HL Deb 19 June 2003 vol 649 cc935-7

35 Clause 98, page 55, line 15, leave out "72" and insert "96"

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, in moving that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 35 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 36 to 45, 57 and 58. The system of temporary event notices set out in the Bill is very light touch, designed to avoid the need to involve ordinary people in administrative procedures, hearings and the like. When the limits are complied with there can be no representations except from the police, and even then only on grounds of crime prevention. Local residents have no input at all, which is why in order to ensure the necessary balance there must be limits on the length, frequency and numbers attending temporary events to ensure that they are adequately protected.

The system set out in the Bill as originally drafted provided that a non-personal licence holder may give up to five temporary event notices in any one year and a personal licence holder may give 50 but it limited the number of notices which could be given in respect of any particular premises in one year to 12. It also set a limit of 72 hours for each event. In practice, that meant that there was a maximum of 15 days every year—five events each three days long or more frequent shorter events.

Following debates in Committee and representations from a large number of people concerned, the Government agreed to look again at the matter to ensure that the Bill would not have the unintended effect of discouraging those who wish to organise ad hoc events for clubs, including sports clubs, village and community halls, voluntary and charitable groups and so on, from carrying on such events.

At the same time, it is sensible to ensure that local residents are not worse off in terms of the safeguards which go along with any liberalisation. We have tabled amendments that would have the effect of increasing the number of temporary event notices that could be given in any calendar year in respect of the same premises from five to 12—sensibly once a month —setting an overall maximum of 15 days in any calendar year (the same maximum implied in the Bill as originally drafted) and increasing the length of time permissible for any single temporary event from 72 hours to 96 hours, for example, for a long bank holiday weekend. A power is provided for the Secretary of State to amend these limits, as well as the maximum number of event notices that an individual may give in a calendar year and the limit on the number of people who may attend an event—at present a maximum is 499—by order, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

As well as meeting the concerns of the groups that the limits in the Bill would not allow to hold the types of events that they now hold under the current regime, these measures also ensure that the residents' concerns are fully protected. The power to make changes to the limits will allow the Secretary of State to respond to the experience of the new regime. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 35.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, I warmly congratulate the Government on a helpful series of amendments. I ask for a small point of clarification. I find the inter-relationship of the various amendments over several clauses a little complicated. I have just returned from a Dorset music festival a week or so ago. I can cite examples of the country houses where such events are held.

I refer to the amendment to Clause 105, which deals with counter notices. Subsection (3) is not amended in terms of the number of temporary event notices held. That subsection applies, if the relevant premises user"— that is, a person who has given notice under Clause 98— does not hold a personal licence"; in other words, a person authorised to supply alcohol under Clause 109.

As I understand it, the house owner can only hold, or apply for, five events The next subsection means that anyone else, such as a charity or some other organisation, can apply for the same premises. Therefore, a house owner could have, say, five events for which he or his family had applied, and others could apply for the remainder. This means that one could hold 12 events in the premises during the year.

However, I am not quite sure that I have got it right. If one has a country house and holds two or three concerts as part of a music festival, as well as making the house available to other charities, I want to satisfy myself that it is possible to have up to 12 events. It seems to me that perhaps the applications have to come from different persons. I may have got it wrong. I should be grateful if the Minister could clarify the matter. If I am right in thinking that up to 12 events can be held during a year, that would be extremely helpful. It is a satisfactory way out of the problems that a number of us identified at an earlier stage.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it was the interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on behalf of music festivals that led us to think again about the matter. The answer to the question is that the country house owner cart apply 12 times. We have increased the limit from 5 to 12, so there is no reason—no, I am sorry, I am wrong. The owner may have to go via a round-about route. However, I believe that the noble Lord has accepted that it is not too much of a pain. In any case, we have given the Secretary of State power to change it if necessary.

The two points are as follows: first, yes, there can be 12 events of one day, but not more than 15 such events in respect of one house. Secondly, the protection for the neighbours of the maximum of 15 days is maintained.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, I am grateful for that clarification. I am glad that my interpretation of the complex wording was right. It will have to be made clear to owners that applications may have to be made by separate bodies because the actual owner of the house or his family are limited in that respect. Others can make application to hold events in the same house as long as the total number is not exceeded. I believe that that is perfectly workable. I am very grateful to the Government for having made the changes.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, we are also grateful to the Government for the changes that have been made.

On Question, Motion agreed to.