Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Diana Johnson (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Kingston upon Hull North, Labour)
Clause 112 takes us to temporary event notices, by extending the right to comment on them to the environmental health officer. Currently, the chief officer of police may object, given various time frames and time limits. A hearing is required if the police object, which they may only do on the grounds of the crime objective set out in the Licensing Act 2003. The clause extends the right to make objections to the environmental health officer, and it offers the police and the environmental health officer the right to object over all four licensing objectives.
I want to make some points about the clause because, first, my understanding was that the rationale for the temporary event notices was to have something quick, effective and flexible. With an environmental health officer being involved and able to object, we are moving more towards temporary event notices becoming similar to mini-licences. I want the Minister to reflect on that and on the additional bureaucracy attached to the clause.
Also, why can environmental health officers comment? Clearly they have a specific role in and knowledge of environmental health issues, but they will be able to object on all four licensing grounds. The original intention of the police being able to object was restricted to what they know best about, which is crime and public order. They had to keep to that objective as their key reason for objecting. Now, however, the provision has been widened and all four licensing objectives can be considered by the police and the environmental health officer.
The submissions express concern about environmental health raising the bar for what is expected with temporary event notices. The notices are often used by small community groups for one-off events, so the people involved are not generally that experienced in licensing conditions. A concern is that we will see standards imposed, which was not the original intention for the temporary event notices.
Another concern is that we may see great disparity around the country. What one environmental health officer might require, another one would not. Also, if there are problems with temporary event notices, conditions might be attached in the future—if there was a problem—rather than attaching them with the original application.
Will the Minister respond to those specific points?
James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office); Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative)
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, because there is a balance to be struck on temporary event notices. We are conscious of the need not to make them overly bureaucratic. They are a means to obtain a licence in specific, limited circumstances, on a limited number of occasions, without the need to have to go through the full, formal licensing process. I appreciate her recognition of that.
The clause will allow the environmental health authority to object to a temporary event notice. Currently, only the police can object to a TEN, on the grounds that allowing an event to go ahead would undermine the crime and disorder licensing objective. However, local residents have told us that temporary events can cause problems with the other licensing objectives, such as public safety, the protection of children from harm and public nuisance. The most commonly reported problem is noise. Residents and others have asked us to give local authorities the power to prevent temporary events that cause noise nuisance.
We looked at the feedback and the complaints received, but the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North should note that we did not seek to expand the list of potential objectors even further. We recognised the noise issues reported to us, and it was felt appropriate to give the environmental health department the ability to raise objections against temporary event notices, which is why the provision is prescribed in that way.
There is no desire unnecessarily to expand further the bureaucracy relating to TENs. It might be argued that the issue of conditions is bureaucratic, but we will move on to the debate on that later. The provision is a response to the point about noise, and to the fact that a temporary event notice can have broader problematic grounds, which is why we have put in place all the licensing objectives, while limiting them by the ability of agencies to object to TENs. We have moved forward on that basis, and we will allow the environmental health authorities to make representations on TENs.