Licensing Bill [HL]
Lord Phillips of Sudbury (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, fetes could be the issue that got away. A lot of helpful amendments have been tabled to the Bill, but the one issue that came up on Second Reading that was not aired in Committee was fetes. In case anybody thinks that this is a minor matter, I calculate that there must be about 50,000 fetes a year in England and Wales—charitable fetes, fundraising fetes and fun fetes. I have no idea what licence fee is being contemplated, but if fetes stay within the ambit of the licensing system, a fee of £100 would represent a total of £5 million of licence fee expenditure. The more important point in many ways is the bureaucratic burden that would be imposed on thousands of tiny organisations that put these annual fetes together on a wing and a prayer. Many of them would get it wrong.
I am sure I do not need to labour the place of the fete in village life. It is almost a symbol of a certain way of life. It represents all the things that we are trying to preserve in society: jolly harmlessness, the communality that is so often under attack or missing; and inclusiveness. They are all-embracing, amateur, joyful occasions. I suspect and hope that the Government may not have intended that these events should be part of the regulatory framework of the Bill. I have heard many times and believed the statement that this is a deregulatory measure. We need to have regard to the importance of the role of fetes in our lives.
There is wide support for the amendment in principle, although there is wide ignorance of the fact that fetes will be caught up in the tentacles of the Bill. From those who have been made aware of the fact that they currently fall within the Bill, one gets a unanimous and pretty fierce response. The Churches have expressed that to me. Perhaps they have written to the Minister. The Charity Finance Directors' Group has just woken up to the issue. They may have written as well. I am not sure.
I hope that my drafting is simple and straightforward. "Garden fete" is used in Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. I cannot be certain that these fetes are not part of the current licensing framework, because the 1982 Act provides that local authorities can opt out of the need to have licences for such events. Nobody ever gets a licence in my part of the world, so Suffolk has certainly opted out. I suspect that licensing authorities have opted out all round the country. I should be interested and surprised if it were otherwise.
I have included a provision that in order for a fete to be exempt it must be promoted for purposes other than private gain. That is borrowed from Clause 172. I have also suggested that there should be fewer than 500 people present at the same time. That is borrowed from Clause 98. I hope that the purport is clear and that there is ample justification for allowing the amendment in principle, if not with the words that I have used. I beg to move.