Licensing Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 3:24 pm on 12th December 2002.

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House again in Committee on Schedule 1.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative 3:32 pm, 12th December 2002

moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 108, line 33, after "facilities" insert "other than a person who is a performer in relation to the entertainment or a person representing such performers in dealings with the promoters of the entertainment"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

This amendment aims to try to plug a number of loopholes which the drafting of the Bill has left open. It is my understanding that as the Bill stands any payment made by the promoter to the performers of music at a private event is enough to trigger the regulation of an event. By that rationale, an event within a private home, or a private rehearsal by musicians who receive payment, becomes a licensable activity. While it is clearly important to try to give a comprehensive definition of the provision of regulated entertainment, there are also cases where regulation imposes needless bureaucracy and causes confusion and complication for those taking part in the entertainment, most particularly for professional musicians.

I hope that the Government will clarify the issue of payment and explain their thinking on that aspect of the Bill. We on these Benches have turned to lawyers with expertise in licensing law. Their view of the situation with the Bill as currently drafted is clear. They state that they understand that the Bill's wording not only captures private events where band leaders, for example, are hired to organise live music, but also children's entertainers, for example, Cocoa the Clown. This amendment is essential to ensure that simply because a musician is paid to arrange live music, which may include several different bands, solo performers and so on, private events such as wedding receptions or bar mitzvahs do not become illegal unless licensed. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I support the amendment which stands also in my name. Is it the intention—as we believe—that an individual could trigger the question of whether an activity is licensable? There appears to be confusion and concern about the matter, especially among those who organise private parties.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

Does not the matter go wider than that? The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is an opera lover. She will have attended performances given by, for example, Diva Opera, in private houses and other locations which may or may not have raised money for charitable purposes. At Question Time hospices were discussed. Is it the intention to cover those events? If so, I, and I am sure, various noble friends would consider that that is quite wrong.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 1 of the first schedule requires that certain conditions must be met for entertainment to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment under the Bill. Sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 1 provides:

"The first condition is that the entertainment or entertainment facilities are provided—

(a) to any extent for members of the public or a section of the public,

(b) exclusively for members of a club which is a qualifying club in relation to the provision of regulated entertainment, or for members of such a club and their guests, or

(c) in any case not falling within paragraph (a) or (b), for consideration and with a view to profit".

Sub-paragraph (4) of paragraph 1 states:

"For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(c)"— that is, other than for members of the public or members of a club or their guests—

"entertainment is, or entertainment facilities are, only to be regarded as provided for consideration if any charge—

(a) is made by or on behalf of any person concerned in the organisation or management of that entertainment or those facilities, and

(b) is paid by or on behalf of some or all of the persons for whom that entertainment is, or those facilities are, provided".

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, made a wider point about private parties to which I should like to respond if an amendment were tabled on that subject. However, the measure we are discussing does not concern that point. The amendment would exempt instances where a charge was made by or on behalf of someone organising the management of the facility if they were a performer or a person representing performers dealing with the promoters of the entertainment. But, as I said, the exemption would apply only where the entertainment or facilities were not provided to members of the public or members of a club and their guests.

Taking the amendment literally, I do not see why the safety concerns of the public would be reduced simply because the performer, or someone representing performers, was the person organising or managing the entertainment facilities to whom a charge was paid. Why should a premises owned by a musician, for example—because that is what the measure would mean—be exempt from a requirement when a normal business person would not? I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, is saying but that is not what her amendment says.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

Before the noble Lord sits down, his explanation gave the impression that a private performer, for example, concerned with musical dance, would have to license his or her own home. If the entertainer in question offered children's entertainment, would the relevant child's home have to be licensed premises under the Bill?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Of course not. I thought that I had made that entirely clear. Private parties become licensable only if the holder of the party charges those for whom an entertainment is provided and only if the purpose of the party is the provision of entertainment. Incidental entertainment provided even when the entertainer is paid as part of a private party is not licensable. Certainly, anything where no charge is made for admission is not licensable. Mozart and Haydn spent most of their lives being paid to do work that was not licensable. Count Esterhazy's soirees at Eisenstadt, to which he did not charge admission as far as I know but which did include performances conducted by Joseph Haydn, would not have been licensable.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

