New Clause 2 — Breach of a premises notice

Psychoactive Substances Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 20th January 2016.

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‘(1) A senior officer or a local authority may issue a notice requiring a premises to cease trading if conditions A, B and C are met.

(2) Condition A is that the premises has been issued a premises notice under section 13 of this Act.

(3) Condition B is that in the view of the senior officer or a local authority that issued the premises notice, the terms of that notice are not being complied with.

(4) Condition C is that the senior officer or local authority has made an application to an appropriate court for a premises order under section 19 of this Act.

(5) A notice issued to a premises under subsection 1 shall cease to have effect when a court has considered an application for a premises order in respect of that premise.

(6) In a case where a court has decided not to issue a premises order to a premise that has been subject to a notice under this section, the court may order the local authority or the senior officer’s organisation to pay compensation to the owner of the premises in respect of income lost due to the suspension in trading.

(7) For the meaning of “senior officer”, see section 12(7).’—(Lyn Brown.)

This new clause’s intention is to allow a senior officer or local authority to compel a premises to stop trading while it applies for a premises order.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chair, Panel of Chairs

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2, in clause 6, page 3, line 19, leave out “or C” and insert “, C, D or E”.

Amendment 3, page 4, line 7, at end insert—

‘(9A) Condition D is that the offence was committed on or within 100 metres of a children’s home.

(9B) For the purposes of section (9A) “children’s home” has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Care Standards Act 2000.

(9C) Condition E is that the offender supplied a psychoactive substance to any persons who were under the age 18 when the offence was committed.’

Amendment 16, page 5, line 20, leave out clause 9.

This amendment would remove the specific offence of possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution, while leaving in place the provisions that other offences—including possession with intent to supply—are aggravated if taking place in such institutions.

Amendment 17, in clause 10, page 6, line 5, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment seeks to remove the sentencing provisions associated with the offence in clause 9.

Government amendments 6 to 9 and 11.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office)

In speaking to new clause 2, I praise the work of my hon. Friend John Woodcock and the Local Government Association.

The powers in new clause 2 are comparable to the closure powers for premises that serve alcohol under the Licensing Act 2003. The new clause will provide a helpful interim power for local authorities when premises notices have been ignored. I do not see why we should treat outlets that are suspected of ignoring warnings to stop selling psychoactive substances any more gently than those that are believed to be selling alcohol illegally.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Conservative, North West Hampshire

I rise to speak to amendments 2 and 3, which stand in my name. They deal with one small anomaly in the Bill and one more fundamental issue.

It is accepted in the Bill that the selling of psychoactive substances to children is a heinous crime that should attract an aggravated sentence. The Bill contains the aggravating factor of selling psychoactive substances outside a school, which will attract a stiffer sentence. However, there is a group of children who are more vulnerable than those who go to school and that is those who live in children’s homes. I am therefore seeking to make it an offence to sell these substances outside a children’s home.

I understand that the Government are keen to rely on sentencing guidelines to bring in these measures. However, that raises the question of whether we should have any aggravating factors at all. These provisions mirror exactly those in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. As far as I can see, that is the only reason why children’s homes are excluded from the Bill. I ask the Minister to consider the logic of including selling these substances outside a children’s home alongside selling them outside a school.

The second issue is more fundamental. I am seeking to make it an aggravated offence to sell these substances to anybody under 18. The law for the protection of children in this country is patchy, old and confused. In particular, it does not privilege children as a group against whom committing a crime is particularly serious. We privilege lots of other groups, including those with a religious faith, those of particular ethnicities and those of a particular sexuality. If a crime is committed against those people because of who they are, it is more serious in sentencing terms. Children are not among that group.

My amendments therefore seek to make the sale of psychoactive substances to anybody under 18 a more serious offence in the eyes of a judge and one that attracts a stiffer sentence. I am doing this in the hope that when any future criminal justice or sentencing Bill appears, the House will do what it did in 2012, when it made the transgender community an aggravated feature, as it is called, which means that any offence that is committed against them because of their particular characteristics attracts a similar sentence. I hope that we will do the same for children in future legislation.

It is about time that we focused on some of the very old children’s legislation and brought it up to date. The first step in doing so is to send a signal to the courts and the public in general that we see children as a group that is worthy of special protection.

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour/Co-operative, Barrow and Furness

I apologise for any confusion, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thought that this debate would come later. I will speak very briefly. I am grateful to you for allocating time for this matter.

I want to impress on the Government that they ought to consider adopting the extra protection in the new clause. The blanket ban is a good step forward for which many of us on both sides of the House have called for some time. However, the potential still exists for a significant gap between the police or a local authority seeing the substances being traded and their being granted a court order. The new clause would allow an interim ban to be put in place while the application for the court order was being heard. If the application turned out to be misplaced, compensation of some kind could be made, but the provision would give communities the extra protection they need and deserve in these circumstances.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I apologise to the House that my comments will have to be short because of the limited time available. In respect of new clause 2, I fully understand where Labour Members are coming from, but judicial oversight is very important. John Woodcock mentioned the possibility of compensation if we got it wrong, but I do not want to get it wrong. I believe that we can get these matters into the courts very quickly; we do so with other court business and we can get judges to make these decisions.

My hon. Friend Kit Malthouse spoke to amendments 2 and 3, and I fully understand his argument. The logic behind the specific designation of schools in the Bill goes back to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. I absolutely agree that we should bring our legislation up to date quickly, and I believe that the Sentencing Council is the place for that in a modern democracy. However, under section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, courts are under exactly the same obligation to consider aggravating factors when sentencing an offender, whether those factors are in this Bill or in the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council. So, sadly, although I fully understand both sets of arguments that have been put forward, I believe that we need to go with the Bill as it has been drafted.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 227, Noes 306.

Division number 169 Psychoactive Substances Bill [Lords] — New Clause 2 — Breach of a premises notice

Aye: 227 MPs

No: 306 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly negatived.

More than three hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, 19 October 2015).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).