side. That is entirely different from a motorway service station selling bottles of whisky or other alcohol to people who are about to set off down the motorway. It is a question of using common sense in making decisions about where such sales are appropriate.

Before the noble Baroness intervened, I was about to say that we can be pleased that there were about 480 alcohol-related fatalities in Great Britain in 2001, compared with more than 1,600 in 1979. So there has been a substantial reduction, and it would be unfortunate to put that at risk by giving out the kind of mixed messages about alcohol and driving that allowing widespread sales of alcohol from all garages would undoubtedly represent.

Perhaps I should remind Conservative Members of the Committee that the provisions linking the right of garages to obtain alcohol licences were introduced relatively recently by a Conservative Government. Road safety organisations and those concerned about drink-driving would be surprised if there was a complete volte faceon the part of Conservative Members.

Lord Crickhowell

Perhaps the Minister will answer my question. Is the distinction made on grounds measured by turnover? What constitutes premises that are primarily garages? In the example that I gave, I have not the faintest idea whether that premises is primarily a village shop or a garage. Is that clearly understood and laid down?

Baroness Blackstone

I think that I am right to say that that is measured by turnover, but if I am wrong, I shall write to the noble Lord to let him know.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me for saying that I found that a most extraordinary reply. I began by saying that it was never my intention to deal with motorway service areas. My amendment does not affect motorway service areas, which clearly should not sell alcohol. People drive down motorways to travel, not for local purposes.

Secondly, then to say that Sainsbury and Tesco, which sell hundreds of millions of pounds worth of alcohol a year, will be let off the restriction but that local shops will not seems extraordinarily biased. I f the Minister wants to argue, as she has, that we should not be able to buy booze because of the danger of alcohol-related accidents, driving to Tesco is just as dangerous as driving to a local shop.

Thirdly, as my noble friend Lady Buscombe said, the Bill is supposed to give power to people to reflect the circumstances of their areas. As she said, why cannot we let the local licensing authority have discretion to decide whether that suits it or not? That seems to be the way to deal with the matter, rather than this blanket ban.

Finally, the Minister said that an exclusion would continue for 450 or 550 garages. I do not read that in the Bill. The Bill appears to exclude, premises used primarily as a garage or which form part of premises which are primarily so used". It does not state, "excluding the 450 that are currently allowed".

We shall not take the matter further now, but the Government are being extraordinarily cavalier 'with both local licensing authorities and local shops, about which they have previously expressed so much concern. We shall return to the matter, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 435 and 436 not moved.]

Clause 173 agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Clause 174 [Rights of entry to investigate licensable activitiec]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 437: Page 97, line 27, at end insert "unless a constable or an authorised person has reasonable cause to believe that there are activities being carried on at the premises which would require a premises licence to be in force at the premises

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 437. I shall speak also to Amendment No. 438. I shall deal first with Amendment No. 437.

Clause 174 enables constables or authorised officers of the licensing authority to enter premises if they believe that the premises, are being, or are about to be, used for a licensable activity Such officers can do so only, with a view to seeing whether the activity is being, or is to be, carried on under and in accordance with a premises licence, a club premises certificate or a temporary event notice. Subsection (7) provides that that right of entry does not exist in respect of premises where only a club premises certificate is held. That would mean that, if the holder of a club premises certificate allowed public entertainment on the premises that would require a premises licence in addition to the club certificate and he failed to obtain that premises licence, the police and local authority would not be able to enter the premises to ascertain whether such unlawful activity was being carried on.

I turn to Amendment No. 438. Clause 174(1) provides for police officers or other authorised persons, such as licensing authority officers, to enter premises if they have reason to believe that a licensable activity is being, or is about to be, undertaken. That power is conferred for the purposes of investigating licensable activities.

Clause 175 provides a similar power for the investigation of licensing offences if it is believed that an offence under the Bill, has been, is being or is about to be committed". However, Clause 175(1) restricts the rights of entry and search in such circumstances to police officers. Both sets of rights have attached to them additional rights to force entry, if necessary, and it would be an offence, in both instances, to obstruct entry by a person authorised under Clauses 174 or 175.

The distinction between investigating licensable activities and the investigation of licensing offences is an academic one. There is no reason why licensing officers or authorised persons should not be given rights under Clause 175 relating to the investigation of licensing offences to match those conferred by Clause 174 relating to licensable activities. Local authorities already exercise such rights in respect of public entertainment licensing. It would be absurd not to use their resources and rely entirely on the already overstretched police.

It is likely that, without the amendment, many serious offences—some related to safety—would go uninvestigated. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendment No. 437 would enlarge the powers of the police and the licensing authority officers to enter qualifying clubs. It would, for example, allow a licensing authority officer to enter a club to check whether entertainment not covered by its club premises certificate was being provided. Clause 174 needs to be read in conjunction with Clause 175. Clause 174 is all about investigating and checking. It does not require reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been, or is about to be, committed. In contrast, Clause 175 deals with a case in which the police have reason to suspect the commission of an offence under the Bill. The later clause confers on the police a power of entry to the premises, which may be premises of any kind, including club premises.

The Government believe that Parliament should be cautious about extending rights of entry to qualifying clubs, especially if, as in this case, the power to enter carries with it the power to use reasonable force, if necessary. Qualifying clubs are, by definition, private premises not open to the general public, and there is a long tradition of responsible and law-abiding operation in the club movement. We do not have a serious problem of abuse. Of course, from time to time, with thousands of clubs across the country, things may go wrong, and rules may be bent or broken. But it is possible for the law to be enforced without going so far as what is suggested in the amendment.

If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that offences under the Bill are being committed, Clause 175 comes into play. The powers of entry and search provided in Clause 95 may also be relevant. Those responsible may be prosecuted, and the club will be at risk of losing its premises certificate. The amendment would give the police and licensing authorities a right to enter club premises without having any reasonable suspicion of the commission of an offence there. They could do so simply in order to check whether everything was in order. In the absence of real evidence of widespread abuse, that would be a step too far and would undermine an important distinction between clubs and licensed premises that are open to the public. We cannot support Amendment No. 437.

Amendment No. 438 would substantially enlarge the powers of local authority licensing officers—and, indeed, other officials—in a way that cannot be justified. As I said, Clause 175 gives the police the power to enter any premises, using reasonable force, if necessary, if they have reason to suspect that an offence under the Bill is being committed. It is a far-reaching power, but we believe that it is right to enable the police to act promptly if they encounter circumstances that give rise to reasonable suspicion—for example, if private premises are being used in practice as an unlicensed pub or disco. However, it is one thing to confer the powers on police officers but quite another to extend them to officials whose training and responsibilities probably relate only to licensing or environmental health law.

The amendment would mean that a local authority licensing officer could break down someone's front door and enter his home if the officer reasonably suspected that alcohol was being kept there with a view to its unlawful future sale. Leaving aside the point that that has nothing to do with environmental health, I invite the Committee to consider whether that is something that we want licensing officers to do. It is fairly obvious that we do not. It is a matter for the police. If the argument is that, in practice, local authority licensing officers would not use powers of entry in such cases, the case for conferring such powers in the first place falls away.

Local authority officers are not equipped to use the far-reaching powers conferred by Clause 175. If they come across circumstances that lead them to believe that such powers should be used, they should tell the police and co-ordinate follow-up action with them. If local authority staff tried to use powers of forcible entry on their own, they would risk creating incidents of violence or disorder with which the police would have to deal.

I hope, in the light of my explanation, that Amendment No. 438 will not be pressed.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her full response. I shall read in Hansard what she said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 174 agreed to.

Clause 175 [Right of entry to investigate offences]:

[Amendment No. 438 not moved.]

Clause 175 agreed to.

Clause 176 [Appeals against decisions of licensing authorities]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 438A: Page 98, line 6, leave out from "may" to end of line and insert ", in exceptional circumstances, make an order as to costs

The noble Lord said: If magistrates were able simply to award costs without it being clearly understood that such costs were to be awarded only in exceptional cases, it would act as a deterrent to objectors who wished to appear before them, for whom the existing deterrence is already considerable.

The subsequent amendments in the grouping are not in my name. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe

I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 439, 441ZA and 443, which stand in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Luke. In relation to Amendment No. 439, Clause 176 allows applicants for and holders of licences and club premises certificates, applicants for provisional notices and interim authority notices and applicants for temporary event notices, responsible authorities and interested parties, rights of appeal to a magistrates' court against decisions of a licensing authority. The appeal mechanism is set out in Schedule 5 to the Bill.