That is all very well, because nobody is paying, but I still have not had an answer to my charitable problem.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I asked whether, for example, the owners of a private house who employed the Diva Opera to raise money for a local hospice would need a licence for the premises. The people who came to such an event would be paying, although the profits would go to charity. Under the definition and the explanation that the Minister has so far given, that would be a licensable activity. I, for one, think that that is quite wrong.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

I believe that we dealt with that question when we debated Amendment No. 6, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Yes, if a charge were made for admission to a private house, whether it was for private profit or charity, the same issues of public safety and public nuisance would arise. To that extent, it would still be licensable. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, for it to be licensable, other than simply subject to the serving of a notice, there would have to be five events. Each of those events could last up to three days in the course of one calendar year, and there would have to be more than 500 people involved. There are not many of those.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

Could the Minister say what would happen if, at such a private party, no charge was made for admission but a collection was taken up on behalf of a charity, for example?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was here when I answered that question before. That would not be a charge for admission and would not make it licensable.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

Looking around the Chamber, there seem to be concerns on two levels. First, I am concerned that the Minister's explanation does not fit my questions. Secondly, there is consternation among Members of the Committee that such events to which we have referred, such as the one mentioned by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, attract the need for a licence. There is concern on those two levels.

As I said to noble Lords, we have consulted licensing lawyers with expertise in these matters, and we believe that there is a problem with this part of the Bill. We believe that our amendment clarifies the situation, but clearly in the view of the Minister it does not. I shall read his comments carefully in Hansard, but I fear that we shall return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 109, line 11, leave out paragraph (c).

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

The amendment is designed to probe further what is meant by "indoor sporting event" for the purposes of the Bill. I am sure that most of us are clear that it would include a gymnastics competition in a sports hall, a swimming competition or an indoor bowling competition, but will the Minister tell us how far the definition of "sporting event" goes? It would be helpful to have that explained clearly.

Would the definition include a regular amateur club darts competition, for example? Would it include a skittles, bridge or whist competition in a church or village hall or in private premises, designed to raise money for a good cause? On some definitions, that would certainly be sporting. It would certainly be an entertainment. There would probably be a charge if the reason was to raise money for a good cause. There would certainly be an audience, and a large number of people might come and go in the course of an evening. Do the Government envisage that every small, local, casual competition of that sort would be subject to the full rigours of the law?

On a separate aspect, what is constituted by "indoor"? Does an event have to take place within a permanent structure? What happens in the case—possible today and increasingly likely in future—when a stadium has a retractable roof? Would that be caught by the provisions? What would happen if a sporting event started as an open-air event and was concluded under cover because of rain or snow?

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

Well, they are all good questions, as I hope Members of the Committee will agree.

Would that example be covered by any regulations that would apply to the relevant subsection? Would an operator have to apply for permission to close a structure? Does the definition include a marquee near a sporting event, or a tented structure? What about the circumstances, which are increasingly common in some events, in which an awning or cover is placed over some parts of an otherwise open-air structure to shelter the sporting entertainers?

Those may seem small issues, but they are part of everyday life throughout the country, and it is important that we should be clear at the outset how far and in what ways the Government intend the provisions to bite. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 3:45 pm, 12th December 2002

The amendment also appears in my name. The Explanatory Notes helpfully describe sporting events:

"For the purposes of this Bill, sport is defined as any contest in which physical skill is the main factor. For example, tennis would be covered by the definition. However, a game of chess contested publicly would not".

However, the notes do not refer to darts. That may seem an amusing factor, but darts is one game often played in pubs. The Sports Council does not recognise darts, and it is not an Olympic event as yet. Often, of course, darts is covered as a licensable activity in large competitions through the sale of alcohol. However, will the Minister give some definition? Although the definition of sport in paragraph 14 of Part 3 of Schedule 1 uses the word "includes", darts is an issue that many councils will ask about.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I must declare an interest as chairman of the House of Lords bridge group. I understand from the very helpful Explanatory Notes that bridge would not normally be covered. However, there is surely a bit of a muddle here. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the Bill does not really explain what "sport" means. It clearly covers more than contact sports and clearly means sports that people pay to view specifically. Darts in a pub is incidental, and the pub would have to be licensed anyway, so it seems to me that it would not be a factor in the equation.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who has answered one of the difficult points for me. I am not a darts fanatic, but I have seen the game played from time to time, and I cannot remember any circumstance in which I have seen a dart thrown when drink was not in fairly close proximity. The issue with regard to a licence would certainly be in play, although I imagine that there could be some circumstances when that was not the case. The noble Lord referred to darts in a pub; we are obviously talking about licensable premises in that case, which would be covered by the licence for which it had applied.

