Licensing Bill [HL]
Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, that we should express our gratitude to the Minister for the better guidance which has now been offered, and particularly for the references in it to cumulative impact. However, I am sorry to say that the effect is spoilt entirely by a particular paragraph. Having said that local authorities are entitled to consider cumulative impact and that that might lead a licensing authority to consider whether the grant of any further premises licence or club premises certificate would undermine one of the licensing objectives, the measure states that the Bill allows for that but with the proviso that cumulative impact has to be addressed in the context of the individual merits of any application. That means that the licensing authority could not say to the applicant, "We think you're splendid people. Your management of other clubs is absolutely impeccable, but we're going to refuse this application on the grounds that there are already enough such premises in our particular district". That is a serious defect in the guidance.
I also wanted to renew my request to Ministers to say something about the DEFRA inquiry. I asked earlier and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who was answering on that amendment, ignored my request. It is extremely relevant to the amendment. The note about the research being conducted stated that:
"The objective is to enable DEFRA to anticipate any likely difficulties in the control of noise by local authorities and the licensed trade that may arise from the new legislation".
If that is not relevant to the question of amenity, I cannot imagine what is.
I was a little concerned when I had a letter from the Minister only today in which she said that the DEFRA report on issues relating to the night-time economy is not produced with a view to dealing with,
"the impact of this Bill, but to produce a best practice guide for industry in relation to noise".
Which is right? Is it the note on the research issued by the company itself, or the letter from the Minister? There is a conflict between the two that I am unable to resolve. Will the Minister help me?
Will the research see the light of day before the Bill has left Parliament altogether? I asked another Minister whether we could see it on Report, which is obviously not possible now. Will another place be able to see it? Will the DEFRA research be produced some time in the summer, when it will be far too late for it to have any effect on our proceedings? It seems as though we have not got joined-up government. Both the DEFRA report on noise and the ODPM consultation on the A3 user class are highly relevant to the Bill. We have complained in the past that we did not have the guidance, and we now have that. Let us have the other two pieces of key information necessary in order that the House can evaluate the Bill.