Pavement licences

Part of Business and Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:04 pm on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 8:04 pm, 29th June 2020

Diolch, Dame Eleanor, and thank you for calling me so early in the debate. I think this must be a first for a Plaid Cymru Member; it is certainly a first for me. It is a great pleasure to follow the shadow Minister, and that is not something that I say very often because I do not follow shadow Ministers, so once again I am grateful to the Chair.

This is a short Bill, and the measures it contains are necessary to help otherwise viable businesses to survive the unprecedented impact of covid-19. The clauses relating to the hospitality sector are especially important. Other hon. Members made it clear on Second Reading just how important the sector is, and the Minister, in summing up the debate, pointed to the fact that the sector employs as much as a third of the UK workforce. Others have also argued effectively that when these businesses are able to reopen safely, they will urgently require as much flexibility as possible to adapt to the new ways of operating, not only to comply with social distancing requirements but to cater to changes in consumer demand and habits.

With this in mind, I shall address amendment 1 to clause 11, which is tabled in my name. I should like to make it clear that this is a probing amendment and that I have no desire to push it to a vote, but I would like the Minister to address the points that I shall try to make. In short, the amendment is intended to provide the flexibility for mobile licensed premises that are already licensed in one place to benefit from the temporary provisions of this legislation in other locations. One of the innovative ways that pubs and restaurants in Wales have sought to adapt to the covid-19 restrictions has been to develop, or try to develop, a delivery service, but it has become apparent that the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 make it difficult for some licensed premises to run such a service.

Under the provisions of the Act, a person cannot sell alcohol from a vehicle or movable structure at a series of different locations—say, for the sake of argument, house-to-house—unless there is a premises licence in respect of the vehicle or movable structure at each location where a sale of alcohol is made in, on or from it. Pubs, therefore—and bars, for that matter—face complicated restrictions if they wish to reorient their business models to comply with covid-19 restrictions. We believe that, by amending sections 189 and 190 of the 2003 Act, the Government could temporarily remove the requirement for licensed premises to have a licence for each location at which a sale of alcohol is made, thereby helping the businesses to adapt to these unprecedented times. As I mentioned, this is a probing amendment but I would welcome the Minister’s comments on the proposals.

I would like to move on briefly to address the issue of small, independent breweries. I would welcome similar support being made for these organisations. We know that a quarter of all small breweries currently have no way to sell directly to the public, and in this respect I agree with the points made by Jim Shannon on Second Reading. I appreciate the point the Minister made in response to the hon. Member for Strangford’s intervention that as the hospitality sector—and the pub sector in particular—reopens, some of those breweries will find that they have customers again, but this is worth keeping under consideration, because if the pub trade has to go al fresco, it will be quite dependent on the weather, and some of those small breweries might find that their customers do not require quite as much towards the end of the summer or in the early autumn, and they might therefore want to sell directly again. It is a point well made that small breweries have seen their sales reduced by between 65% and 82% due to covid-19, and they have not received the same level of financial support as other businesses in the hospitality sector.