The noble Lord rightly said that not all sports were contact sports, but sport is sport, and bridge is not a sport. I think that we can agree on the two ends of the definition. We are seeking to indicate that there are a number of indoor sporting events with a fixed roof. I shall refer to the intermittent contraption or sliding roof in a moment. Let us deal with those events that are definitively indoors. They are currently covered by the requirements because indoor arenas can have large crowds. Indoor arenas have substantial capacities for sports such as cycling and athletics, to say nothing of boxing.

We do not intend to exclude any entertainment covered by the current licensing regime. Such events are covered because there is a public interest in terms of health and safety on such occasions. Indoor sporting events can attract sizeable crowds and generate an atmosphere of excitement owing to the competitive nature of the activities provided. Bridge does not quite fit into that category, which is not to say—I seek to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale—that bridge is not competitive. Although it engenders emotions among onlookers, it does not produce quite the same response or involve such large numbers as the sporting events we seek to cover with this provision. We believe that the events should continue to be licensed because only regulation through such a system can ensure public safety and prevent public nuisance and crime and disorder. To exclude indoor sporting events without proper justification would lead to serious problems. After all, a number of issues are raised in relation to external sporting events although the arenas are not very different from the indoor arenas we seek to cover. We shall come to a relevant amendment later. The amendments were grouped at one point but they have been decoupled. The amendment I have in mind relates to retractable roofs. I shall reserve my salient remarks until we reach that amendment.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

It would help many of us if the Bill referred to incidental activities. The reason for licensing is for the primary activity, not for darts, bridge or whatever. The licence would be granted on that basis. I have not yet understood whether a supplementary licence would be needed in relation to a park, for example, if a pub suddenly decided to put on a wrestling match for which entry was charged.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

We should expect the pub to ensure that it had a licence that covered its normal practice—the sale of liquor—and one for entertainment if it had facilities for wrestling or boxing, if it was that sort of pub. There are some. Under the present regime, it would have to apply and give guarantees of public safety with regard to such provision. We are not seeking to change that regime in any way.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I want to pursue the questions raised in relation to darts. The Minister said that a pub with a darts board would be covered by the licence for the premises. However, if it did not have an entertainment licence, does that mean it would have to apply for a variation to add an entertainment licence under the guidelines?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

No. We are concerned with events that generate a significant audience involving public safety and health and different from the normal licensing operation governing the pub. When there is a facility for a boxing match, an additional licence is required. The noble Lord discussed darts. There might be three or four people around who take a passing interest in the darts match. That would not raise a specific consideration.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I raised that example because, although darts can be played by as few as three people, I have been to many pubs, particularly in rural areas, that stage darts competitions that can attract hundreds of people. That is a completely different area and would probably fall under the auspices of the conditions as described by the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me if I underestimate the drawing power of darts in terms of an audience. As the noble Lord said, pubs with darts boards can stage competitions to which the public come—they do so in addition to drinking in the pub. That would be an event and increased numbers of people would come to the pub to see it. That would be covered by our proposal.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat

The pubs in my part of the world have weekly darts competitions. All local pubs do; they even hold darts leagues.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

I want to pursue the comments of my noble friend and to declare a past interest, from some 35 or 40 years ago, as chairman of the Melbourne and district darts league in south Derbyshire. It had the sort of league that my noble friend mentioned. Weekly competitions were played in all the pubs throughout the Melbourne area. They were very popular events, attended by reasonably substantial numbers of people. We were not unique. Similar leagues, as my noble friend said, exist in many parts of the country. They are very popular events. People go especially to pubs to attend them and visit other pubs, of which they are not normally habitues, to follow their team.