Clause 176 sets out the powers of the magistrates in determining such appeals. However, it does not currently direct them as to the factors that they should take into account in determining such appeals. As the licensing authority is required to formulate, state and review its licensing policy under Clause 5 and have regard to it in exercising its licensing functions, it appears self-evident that in assessing the adequacy of a licensing authority's decision on appeal, the court should be obliged to have regard to the authority's licensing statement.

Amendment No. 441ZA stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, who is unable to be in his place today. It is largely dependent on whether fees will be subject to variation by licensing authorities. We shall know more on that issue in the near future when guidance is issued. Does the right of appeal against fees mean that every applicant will claim that they are being over-charged for their premises license? I would suggest that the answer is "not necessarily". There is much to be said for the right to question a decision on fees. If the holder of the premises is prepared to go through the administrative process of appealing, it is likely that they would have a legitimate claim. We believe that the matter should be discussed.

In relation to Amendment No. 443, licensing committees on Benches are usually no larger than 20 in number at present. They develop specialist knowledge in licensing law. Perhaps I may add that this amendment has been developed in conjunction with the Justices' Clerks' Society. Schedule 5 allows the appeal to be heard by any magistrate. That would have severe implications on training resources and development of expertise.

With an average Bench of 200 justices, the licensing committee would currently be no more than 20 justices. That would provide for a small, coherent unit whose members can be trained in this specialist area of law. The number of justices means that they will frequently sit on licensing matters. If all 200 justices have to be trained, that will be both time-consuming and expensive. It will also mean that any justice will sit on a licensing appeal only infrequently and thus not develop any level of expertise. Our amendment seeks to remedy the situation while keeping in line with the current position regarding justices' involvement in licensing matters.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

It is of course only right that all parties involved in the licensing process have available appropriate remedies and freedom to challenge decisions, where appropriate. However, I do not believe that these amendments are necessary.

Amendment No. 438A would allow a magistrates' court that had heard an appeal to award costs only in exceptional circumstances. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that I do not agree with that principle. Courts should be allowed to award costs to any party involved in an appeal as they see fit. That is not a novel idea peculiar only to this Bill. It is the way in which the courts operate in the vast majority of cases.

Amendment No. 439 would compel a court considering an appeal against a decision made by a licensing authority to have regard to the authority's statement of licensing policy when making its decision.

Clause 176 concerns the mechanism of appeals. It sets out the three courses of action that a magistrates' court may take when hearing an appeal against the decision of a licensing authority. These courses of action are to dismiss the appeal; to substitute a decision for the original decision; or to remit the case to the licensing authority to dispose of in accordance with the direction of the court.

What the clause does not seek to do is to tell the court, or those who are parties to the appeal, how to conduct their case. The licensing policy may be the main focus of the appeal—for instance, if an appellant believes that a decision made under it is wrong because the policy itself has not been made with proper regard to the Bill or its guidance. Neither party in an appeal may refer to the policy to support its argument. That is entirely proper.

However, perhaps we may take an example of how the system might work in certain circumstances. Let us say that a licensing authority takes a decision based, as is required by the Bill, on its statement of licensing policy. Although the licensing policy would have been prepared in consultation with a range of interests, again as required by the Bill, there is a chance perhaps even a likelihood—that some of those affected by licensing decisions would disagree with aspects of the policy. It would be open to anyone with a grievance over a decision made by the licensing authority to exercise their right of appeal to the magistrates' court.

If the magistrates' court were required to take into account the licensing policy, its discretion would, in effect, be unfairly fettered. It would have little choice but to uphold any decision made by the licensing authority that was reasonably based on the licensing policy. It would deny appellants the opportunity to air their grievance that the aspect or aspects of the licensing policy on which was based the decision against which they were appealing. Furthermore, it must be right that the court considers the case before it on its individual merits, taking into account the normal rules of admissibility of evidence.

I do not believe that the Government should interfere with the work of the magistrates' courts in the way that this amendment seeks to do. It would be to the detriment of all involved, particularly appellants.

I have stated before that fees will be set centrally by the Secretary of State, following consultation. There will be no scope for variation by the licensing authority and, as a result, no need for an appeal against them. As I have explained previously, while the exact level of the fee is yet to be decided, we currently estimate that the one-off fee for a premises licence would range from £100 to £500, depending on the size of the premises. In the majority of cases, fees will be smaller than under the present systems. There will of course he only a single licence to apply for. In the majority of cases, there will be no need for a costly legal hearing just to obtain a licence.

With fees set centrally, there will be no scope for the enormous variations that the industry faces at present. The principle that fees will be fair and proportionate would be undermined by Amendment No. 441ZA.

In tabling Amendment No. 443, I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has in mind that given the transfer of licensing functions to local authorities, we should preserve a role for licensing justices, with all their experience and specialist knowledge, as the appeal body. However, they will not have any experience of the new system set out in the Bill. That would require training by the Magistrates' Association and the Lord Chancellor's Department, in the same way as anyone coming new to the system and serving on an appeal body.

Furthermore, the amendment would inject a degree of inflexibility into the system. It was largely for this reason, as well as for reasons of cost and accessibility, that so many stakeholders and individuals who responded to the White Paper asked for a change in the proposal that appeals against licensing decisions would be heard by the Crown Court. We were persuaded by the responses received that it would be quicker, cheaper and just as effective for those appeals to be heard by a magistrates' court. The Government's efforts to consult and involve all interested parties have continued throughout the past two years, and we have not heard calls for this change to be reversed. If only a certain number of magistrates were able to hear appeals, that would slow the process and make it less responsive. Therefore, for broadly the same reasons of speed and costs, I cannot accept the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, who introduced Amendment No. 438A, will feel able to withdraw it.

Baroness Buscombe

I accept what the Minister says in relation to Amendments Nos. 439 and 441ZA. However, I urge her to reconsider her response to Amendment No. 443. We believe that it would make a great deal of sense to have a panel of justices. As I have already suggested, that would be a small coherent unit which could be trained in this specialist area of law and its number mean that members would frequently sit on licensing matters. They would therefore have a good understanding, they would be focused and they would have a developing expertise in the subject. That would make for speedy and cost-effective justice. I therefore urge the Minister to reconsider what we said in relation to the amendment put forward by us in conjunction with the Justices' Clerks' Society.

Lord Avebury

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, the Minister said that it was normal for the magistrates' court to have a total discretion to grant costs in any other case and that therefore there was no reason for making an exception in the case of licensing appeals. What happens at the moment? In a system in which the first application is to the magistrates' court, presumably no costs are awarded at that stage. When appeals are made to the High Court against a decision of the magistrates, would the High Court normally make a costs order against the residents' association or group of residents who are objecting to the award of the licence by the magistrates?

Let us try to compare like with like. It would be helpful to the Committee if the Minister could say a little more about how costs may be awarded, or are customarily awarded under the current procedure.

Baroness Blackstone

I have no figures about what happens under the existing system and therefore I cannot directly answer the noble Lord's question. I imagine that the position will vary substantially from case to case, but I shall see whether I can provide the figures which the noble Lord would like to see and write to him if they are available.

My real concern is that the amendment would—or could—encourage licence applicants to appeal decisions which they knew they had little chance of winning. Residents and others could make appeals on the most tenuous of grounds. Both would be relatively secure in the knowledge that they were unlikely to have costs awarded against them.

That would not make for a less bureaucratic system, which is what we are trying to achieve through the reforms in the Bill, but it would make for one in which decisions might be challenged as a matter of course. That would not be helpful.

Lord Avebury

That would make it even more essential that the Committee should have this information. If the purpose of allowing the courts the power to award costs against residents' associations is to deter them from making what the Minister believes to be frivolous applications, we need to know whether that happens at the moment. If the magistrates allow an application and the residents appeal that it is not to their advantage, are they at the moment deterred by the award of costs from making an appeal to the High Court? That is the question that I asked and it is reasonable that the Committee should require an answer to it.

Baroness Blackstone

I have given an answer. I do not have the figures to hand but I will make them available to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and copy them to the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for the searching questions which he asked her on my behalf. I understand the Government's position but I am not sure whether they are aware of the sense on the part of potential appellants that matters are weighted heavily against them, which in turn affects their sense of injustice about the Bill. However, I understand what the Minister said in response to my amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 439 not moved.]

Clause 176 agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Appeals]:

[Amendments Nos. 440 to 443 not moved. ]

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clauses 178 and 179 agreed to.

