New Clause 3 — Alcohol disorder zones

Part of Crime and Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 8th March 2010.

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Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) 7:00 pm, 8th March 2010

It is entirely up to local authorities. If they want to hold it in abeyance while they consider other powers and discuss them with licensed premises, that is entirely a matter for them. I should have thought, from the comments that the hon. Gentleman has made in these debates and elsewhere, that he would see some benefit in giving local authorities discretion. However, the point of amendment 23 is not to give local authorities discretion; it aims to change the nature of the debate. It would lower the threshold that must be met before a licensing authority may decide to make an order. If the amendment were accepted, the discretion of the licensing authority would be broadened and the test would be more subjective and less evidence-based.

Clause 55 was drafted in accordance with the better regulation principles that are central to our policy on regulation. I remind the House that they are: proportionality, which means that regulators should intervene only when necessary, that remedies should be appropriate to the risks posed and that costs should be identified and minimised; accountability, which means that regulators must be able to justify their decisions and be subject to public scrutiny; consistency, which means that rules and standards must be joined up and implemented fairly; transparency, which means that regulators must be open and must keep regulations simple and user-friendly; and targeted, which means that regulations must be focused on an identified problem and minimise side-effects.

Amendment 23 moves us away from those principles in a way that the House would, I believe, find totally unacceptable. The first principle is proportionality. I emphasise the words "only intervene when necessary", because it is the word "necessary" that the hon. Member for Hornchurch asks us to remove from clause 55. I find that surprising, given that as recently as October last year, his party published, with great fanfare, a policy paper outlining the approach to regulation that a Conservative Government would adopt, if elected. The paper was snappily entitled "Regulation in the Post-Bureaucratic Age". It cites the better regulation principles, which I outlined, as the starting point for the policy of Conservative Members. It includes the words:

"Regulators should only intervene when necessary."

I ask the hon. Member for Hornchurch, who seeks to take the word "necessary" out of clause 55, whether that policy no longer applies. Did he not discuss the amendment with Mr. Clarke, who promoted the policy as recently as October, or is this another example of muddle at the heart of Conservative policy making?