Darts is not the only game of its kind played in pubs. I point out what appears to be an anomaly. I was also many years ago—even more years ago than when I was chairman of the darts league—a member of the second Aunt Sally team at the Plasterer's Arms in Oxford. That extremely popular game is played in the open air. The Bill appears to require that entertainment at darts league matches would be licensable but that Aunt Sally matches, which were of a similar nature—all the pubs in the Oxford area played in a league—would not be subject to licensing. What is the logic in that, considering that both events are of a sporting nature? One of them happens to take place in the open air and the other does not, but both are closely associated with pubs.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

It would help us all to bring realism into this debate; otherwise, we shall be discussing the Bill in Committee for about 10 days, which would be in nobody's interests. The fact surely is—as stated several times today and at Second Reading when, unfortunately, I was not able to be present—that if the darts playing is incidental to the activity for which the licence was granted, it is not covered by an extra licence condition. If, however, people pay not for beer but to attend the darts match, surely it is covered. Is that not the end of the problem?

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I am grateful to Members of the Committee for their overwhelming support for my question about darts competitions. These questions are in themselves small but they are symbolic of the fact that the Bill overall lacks clarity. Similar questions have been raised today seeking more clarity in the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale said, at this rate we will be here far longer than is necessary.

I urge the Government to think again about the Bill's wording. We on this side of the Chamber are certain about our interpretation of the Bill, although that interpretation appears to be rather different from the Government's. The Central Council of Physical Recreation has been in touch with us expressing deep concern about what is meant in relation to indoor sporting events. It asks for clarification about whether parents watching their children might be deemed spectators in terms of public entertainment.

Good questions continue to be raised. I understand that the Government's view is that the Bill answers those questions, but we assure them that it does not. I urge the Government to look again at this and earlier amendments. I shall read carefully what they said in Hansard and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative 4:00 pm, 12th December 2002

moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 109, line 12, after "boxing" insert ", martial arts"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 16. These amendments are both designed to probe the difficult issue of what might be called "violent entertainments". They also raise a specific concern relating to martial arts.

I understand why the Government have listed separately in the schedule boxing and wrestling entertainments. We have all seen the way in which so-called "wrestling" now seeks to incite the audience to anger against one or other participant. Often—sometimes as part of a fake entertainment but sometimes, sadly, in real life—people from the audience become involved in scuffles, or worse, with the wrestlers. That is sometimes an intended consequence of the way that the entertainment is presented. Equally, we can all recall appalling scenes of disorder at some boxing matches. In recent times, there have been cases of mass brawls involving horrific injuries to members of the audience. Usually that has happened when members of the audience have been inflamed with drink.

Does the listing of boxing and wrestling in this way as a separate category mean that the Government envisage that licensing authorities may be able to impose stricter regimes on these kinds of competition? If so, can the Minister clarify where in the Act or in the regulations these powers will be explicitly set out? If not, will she consider this matter carefully? Will she also consider whether different rules might apply in the case of so-called "unlicensed" boxing, which poses particular threats to the health of participants and has frequently been associated with drink-related disorder?

Both amendments also seek to add to the definition of "boxing" and "wrestling" other so-called "martial arts". They offer different ways of achieving the same objective. Many noble Lords will know that so-called "sports", such as kick-boxing and similar activities, are growing in popularity alongside more established martial arts, such as karate. No one can doubt that kick-boxing, tae-kwan-do and other sports can involve considerable violence and could act as an incitement to audiences. Therefore, will Ministers consider writing clearly on to the face of the Bill the fact that such martial arts will come under the same rigorous control as boxing and wrestling, in particular, where drink is involved? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

Perhaps I may raise one question in relation to this amendment, although it could well have been raised with regard to any amendments to paragraph 2 of the schedule. I hope that this is not unfair; if it is, the Minister will no doubt write to me. The point referred to by many noble Lords concerned cases where entertainment takes place in the presence of an audience and—this is the point—is provided for the purpose of entertaining an audience or for purposes which include the purpose of entertaining that audience. I believe that it would put many of our minds at rest if we had a little guidance on what is meant by,