Clause 180 [Provision of information]:

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 443A: Page 99, line 38, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: At the start of the business on Thursday, I said that I would seek to be brief and that any exception to that would be the one that proved the rule. I am afraid that this amendment will be the exception. Also on Thursday, in speaking to Amendment No. 211 I alluded to a future amendment relating to human rights. The letter which was then referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, arises from matters brought to the attention of the Joint Committee on Human Rights on 26th November by a former constituent of mine in Soho on behalf of his residents' association.

Two days later, my former constituent wrote a letter on the same subject to the Government which ran to 13 well-argued pages and was copied to the Secretary of State at the DCMS. He alluded to human rights questions in this Bill at Clauses 13(3); 18(2); 34(2); 68(3); 71(2); 83(2); and to the effect of Clause 30(2) taken with Clauses 18(2) and 18(6)(d). I moved Amendment No. 211 in relation to Clause 30 and it is perhaps fortunate that his letter did not fall into my hands earlier, or we might have prolonged the earlier sittings on the Bill in that regard. He finally alluded to Clause 180, which now absorbs us.

Some of the matters were treated on in the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued before Christmas on 16th December. The chairman wrote to my former constituent on 13th January telling him that she had written to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and was awaiting a reply. I gather that one of the noble Baroness's ministerial colleagues did reply and that is the letter to which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred on Thursday. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, promised to ensure that it was released to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and to this House. I am delighted to say that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was as good as his word and that I have seen the letter.

The letter is from the noble Baroness's colleague, Mr Howells. Its final words are: representations have been received from the Musician's Union in relation to Article 10 rights"— the matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred on Thursday— from one Resident's Association about Article 8". That is the 13-page letter to which I have referred. Of the eight clauses in the Bill on which the residents' association letter treats in connection with Article 8, the letter from the noble Baroness's colleague Mr Howells to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights alludes only to two and neither of those is Clause 180 about which I am speaking. Therefore, this is a new matter.

The first of the issues mentioned in the letter of 13th January from the chairman of the Joint Committee to my former constituent is the compatibility with ECHR Article 8 of provisions which would appear to take account of representations from residents about the impact of granting a licence on residents' Article 8 rights. The issue in Clause 180 is the right to information.

I shall now quote from the letter which my former constituent sent to the Government on 26th November. It states: Clause 180 of the Bill appears to prevent 'responsible parties' including the police and environmental health officers from making disclosures of information relating to crime and disorder and nuisance from licensed premises to parties other than other responsible parties and licensing authorities. In a cluster, a significant proportion of crime and disorder, nuisance, social and environmental issues are related to the impact of the entertainment premises on residents and legislation provides for disclosure of relevant information. For example the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires disclosure of crime and disorder data to sector committees, consultative committees, publication of crime and disorder audits, safety plans so that people who live and work in an area may give their views on policing issues. Similar provisions apply in the Local Government Act 2000 with respect to environmental control. The effect of Clause 180 will be to prevent disclosure of the most important elements of information under these provisions and effectively therefore it neuters these provisions. This creates problems with respect to the need for public authorities, under the decision in Guerra v Italy'— to which an earlier reference had been made— from making disclosures to those who are likely to be affected by the nuisance, crime and disorder and nuisance. It thereby (1) deprives them of the opportunity to decide whether to continue to live in the area (2) it deprives them of information to be able to make relevant representations and (3) it deprives them of the ability of bringing judicial review proceedings against bodies which have failed to exercise their powers properly under the licensing regime that is proposed. This is a violation of the principles set out in Guerra v Italy".

My former constituent dilated on the case of Guerra v Italy elsewhere in the letter, where it stated: in the case of Guerra v Italy, the Court ruled there was a breach of article 8. In that case the applicants lived near a chemical factory which was classified as 'high risk'. The Court found a breach of article 8 on the basis that, once the authorities became aware of essential information about the dangers inherent in the running of the factory, they delayed for several years before passing that information to the applicants and therefore prevented them from assessing the risks they and their families ran by continuing to live in the vicinity of the factory. The public authorities had positive obligations to disseminate the information and had failed to do so".

It is important that people—particularly those living in town centres—should know about the crime, disorder, nuisance and safety impact on them of these problems, whether or not they come from licensed premises. This is required under the Crime and Disorder Act and under the Convention. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

We are in deep waters here and I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not refer back to the previous occasions during the passage of the Bill on which these issues have arisen but concentrate on Clause 180, which the noble Lord seeks to amend.

Throughout the Bill there are balances and safeguards offering protections and ensuring that those bodies responsible for enforcement have the information they need to act quickly and effectively when necessary.

Clause 180 provides that information held by licensing authorities and responsible authorities for the purposes of the Bill may be shared with other licensing authorities or responsible authorities where necessary to enable the discharging of licensing authority functions. It is perfectly reasonable that licensing authorities and bodies such as the police, fire authority and health and safety bodies should be able to share such information.

What would not be reasonable, however, is for such information to be widely shared or shared for purposes other than the proper administration and enforcement of the licensing regime. The noble Lord's amendment would remove the protections for licence holders, applicants and other individuals. They could not be sure to which other organisations or individuals their personal information or data had been passed, or for what purpose.

There is a requirement on all licensing authorities to keep a register of information about licences and notices, and Clause 8 provides the right level of disclosure of information about licensing decisions for inspection by the public. But in discharging licensing functions or the functions of a responsible authority, the licensing authority or responsible authority may well have in its possession information to which issues of confidentiality and so on will attach. It is right therefore that information which is not kept on the public register—which is, in fact, a considerable range of information—should be available only for limited purposes for restricted classes of person.

I have listened carefully to the case for the amendment presented by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. I understand entirely the example he gave about the dangers to the public of a lack of knowledge in regard to a chemical factory capable of emitting noxious substances, but the kind of premises we are seeking to licence—which, without doubt, may occasionally arouse anxiety in the public in terms of potential law breaking and difficulties with disturbances—do not present the same kind of threat to the life and welfare of individuals. Although I respect the case made by the noble Lord—as he rightly indicated, we in the department are fully aware of the deployment of this case across the range of the Bill—the amendment is not justified against the position I have described of how Clause 180 will work in association with Clause 8. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied with my response.

Lord Avebury

The Minister's reply is all very well but it does not address the main thrust of the amendment, which is concerned entirely with the human rights aspects of the matter. This leaves the Committee in some difficulty. There has been important correspondence between Miss Jean Corston, the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the responsible Minister, Mr Kim Howells, who has replied at not quite as great a length but his letter runs to five pages. The noble Lord promised the Committee on Thursday that copies of the letter would be placed in the Library of the House, but it became available only at lunch-time today and I have not had adequate time to study it properly and to arrive at a definite conclusion. I notice that the date on the top of the letter is 10th January. Considering its relevance, can the Minister say why the letter was not made available to the Committee earlier? That is one point he should perhaps have explained in his reply.

A second matter the Minister has to explain is why, notwithstanding the fact that the writer of the original letter to Jean Corston, from which this correspondence arose, went into some detail about the provision of information under Clause 180—I would be out of order if I referred to the other matters dealt with in this correspondence—Mr Howells did not mention the provision of information. So, even if one accepts everything the noble Lord said about there being good reasons for maintaining the confidentiality of certain information provided in connection with the licence, if there is a conflict between the Human Rights Act and the data protection aspects of information that is given in confidence in connection with a licence, that needs to be thoroughly explored—and we have not had an opportunity to do so.

Lord Davies of Oldham

We have done our best in regard to the letters. The Committee will know that the issue cropped up quite late in the debate on Thursday. In fact, if we had not adjourned when we did on Thursday evening there would have been no opportunity to get the letter to the Committee prior to the discussion of Clause 180. So we have tried to move with dispatch.

Let me explain why the letter was not in the public domain before. We had interpreted the representation from the Human Rights Committee as an issue between the Human Rights Committee and Ministers. Representations were made by the chair of the Human Rights Committee and our response was to the chair, Jean Corston, a Member of another place. At that stage we believed we were being helpful to the committee and that an aspect of private communication was involved. When representation was made on Thursday that in the consideration of the Committee the contents of the letter should be made widely available, we did our best on that basis to make it available for today's debate. I recognise the difficulty of internalising the contents of lengthy letters on difficult issues when they have been available for only a short time. But that is the best explanation that I can give. It is offered in good faith. Given the background, it was the best we could do. The original intention was not to keep information from the Committee but for Ministers at that point to be engaged in direct communication with the chairman of the Human Rights Committee. The ministerial reply was drafted against the background of being of help to that committee. We had not thought, therefore, that the letter should be in the public domain—where it now is.

