Clause 14 - Authorised persons, interested persons and responsible authorities
Licensing Bill [Lords]
Mr Nick Harvey (North Devon, Liberal Democrat)
The Minister's last point is interesting and I want to discuss it. Some publicans to whom I have spoken have reacted with horror to the very suggestion that they would want to do any of what has been mentioned. I have stressed that there is no obligation and that it is entirely up to them to devise their own operating plans. They have responded by saying—I am aware that some of the national industry groups have said the same thing—that if they submit operating plans that do not indicate an interest in having children on the premises or a willingness to do so, they might jeopardise their whole licence because it will look as though they are not fulfilling one of the licensing objectives: namely, the protection of children from harm. That argument does not commend itself to me, but I have heard it several times and some words of reassurance from the Minister would be helpful. I am interested to hear what he will say about the matter when he sums up the debate.
I appeal to the Government to keep as flexible a framework as possible, to put the necessary protections in the secondary legislation, but to remember rural communities where pubs are often
the only community facility, and not, as I can imagine the Government inadvertently doing as a result of loud lobbying from people thinking about the whole thing in an urban context, to draw up the regulations so tightly that they prohibit the use of pubs in the way I have described.
Amendments Nos. 143 and 151, as moved in another place, were tabled for the right reasons and with the right objectives in mind, but I am not at all unsympathetic to the Government's idea that there might be another, better approach. However, as the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said, the Committee really needs to see in detail what the Government propose.