I recognise that I am taking a different view from that of the author of the original letter, accurately reflected with regard to Clause 180 by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. I recognise that these are significant issues that we shall need to ponder further. I have given the Committee as much information as I can at this juncture, both in terms of the issues contained in the letter and in terms of the defence of Clause 180 as it stands as against the amendment proposed by the noble Lord. I have no doubt that if he is dissatisfied with the situation he will ensure that we continue these discussions. We recognise that they range further across the Bill than this immediate clause. But at this stage I press the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I am grateful to the Minister and, as on the previous occasion, to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for putting helpful questions on the present position. I should perhaps have said earlier that there is a remarkable tradition and reputation in Westminster in terms of the effectiveness, the openness and the candour of the police and community consultative groups. One of the reasons they work so well is their degree of openness—not merely between the police and the local authority but between the police, the local authority and the local community.

I am concerned that I did not hear the Minister seek to disprove my observation about powers under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Local Government Act 2000 which I suggested on behalf of my former constituent were endangered by Clause 180 of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will re-examine the provision to see whether such rights have been interfered with in the process.

I understand the Minister's position. I followed what he said, but I hope that he will forgive me if I remark that this is a fairly sweeping and comprehensive clause and that his response was also of a some what sweeping nature. I hope that, in the light of this debate, he will re-examine the implications that I have raised to see whether there can be modifications and concessions which will not move matters against and away from the community, as the community presently believes is happening following the two previous pieces of legislation I mentioned, in terms of the powers exercised in the police and community consultative groups.

I acknowledge that Guerra v Italy was very much a macro-case. I recognise that chemical factories are perhaps sui generis. But it was noticeable that in the same correspondence my former constituent also quoted Hatton and others v UK, which related to Heathrow airport. That brings us much nearer to home and returns to the issue of noise nuisance, which is of a similar nature.

I shall give one micro-example to indicate the view of the person in the street. It relates to an elderly Chinese woman living in Soho—a fair number of Chinese live there—who wished to make a complaint about what she regarded as excessive behaviour at a large night-club to which I shall not allude but which may be described as having a somewhat controversial reputation; so it was not wholly unexpected that she should have been disturbed by it.

She went first to the environmental health officer to find out her rights in terms of the conditions and conduct to which she was being subjected. The environmental health officer said that she should consult the police. When consulted in the street, the police said that she must go back to the environmental health officer; and the environmental health officer said that she must go to those who were carrying out the licensing procedure.

If you are an elderly Chinese and you have been passed from pillar to post in that manner, you are not likely to feel that your human rights are being reinforced when you are the person who is making the complaint in the first place and when you have certain personal reservations about being too up-front as a member of your particular community in terms of making the complaint. I mention this example in order to set a framework for the manner in which the Government might examine the clause as drafted and reassure themselves that they are protecting the rights of individuals such as that elderly Chinese lady in terms of being able to get to the bottom of what is going on around her.

I realise that I made a long speech at a late hour on human rights—the single matter that has exercised us at length—but perhaps that is no had thing. The Government have said that they will re-examine the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,

Clause 180 agreed to.

Clauses 181 to 187 agreed to.

Clause 188 [Other definitions]:

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amenclment No. 444: Page 103, line 27, leave out "place" and insert "building or open space for which a licence may be applied

The noble Baroness said: This amendment stands also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold. It is straightforward. It is designed to add a degree of clarity to Clause 188, dealing with definitions.

"Premises" suggestions a building or an enclosed space; and "place" does little to provide illumination otherwise. We believe that it is important to specify that under the Bill "premises" need not be an enclosed area but may be a building or open space. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

As the noble Baroness has indicated, the amendment raises an issue of definition. We happen to think that the word "place" is a pretty good English word, which certainly covers both the buildings and the open spaces referred to in the amendment. I think it will be clear that it applies as much to temporary structures as to permanent ones, and to places on land as well as on water. We do not want a restrictive interpretation of the location at which licensable activities will be carried on, and "place" is a broad and suitable word for this purpose.

The amendment raises some interesting issues. It would remove the reference to, a vehicle, vessel or moveable structure". I think it important that boats on which drink is served and entertainments staged are covered by the Bill in the interests of public safety and the prevention of nuisance in particular. I am slightly concerned that by defining "premises" as buildings or open spaces, doubt would be cast on this. So the amendment raises rather more problems than it sets out to solve—and I dc not believe that there is a problem that needs solving. Therefore, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for his response. I had rather hoped, given that I was so brief, that he might respond warmly and accept the amendment. However, I agree with him that "place" is a good English word. I thank him for the clarification of the meaning of that word in the Bill. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 445 not moved. ]

Clause 188 agreed to.

Clause 189 [Index of defined expressions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 189 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Brightman

I applaud the Minister's drafting team for including Clause 189, on page 104, which is an index of specially defined words and expressions used in the Bill. It is of great convenience to the reader. By referring to the left-hand column of the index, the reader can discover at a glance whether a word or expression has or has not a special statutory meaning. If so, the right-hand column tells the reader at a glance where the meaning is to be found. Once rarely found in Bills, an index is becoming a feature of a number of well drafted Bills.

The health Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, at a closing stage of the Adoption and Children Bill last October, said that, having an easy-to-understand glossary is of use to a Minister as it is to every other Member of your Lordships' House. I commend that very good practice of my own department to other government departments".—[Official Report, 30/10/02; col. 251.] I hope that, in time, every long Bill will have an index of defined expressions to help the reader.

Lord Avebury

I would more readily join the noble and learned Lord in applauding the index if it contained the word "vicinity". I apologise for returning to the subject. When I last raised it, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, told me that the "vicinity" of a pub meant only the pub itself, the car park and associated land in the immediate vicinity. Obviously, that is not the case, because "vicinity" includes places where residents have a right to object.

That is why the word is important—sufficiently so to be included in the index. A person living one street away from the premises to which a licence application pertains may wonder whether he has a right to object. If he lives two streets away, does he still have that right? The vagueness of the term "vicinity" and the absence of any direct way in which residents can ascertain whether they are within this mythical area may cause much trouble when the Bill becomes law.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I must correct the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I did not set out to define "vicinity". I referred to the specific context in which the word was used in the clause we were debating at the time. Although I do not have the text in front of me, it referred to "vicinity" and another quality; therefore I did not define "vicinity".

I express the gratitude of the Bill team and the parliamentary draftsman to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, for his kind words about Clause 189. We appreciate that he had to stay until quite late on Thursday in the hope of reaching this clause so that he could say his kind words.

Clause 189 agreed to.

Clause 190 agreed to.

Clause 191 [Removal of privileges and exemptions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 191 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I have taken an interest in the matter of the Worshipful Company of Vintners in the City of London, referred to in this clause, since its affairs were addressed in the White Paper. That was partly due to a then constituency interest, and because the company's privileges date back to a royal charter under King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland. Intemperate interference with royal charters can send a shiver up the spine of larger institutions such as universities, which might fear not so much Henry VIII powers as Henry VIII policies.

Against those combined concerns, I took the liberty of bringing the Corporation of London into the matter. I am conscious that the company has been having constructive and productive conversations with the corporation, on one hand, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the other. I gather that the Government are minded to put into regulations an interpretation of these matters which is acceptable to the company. I raise the point at this stage only to secure an acknowledgement from the Government in Committee that my account is not at variance with their view and that they intend to include company-related matters discussed between the company and the department in regulations at a later stage.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am happy to confirm that that is the case. I am grateful to the noble Lord. I thought I heard for the first time in our debate the use of the word "intemperate" interference. We certainly do not intend to use that word with regard to this Bill.

Lord Monson

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, would press more vigorously his opposition to the clause. I declare an interest as a Cambridge graduate, although I was unaware of the privileges and exemptions referred to in the clause before I saw the Bill. Why are the Government so intent on eliminating every minor, historical anomaly in this country? They harm nobody and give pleasure to many.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The Bill is about deregulation and modernising our provision for the good of the community. Modernisation would thwart certain exemptions and privileges that are at least 400 or 500 years old.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

It would be discourteous of me not to thank the Minister for his response. In referring to "intemperate interference" with royal charters, I was harking back to the White Paper. I was not seeking to make it apply to the Bill.

Clause 191 agreed to.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 446: After Clause 191, insert the following new clause—

"ANNUAL REPORT ON EFFECTS OF LICENSING POLICY ON PUBLIC HEALTH (1) The Secretary of State shall publish each year a report on the effects on public health of the change in licensing policy introduced under this Act. (2) In each report under subsection (1) the Secretary of State shall include—

  1. (a) an assessment by the Chief Medical Officer of the public health advantages and disadvantages of alcohol and the licensing policy set out under this Act, including, specifically, the benefits of 24-hour drinking and the impact of the operation of the Act on young people between the ages of 16 and 21 and on children,
  2. (b) a statement of the number of facilities in England and Wales offering 24-hour drinking, listed by the licensing authority,
  3. (c) a statement of the number of fixed penalty offences, cautions and convictions for alcohol related offences in the preceding year, together with details of the number of recorded offences under Part 7 of this Act,
  4. (d) an estimate of the number of days lost to work as a result of alcohol related absence,
  5. (e) an estimate of the cost to the National Health Service of treating alcohol related illness,
  6. (f) a statement by the Secretary of State as to whether the reform of licensing policy has had any effect on the factors in paragraphs (b) to (e),
  7. (g) a statement from the bodies representing licensing authorities under section 3(1) setting out the costs of implementing licensing policy under this Act; whether those costs have been fully recovered through fees; and the impact, if any, of policy under this Act on the level and nature of crime, vandalism, nuisance, noise or other anti-social behaviour in England and Wales, and in compiling their report under this paragraph the local government representative bodies shall consult each of the licensing authorities which are members of their associations and shall, as appropriate, report on costs and effects in each licensing authority."

The noble Baroness said: I spoke about public health on the second day of the Committee when I sought to introduce "the protection of public health" as one of the licensing objectives. At that time, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, replied that, the wider area of the protection of public health", was, not within the scope of the Bill". If noble Lords disagree with the protection of public health being a licensing objective, they should concede at least a review to illuminate the health effects of the changes in licensing. The Minister claimed that, certain of the Bill's measures should have a positive effect on public health".—[Official Report, 17/12/02; col. 621.] He quoted New Zealand as an example. Like New Zealand, the United Kingdom is expected to benefit from extended opening hours since binge-drinking will be reduced.

The Minister's view strikes me as naïve or overoptimistic. In this country, the culture, especially but not exclusively among the young, is to drink as much as possible until you are exceptionally drunk. The longer the hours, probably the more alcohol will be consumed. Binge-drinking will not necessarily be reduced. It will most probably be transported from 10.45 p.m. to 12.45 a.m. or whenever premises shut.

I do not need to describe to the Committee the adverse effect alcohol can have on health, not only on one's liver but of injury sustained as a direct result of alcohol consumption, including alcohol-related crime. The Bill is bound to have some effect on public health. We may share the Minister's optimism and hope that the effect is positive. No one can accurately predict the health repercussions of the Bill. It is not too much to ask the Government that we make it obligatory for the Secretary of State to publish an annual report to let us know the repercussions. The specific content of the report, which I have included in the amendment, is open to discussion. These are only suggestions about the detail that should be included. It may be an administrative burden for those in charge of collating the information and gathering the statistics, but that is not a valid reason for neglecting to monitor the effect of licensing on our nation's health. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

This is a worthwhile amendment and we should consider it carefully. A lot has been said in Committee on both sides of the argument about the extent to which the changes introduced by the Bill will increase the danger of alcohol abuse. The noble Baroness talked earlier this afternoon about the pride the Government have taken and the understandable pleasure we all take in the reduction in the number of drink-driving deaths. That information could also usefully be included. I know she is concerned about a few poor village shops selling a few beers and is prepared to ignore Sainsbury's and Tesco in the mean time.

My noble friend has made an important point. We need to monitor the effects of the laws that we pass; otherwise we are working in a vacuum and will have no way of monitoring the effectiveness of our decisions.

Lord Avebury

I support the amendment and urge the Government to undertake research that would enable us to form some opinions about these matters. To a large extent we are arguing in the dark. I referred earlier to a study undertaken by the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in collaboration with one of the biggest night clubs in Liverpool to ascertain how many of the casualties brought into the A&E department were a direct result of events that had taken place in—or in the vicinity of, to use an ill-defined term—the establishment concerned. That was a model of its kind. I would like more research to be undertaken by the owners of licensed premises, in collaboration with their neighbouring hospitals, to see to what extent the people being brought into the hospitals had had accidents or suffered injuries as a result of the drink that they or somebody else had consumed. The Government's apparent unwillingness to look into the matter disturbs me. There is nothing about it in the Bill. I applaud the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for moving the amendment, which I strongly support.

Quite apart from that, there seems to be deliberate myopia about the effects of alcohol on injuries in general. I am not just talking about road accidents. We know something about them, because the police collect statistics that show the extent of road injuries caused by alcohol. There are a host of other kinds of injury. In any area in which the late-night economy flourishes, large numbers of young people congregate in the neighbourhood of the establishments, behaving aggressively and on the verge of committing offences of violence against each other. Sometimes they break out into offences of violence, as we know from some notorious cases in which, for example, prominent footballers have been involved in the neighbourhood of these establishments. Why do we not undertake the research that would enable us to answer questions about the links between these establishments and the accidents and emergencies that are brought into our hospitals?

Lord Monson

If the Government are convinced that the Bill will reduce alcoholism and alcohol-related offences, far from rejecting the amendment, they should welcome it with open arms.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

We are coming towards the end of the Committee stage. I have prayed in aid experience in Westminster on a number of occasions. In support of my noble friend, I pray in aid a brief experience in the City of London. A month after I became a Member of Parliament, a surgical team at Bart's invited me to spend 24 hours in the hospital, parking my car at 8 o'clock in the morning in the great quadrangle devised by Gibbs and not removing it until 8 o'clock the next morning. I was to follow the surgical team wherever it went. It was an extremely good education. I went into the operating theatre on that Friday afternoon. We agreed that, although I was to sleep in the hospital, if the surgical team was called on by accident and emergency to go into the operating theatre again to repair people who had been cut up in drinking episodes in Islington—because Friday was pay day—I was to be summoned from my bed and go through the night with them. In the event, the team was lucky that night, although I was warned that the odds were rather worse than 50:50 that I would be required to come. I therefore join my noble friend and others who have spoken in saying that this is an admirable subject on which research might be done.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I recognise that the Committee has expressed keen interest in the matter. We had a substantive debate on Amendment No. 88, which referred to a possible report of this kind. Ensuring public health is one of the Government's key priorities. We hope the Bill will bring about a positive change in the drinking culture of England and Wales to complement the work of the national alcohol harm reduction strategy. We believe that the abolition of permitted hours will decrease binge drinking, removing the pressure on customers to drink as much as possible before closing time. Of course, we have some international examples of beneficial effects resulting from the ending of unreasonable licensing hours.

The Government take these issues very seriously and we shall continue to monitor them. However, we do not need to set down in primary legislation a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a report every year on the matters covered by the Bill. The Government already publish much of the information proposed for the report. The Bill is about carrying on a range licensable activities, including the provision of entertainment and late-night refreshment, not just the sale and supply of alcohol.

The Bill is not about 24-hour drinking, as the amendment seems to imply. It is about giving applicants for premises licences the ability to determine their opening hours according to the preferences of their customers and taking the views of local residents into account. We expect a very small proportion of premises to want to be open for anything like 24 hours.

It seems unfair to saddle the representatives of licensing authorities—which I understand to mean the Local Government Association and its sister organisations—with the burden of producing a report on the impact of the policy on the level and nature of crime, vandalism, nuisance, noise or other anti-social behaviour. We should not underestimate the magnitude and difficulty of that task. As far as I am aware, the Local Government Association does not currently collect statistics that would enable such a report to be compiled. It would have to develop a reliable set of indicators that could demonstrate a correlation between the phenomenon cited and the reforms in licensing policy. The indicators would also need to be able to distinguish between the influence of licensing policy and other factors. For example, I am sure we all recognise that the overriding factor that determines the amount of alcohol that people consume is its price in relation to their disposable income.

The suggestion in the amendment is that we could isolate the impact on public health of the extension of licensing hours, in some cases. That is a very difficult burden to place on licensing authorities. We have other means of identifying the health of the nation, contained in other documents and presentations by the Secretary of State for Health. It is not needed in the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister, although his response was disappointing. My amendment does not necessarily suggest that we are talking about 24-hour opening. I cannot find one publican who is in favour of opening his premises for 24 hours—far from it. I keep talking to publicans and others who cannot understand why the legislation is being changed, as it will put enormous pressure on the industry and local authorities.

There is genuine concern about the effects of alcohol on people of all ages, but especially on young people. The Government know from the debates that we have already had that one concern that I particularly have is in relation to unaccompanied children with unrestricted access. What will the effect be on them with regard to alcohol?

We are encouraged to believe that the Bill will reduce the incidence of binge drinking, but we are not convinced. We hope that the Minister is right. However, the sort of information that we want local authorities to provide the Secretary of State would be for the benefit of industry, local authorities and the consumers—of all of us. It would help all of us better to understand whether such radical, liberal legislation will work. There is no doubt that we all have in the back of our minds what Deputy Chief Assistant Trotter said before our debates began, that alcohol equals crime and disorder. We hope as much as anyone that the results of the Bill will not lead there to be more reason to believe that statement.

The Government are wrong to shy away from encouraging local authorities to collect these statistics. We are looking to the future. As for the argument that the Bill concerns entertainment as well as alcohol, we may not be so interested in entertainment in this regard. However, we are genuinely, sincerely and deeply interested in the effects that the Bill will have on alcohol. especially as it has an impact on our young people. For the moment, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 192 to 195 agreed to.

Clause 196 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 447: Page 107, line 19, at end insert "which may provide for some or all of the preceding provisions to come into force in different areas at different times

The noble Baroness said: I will be as brief as possible. I was grateful to all Members of the Committee who supported me over the previous amendment. They may feel that this is another opportunity to stress to the Government that this legislation represents a radical leap in the dark, and perhaps one that should be taken with care.

The amendment offers the opportunity of a pilot scheme to ensure that the effects of the Bill might be introduced gently. We do not mean to be negative, but the amendment would provide the opportunity to draw back and reconsider, if the Bill did not work and it emerged from a pilot scheme that the impact was too great on local residents and placed pressure on the industry. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

I support my noble friend's idea of a pilot scheme—that would be fine. However, a rolling programme, working it out across the country, would be difficult to operate. It would make for extremely difficult operating conditions for companies if some operators of the many thousands of licensed premises were covered at one point and some were not covered until later. A pilot scheme that allows us to see the practical implications on the ground of this very large deregulatory Bill is a very worthwhile idea, but I would not want there to be a rolling programme throughout the country.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I understand the sentiment that lies behind the amendment, but we are disinclined to accept it for two reasons. First, the amendment is unnecessary because the Bill already provides the Secretary of State with the power that it envisages. Secondly, notwithstanding the existence of the power, it would not be desirable that it should be exercised as the amendment suggests.

Clause 196(2) should be read in conjunction with Clause 192, which deals with regulations and orders. It provides for flexibility in making the administrative arrangements for the implementation of the legislation. Those powers already allow the Secretary of State to provide for commencement in different parts of the country at different times and for different purposes. The amendment is therefore redundant.

We would not want to leave Members of the Committee with the impression that we believe that allowing for commencement in different places at different times is a good idea, for exactly the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has given. The scheme that we propose to follow involves a transitional period that will begin soon after Royal Assent, during which existing licences of all types will migrate on to the new system and applications for personal licences will be processed.

At the end of the transitional period, all new premises and personal licences should come into effect on the same day. That is to prevent unfair competition, with one premises allowed extended hours and others still subject to restrictive permitted hours. The Secretary of State would need quite a lot of persuasion to use her commencement powers as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, suggested. If two neighbouring authorities were to adopt the reforms months or years apart, it would not take long before businesses started to relocate from one area to the other. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment on that basis.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her response. As she said, the amendment has some difficult practical implications. We appreciate that it is a difficult matter, and we on these Benches discussed at enormous length what kind of scheme might allow us to see how the new provisions would work. The problem with rejecting the amendment is that, yes, there will be a transitional period, but the law will be passed. It will be enacted and enforced, and it will be too late to draw back the tide if we learn through experience that this is a Bill too far, or that some of the proposals in the Bill go too far. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 196 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendments Nos. 448 and 448A not moved. ]

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Schedule 7 agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Transitional provision etc. ]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 449: Page 154, line 28, at end insert "and the day so specified shall be no earlier than the date on which expires the period of nine months beginning with the date on which section 5 of this Act comes into force

The noble Baroness said: I shall attempt to be brief. It will be difficult, but this is an important area.

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to the other amendments under my name in this group, which all relate to Schedule 8. The schedule sets out the transitional arrangements that will operate immediately after the Act comes into force. Onerous duties will fall on local authorities during this time. Holders of existing liquor licences, public entertainment licences and night café licences will be able to apply to the licensing authority, seeking conversion of the existing licence to a new premises licence under the Bill. In theory, that should not cause too much difficulty to licensing authorities in respect of those operators who are content to carry on without altering the conditions of their licence. In those cases, there should be a smooth transition.

A good number of licence holders may want to seek variations to their existing licence, particularly so as to be able to take advantage of the relaxation of the licensing hours. As I said under previous amendments, we on these Benches do not anticipate, after talking to publicans and others, an enormous relaxation in licensing hours. A fair number said that they would probably want to be open for an additional hour or hour and a half. We shall see how that deals with binge drinking. In such cases, the licence holder would have to apply for a variation of the licence in the usual way, as set out in Clause 33. Such applications for variations can be opposed by representations. When relevant representations are made, hearings will have to be held to consider the applications. In areas where there are large numbers of licences—for example, in inner-city areas—and well-organised residents' groups, a large number of licensing hearings will take place during the transition period.

Schedule 8 sets out time limits for dealing with applications during the transitional period. We believe that, as currently drafted, these limits are too onerous for local authorities. Given that we are up against time constraints, I simply urge Members of the Committee to read our amendments in conjunction with the Bill as currently drafted. As they will see, we are looking for an extended time period for the transitional period. In essence, the applicant would still have the six-month period from the commencement date in which to make his application for conversion and variation. With the amendments, however, the licensing authorities would then have a further 18 months after the end of that six-month period in which to deal with the application.

Although one hopes that most applications can be dealt with in that period, there is potentially still scope for there to be such a backlog of hearings that the 18-month target is not achievable. In such circumstances, there is provision in the amendments to enable the licensing authority and the applicant to agree to an extension of the 18-month period. Obviously, if the applicant has become so frustrated that he would rather have the case dealt with by the magistrates, he would have the right to refuse to agree to the extension. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

I speak to Amendment No. 461A, to which my name has been added. I support all the amendments in this group, but I especially support Amendment No. 461A. In certain local authorities, there could be difficulties during the short transition period. We have received representations about those difficulties from the Local Government Association, which would like an extension of the transition period. In the case of non-controversial applications, the amendments would allow licensed premises operators to assume that a licence has been renewed rather than require them to wait a further period. In the case of controversial applications, however, the onus would be on the licensing authority to make the applicant aware of the difficulties with licence renewal.

Baroness Blackstone

This group of amendments derives largely from the skilfully put views of a small section of local government. I do recognise, however, that Amendment No. 461 A comes from a somewhat different angle. I should therefore like to deal with that amendment first.

In the transition period, an application for the conversion of an existing licence to a premises licence may be accompanied by an application to vary the "new" licence. If the licensing authority fails to determine the application to convert to a basic new licence within two months, the application will automatically be granted. However, the Bill requires that if the licensing authority fails to determine applications for the variation of the converted premises licence within two months of receipt, the application for the variation would be rejected automatically.

Amendment No. 461A would reverse that position and result in the automatic grant of a varied licence where the licensing authority did not meet the two-month deadline. As I said earlier, the default position for the conversion of an existing licence to a basic premises licence is the grant of that licence. Consequently, businesses would largely be able to continue with the range of authorisations they enjoyed under the old systems. This amendment, however, concerns variation where we believe that it is right and proper that interested parties and responsible authorities have the opportunity to make representations and for there to be a hearing.

The overriding factor is the need to protect local residents and to further the licensing objectives. Granting the varied licence by default may expose the public to an unacceptable degree of risk and upset the balance to be achieved under the new system. I therefore hope that Amendment No. 461A will not be pressed.

The remaining amendments in this group reduce the licensing authority's obligations by introducing extended time limits for processing applications. I shall speak to each of the amendments in turn, so this will take a little time. I should like to say first, however, that the Government have a duty not only to licensing authorities, residents and the industry, but also to the vast majority of ordinary people in this country who want to be treated like adults and are looking forward to the reforms. Indeed, most people think that change is long overdue, and they would not thank us for the further procrastination that would result from these amendments.

Amendment No. 449 would mean that the transitional period could not begin until nine months after Section 5—which relates to the development and publication of licensing policy—had come into effect. I sympathise entirely with the intention behind the amendment. It is clear that the licensing authority will have had to develop its licensing policy before determining applications. However, there is no reason why it should take nine months. Nor is there any reason why responsible licensing authorities cannot start as soon as the guidance has been issued—which, as a result of developments in Committee, is likely to be earlier than had originally been planned. We expect licensing authorities to have prepared at least draft statements of licensing policy well before the beginning of the transitional period. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will understand why the Government must resist the amendment.

Amendment No. 453 would lift the two-month time limit on the processing of applications where notification of an objection on the grounds of the crime prevention objective had been given by the police. Again, there is no reason why licensing authorities should need such a relaxation. We expect objections to be raised by the police in only a tiny fraction of cases. As we made clear in an earlier debate, we are committed to ensuring prompt handling of all aspects of the licensing regime—when it is fully up and running—by setting out time limits in secondary legislation. I think that the mood of the House was one of relief when that commitment was made. Agreeing to this amendment would completely undermine that principle. It would allow the licensing authority to sit on an application indefinitely, which is clearly not right. I therefore hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Amendments Nos. 454 and 461 would increase the length of the period available to the licensing authority to process applications, from two months from the day of receipt to 24 months from the beginning of the transitional period. Again, there is absolutely no reason why it should take anything like that long to process applications, particularly when the vast majority should be handled administratively with no hearing and no involvement by members of the licensing committee. These are predominantly existing licences which have been approved either by licensing justices or the local authority itself.

Local authorities already handle the processing of large volumes of applications across a range of areas. Some of the licensing functions will be new to licensing authorities, granted, but they do already process some 9,000 permanent and 37,000 temporary public entertainment licences. They are used to this work, and the Government believe that in most cases they should be able to cope.

Amendments Nos. 459 and 463 would allow the licensing authority to agree with an applicant an extension to the period during which an application may be determined. Although admirable at first sight, these amendments would have no other effect than to increase the burden on the licensing authority and applicants alike. Why spend valuable time running after deadline extensions—which, in many cases, licensees may not want, particularly when they see their competitors benefit before them from the reforms when the focus should be on processing applications? How would the "agreement" referred to be captured? Would a legal document be required? What if the licensing authority did not deliver by the new deadline? That approach truly is fraught with difficulty for very little, if any, gain. I therefore hope that the amendments will not be pressed.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

I have not put my name to any of the amendments in this group. However, the thrust of the Minister's argument seems to be that my noble friend Lady Buscombe is asking for too long a period, but that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is asking for too short a period. The Minister cannot have it both ways. The period is either too long or too short. It cannot be both.

Baroness Blackstone

I do not think that the noble Lords opposite can have it both ways.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her response. However, her response did not take into account several aspects of the issue. We have to remember that the Government have remained inflexible regarding the number of those who can sit on licensing committees. There will be a good number of applications during the transitional period, and I think that there will be an enormous burden on those who have to sit on those inflexible committees. As the members will all have to be present, there is also a question as to whether they will even be able to meet. I believe that Rutland has 20 members in total. If it had to have between 10 and 15 on the licensing committee and all those members had to be present to process licensing orders, those members would sit ad infinitum over a period of months. That would be a problem.

Inner city areas will be inundated with huge numbers of applications for variations. I urge the Government to reconsider the matter between now and Report. We on these Benches have been approached not just by local authorities who fear the burdens that will be placed upon them but also by the industry which wants to be sure that applications are dealt with speedily. There are problems for everyone who is involved. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6 p.m.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 449A: Page 154, line 45, leave out "disregarded" and insert "regarded

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 449A, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 449B. These are two simple amendments that concern the "two in a bar" rule in the transitional period. We believe that the "two in a bar" rule should be regarded, not disregarded, through the transitional period. The amendment seeks to prevent any dislocation in the provision of live entertainment by groups such as folk singers in small pubs during the transitional period. I hope that the Government will accept the amendments, which do not change the current provision of live entertainment. Indeed, under the ruling, all live entertainment would have to stop at 11 o'clock. Although we do not support the "two in a bar" rule, we support it as a measure until a new licence is granted as the overlap period could last some time.

I thank the Minister for providing his reply to the Human Rights Committee. However, the conclusions the Minister reached with regard to Article 10 are not shared by these Benches. That matter is slightly wide of the amendment, but I considered that I should mention it.

The amendment indicates our concern over the future provision of live folk music and traditional music. We have deep concerns about the effect of the Bill on the provision of live entertainment. I very much hope that the Minister will take a different view from that expressed during earlier discussion on the Bill. If that is not the case, we shall have to return to this issue at a later stage. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe

I support the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have before me a ferocious speech against the "two in a bar" rule which I should love to read out. However, I am totally disarmed by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that he was opposed to the "two in a bar" rule and that his amendment was concerned only with the transitional period. As the "two in a bar" rule will survive during the transitional period and will be abolished only on D-Day, I can only say that the two amendments are misconceived.

Lord Redesdale

I am delighted to hear that. Although we shall withdraw these two amendments, I am not sure that the fundamental problems associated with the removal of the "two in a bar" rule are being tackled. However, I do not want to argue with the noble Lord at this point in the evening. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 449B not moved. ]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 449C: Page 155, line 16, at end insert—

The noble Baroness said: The amendment would allow a company to make the application for the premises licence without the need for its manager to make the application. The problem here is that under the licensing system a company such as Whitbread or Six Continents which operates its own businesses cannot currently own the licence as it has to be in the name of the manager. Hence every time a manager changes you have to re-apply for the licence under the name of the new manager.

In changing to the new system it would be much simpler if, say, Whitbread, who will be the holder of the new licence can apply for the new licence without obtaining the consent of the manager. It is slightly bizarre that a company would have to seek the permission of its employees to apply for the licence. What if he or she refuses? This could put the licence in jeopardy and mean that the company misses out on transition arrangements while the problem is sorted out. But, more importantly, it will be much more efficient for an operating company such as I have mentioned to process all its applications together without the need to obtain 2,000 or 3,000 consent forms. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale

We on these Benches support the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

The amendment betrays a narrow focus on pubs and the off-licence trade rather than on all the premises potentially affected. The intention of the amendment is clearly to prevent the manager of a supermarket or a pub manager employed by a pub operating company making the application for the premises licence in his name unless his employer thinks that that is acceptable. In other words, the employers want to make sure that they have the decision as to whether they hold the premises licence or some other employee does so.

But I am afraid that that is not only what this amendment would do. There is nothing in the amendment that links the business in question to the licensable activities taking place on the premises. Does the Committee think that it would be appropriate that an employee of a computer company, who in his spare time is the secretary of the local village hall committee and holds the justices' licence for the hall, should have to ask his employer for consent to convert the licence? Of course not. It would be absurd and is clearly not what is intended. So my first point is that the amendment is not very well worded.

We do not in any event accept that the current wording presents any problems for employers. Indeed, the anxiety that the noble Baroness expressed is simply not in any practical terms real. Is it really being suggested that an employee would do anything other than what his employer requires in this context? The owner of the supermarket or the pub operating chain can take action in respect of the individual under his employment contract if the employee acts against his instructions or seeks to damage his employer's business. So to all intents and purposes it is rather odd to suggest that the business would not make the decision as to who makes the application.

As the wording of the amendment clearly goes far beyond what is intended and could cause considerable confusion, and as the intention behind it is based on an unjustified anxiety, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw it.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for that response. The problem here is that it is considered unacceptable that companies running managed pubs, supermarkets or off-licences—I appreciate that my remarks focused on pubs but we are also discussing supermarkets, off-licences and so on—will not be able to apply for their premises licences without obtaining the consent of all their managers. However, I do not wish to detain the Committee further. I shall read the Minister's remarks with care. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 450 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 451: Page 155, line 30, at end insert—

The noble Baroness said: Under the transitional provisions, provision is made for the documents which must accompany an application for a conversion of an existing licence to a premises licence. One of the major requirements for a premises licence holder under the Bill is to have an operating schedule, yet the transitional provisions make no provision for the holders of existing licences to provide an operating schedule to the council on conversion of the licence. This amendment would require an operating schedule to be provided to the council when the application for the conversion is made. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendment No. 451 is unnecessary, and I suspect that it may stem from a misunderstanding of what the transitional provisions of the Bill set out to achieve.

The transitional process will have two distinct parts. The first is the conversion of existing licences into a new style premises licence. That involves the submission of all the licences held for a particular premises that an applicant wants to convert. Those licences may include justices' licences, a public entertainment licence, a licence under the Theatres Act and so on.

The process does not require the submission of an operating schedule, which would be the effect of the amendment, because all the relevant operating conditions will be set out in those existing licences, and the incentive is to convert the old to the new. Except where the police object to the conversion of those existing licences, a new licence, reflecting the permissions and conditions in the existing set of licences will be issued automatically. There is absolutely no need for an operating schedule, because all the information is there already.

The second part of the transitional process, where businesses want to make use of it, involves the variation of the existing permissions and conditions. Examples include changing the hours of operation of the business or seeking permission to put on public entertainment. That process will take place entirely in accordance with the arrangements set out in Clause 33 for variation of a licence, with all the scope for representations from responsible authorities and interested parties that that would entail.

In the light of that explanation, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her response. I am certainly satisfied by what she said to clarify the situation with regard to the transitional period, and I hope that those who urged us to table the amendment will also be satisfied. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 452 to 463 not moved.]

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 463A: Page 161, line 13, leave out "have regard to" and insert "accept the conditions of

The noble Lord said: The amendment takes us to Part 1 of the schedule, which concerns transitional provision. It deals with the issue of provisional licences that have been granted under the old regime, but not finalised by the time we switch to the new regime.

The arguments on the subject were made in another context on Clause 31 when we discussed further representations on provisional statements, which I described then as the second bite at the cherry. I want to rehearse those arguments briefly. If one seeks to build or develop a new public house, one would have to invest between £2 million and £3 million by the time the pub opens. Obviously, that is a big sum of money to put at risk, and the risk would be greater with the regime change in the middle.

In the schedule, the new licensing authority, must have regard to the provisional grant of the justices' licence". That seems an insufficiently strong set of words. I believe that they should be replaced so that the licensing authority must "accept the conditions of' the provisional grant of the justices' licence.

The danger is that, apart from the unfairness of the matter, there may be a hiatus in either the development of new pubs or places of entertainment, or the reconstruction and refurbishment of old ones. Therefore, those who are putting their money at risk are entitled to a degree of certainty, and I believe that the new regime should not in the limited number of cases be able to second-guess the old one. If the justices have made a grant under the old one, it is incumbent on the licensing authority that comes in under the new system to accept the decisions of its predecessors. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe

I support the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

We discussed the issue in some detail when we considered Clauses 28 to 31, which were concerned with the provisional statements. I hope that I gave the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, the reassurance that he sought, and think that I did so to some extent. He is raising a special point now about the transitional period, which is fair enough.

I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord that the assurances that I gave for the permanent regime apply to the schedule as well. There are differences between "have regard to" and "accept the conditions of". The first phrase is very powerful. It means that it is not open to a licensing authority to disregard the grant of a provisional justices' licence. However, the second phrase means that the conditions attached to a provisional licence under the current law would have to be transposed intact into the new law.

That is actually impossible. The new law will express the conditions differently, and there will have to be a continuing role for the licensing authorities to interpret the conditions that have been imposed under the provisional licence into the new licence under the new law. If there were not, they would not have anything to do, which is a minor issue and does not concern those with whom the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has discussed the amendment. The major point is that the amendment would be impossible. The protection is still there. The provisions are not a second bite at the cherry of the kind that he fears.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Clearly, I am comforted by his assurance about the force of the words "must have regard to". I understand that "accept the conditions of" would present a constitutional problem of translating one regime to another regime. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 463B: Page 165, line 25, after "licence" insert ", or a person who has held a justices' licence for a period of not less than six months in the three years prior to the appointed day,

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 464 to 465A. I shall deal first with Amendments Nos. 463B and 465A. As the Bill is currently drafted, only those actively holding a justices' licence on the appointed day will be entitled to receive the new personal licence. We understand that anyone who has been in the trade, but not specifically responsible for a premises, will not get the benefit. That would be grossly unfair on those who, through no fault of their own, were not currently listed as licence holders. There could be a number of reasons for that. A company may have gone into receivership and the manager may have lost his position, a supermarket manager may be in between positions, or a tenant may be in the process of acquiring a new tenancy.

The British Beer and Pub Association and all the other trade organisations have long argued that the transition should include those who, for whatever reason, are temporarily without a licence. They should be enabled to obtain a new style licence without the need to obtain the qualification. Some of those affected may have many years' experience in the trade. To those people, it would be more than insulting to have to sit such an examination. Many of them would of course also have obtained qualifications that are already available.

Amendment No. 464 relates to applications for personal licences during the transitional period. Holders of existing justices' licences are to apply for a conversion to a personal licence during the transitional period. One of the documents that must accompany the application is a photograph in the specified form. The amendment provides more detail as to the format of the photograph, and would ensure that the photograph was of sufficient quality to enable the holder to be easily identified from the licence once issued.

Finally, Amendment No. 465 would ensure that the licensing authority had sufficient proof of the applicant's home address when granting the converted licence. I beg to move.

Viscount Falkland

I support Amendments Nos. 463B and 465A.

Baroness Blackstone

I can see why the amendments have been tabled. However, two of them expose the public to an unacceptable degree of risk, and two of them are unnecessarily burdensome. Amendments Nos. 463B and 465A would extend the automatic "grandfather right" to a personal licence for existing holders of justices' licences for the sale of alcohol to cover anyone who had held a justices' licence for any period of six months during the previous three years.

The transitional scheme set out in the Bill contains this and other grandfather rights for one very good reason: it allows businesses and individuals to continue trading during and after the transitional period as they did under the old licensing system with as little difficulty as possible. The public can be assured that individuals who hold a justices' licence at the beginning of the transitional period have been assessed by the magistrates as being fit and proper persons to sell alcohol.

Extending the grandfather rights to anyone who has held a justices' licence for a period of six months in the previous three years is unacceptable for two reasons. First, if an individual does not hold a justices' licence at the beginning of the transitional period, the Government do not consider that he merits a grandfather right of this nature. He will be able to make use of the open, transparent and administratively simple application process for a personal licence. Secondly, who is to say why those individuals no longer hold a justices' licence? If an individual no longer holds a licence, the public cannot be assured that he or she is judged fit and proper to sell alcohol and may therefore be automatically awarded a new personal licence with no risk.

Turning to the remainder of the amendments, the Bill makes it clear that the form of the licence will be set out in regulations. That satisfied the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. I can give a clear undertaking that it will be the subject of consultation with all interested parties. However, I do not accept that the submission of four photographs is a reasonable requirement to place on applicants. In today's technological world, with electronic storage and transmission of data becoming the norm, I see no reason why—particularly in view of some of the comments we have heard about the setting up of IT systems by licensing authorities—photographs should not be stored and distributed in digital format. I hope that that amendment will not be pressed.

Amendment No. 465 is unnecessary. Those who wish to apply for a personal licence will be required to submit a number of documents, including their existing justices' licence. That licence will contain all the information necessary for the licensing authority to process the application. Placing a further requirement on applicants for more paperwork would be detrimental to the light touch that we all want. In the light of those explanations, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe

I thank the Minister for her response. In relation to the first group of amendments, the industry will be disappointed because it has, I understand, long argued with the Government that the arrangement is unfair on those who, through no fault of their own, do not happen to have, for example, a licence at the time. However, I understand and appreciate the Minister's arguments in response to the amendment. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 464 to 465A not moved.]

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 466: Page 168, line 10, leave out from second "of" to "premises" in line 11 and insert "existing licences (within the meaning of Part 1 of Schedule 8) in respect of

The noble Lord said: This simple and uncontroversial amendment ensures that representatives of all those who are affected by the new licensing arrangements are properly consulted before the first licensing policy is prepared by each licensing authority.

As we have considered in relation to Clause 5, one of the first things that has to be done to get the new arrangements going is for the licensing authority to prepare a licensing policy. It needs to consult on that policy. When the first policy is prepared we will be in a transitional period and there will, as yet, be no licensees under the new arrangements. So the Bill needs to make it clear who for this transitional period needs to be consulted about the licensing policy from the point of view of licensees themselves.

The Bill as presented to the Chamber already provides for representatives of those who have just ices' licences and of registered clubs to be consulted. However, it is clear that that is not sufficiently wide. It does not cover the other kinds of licensees who exist under the present arrangements: for theatres, cinemas, some public entertainment licensees, and late-night-refreshment licence holders. Those who are representative of those licensees should be consulted too and the amendment has that effect. Rather than listing them all again, the amendment provides that representatives of all relevant existing licence holders should be consulted. Amendment No. 466 therefore employs the definition of "existing licence holders", which is already in place in paragraph 1 of Schedule 8. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 467: Page 168, line 14, leave out "that" and insert "the 1964

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment, which relates to the subject matter of the amendment to which the Committee has just agreed. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

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