"or for purposes which include the purpose", of entertaining the audience. We have already had the example of young people taking part in a sporting competition with their parents present. If the parents are there to see their children perform in a competition—for example, in an indoor badminton competition, although it could be any other type of competition—would that be taken as falling within paragraph 2 as the parents would be there for purposes which include the purpose of entertaining that audience? It seems to me that the matter can be argued either way. However, if, either now or later, the Minister could assure us on that point, I believe that it would take out of purview a great many of the more marginal prospects about which people are worried.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I turn, first, to the closing comments of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I shall certainly write to him as I believe that my immediate answer to the point that he raised will probably be inadequate. The concept behind an "audience", or possibly a paying audience, is rather more objective than where parents go along to see, and support, their children. They do form an audience because they are watching, but their participation in the event is not quite that of the public audience, which we are seeking to identify and safeguard in relation to these issues. The noble Lord may consider that response to be less than precise and I shall write to him before the next stage of the Bill.

In relation to the general matter of the martial arts, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, rightly identified, we know that boxing and wrestling and their audiences present a significant issue with regard to public safety. As the noble Baroness said, the relationship between wrestling and its audience is particularly engaging, and its showmanship can engage the audience very directly. But, as has been known for many decades, boxing also engages passions. From time to time, boxing bouts have aroused as much vigour in the audience as in those participating in the ring—in some cases, rather more than occurs in the ring.

In this measure we are seeking to ensure that boxing and wrestling fall within the necessary requirements of licensing. However, I am having some difficulty in accepting the noble Baroness's depiction of the martial arts. I am not sure that I am totally familiar with every single one of them, but I do not believe that martial arts normally set out to engage the audience in quite the same way as do wrestling or boxing.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

Does the noble Lord agree that boxing is growing in popularity but that it is very under-regulated at present? The noble Baroness is correct in that.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

Would it help the Minister to take up my suggestion of using the expression "contact sports", which would cover all these matters?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

That is, of course, a helpful suggestion. The noble Lord is always helpful. But this is a deregulation measure. We are not looking for additional elements to bring within the framework of the regulation. The Opposition Front Benches are raising an issue about martial arts which we believe has occasioned very little public discourse. We have received no representations from the sport. No one who has attended martial arts performances has said, "By heavens, do you know just how dangerous or what a threat to public health this is?". We have received no representations on the matter. If noble Lords have received some, no doubt they will convey them to us.

At present, the martial arts are a fairly limited sport in terms of public presentation. They are conducted within a framework which gives us no cause for anxiety. Therefore, I resist the amendments on the grounds that I am not seeking to include sports, activities or pursuits but am seeking simply to continue with our process of deregulation.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I am very disappointed with the Minister's response. While we would not look for ways to include other sports just for the fun of it, we have a serious purpose in tabling these amendments. As I said, the martial arts can attract audiences where there will be a possibility of violence, and perhaps considerable violence where drink is involved. In some ways, martial arts may be seen as a minority sport. In that case, it is hard for us to understand—perhaps that is the reasoning—why sports such as wrestling and boxing should be included but martial arts excluded. There seems to be discrimination in favour of minority sports, such as the martial arts.

It is not our purpose to add regulation where it is not necessary. Indeed, as I shall say when we debate the next amendment, our concern is that the Government are regulating where it is entirely unnecessary, including areas such as carol singing. There is seriousness in our purpose. As Her Majesty's Opposition it is important for us to show all those individuals and organisations who are watching closely the passage of the Bill our will and our wish carefully to scrutinise it. We need to show the outside world that we are serious in our purpose. On that basis I should like to test the opinion of the Committee.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 93.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Licensing Bill [HL]

Aye: 57 Members of the House of Lords

No: 91 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative 4:20 pm, 12th December 2002

moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 109, line 13, leave out paragraph (e).

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

There has already been much talk today about exceptions to the definition of "regulated entertainment". Amendment No. 11 draws attention to yet another area where the categories seem to be so broad as to verge on the ridiculous. On page 109, line 13, we learn that entertainment includes,

"a performance of live music".

I wonder whether any noble Lords have had the pleasure of watching their children sing in a school nativity play? That activity would, in future, be licensable. It appears that we would also need a licence to go carol singing. Such an all-encompassing definition as the one that is offered in paragraph (e) demands greater clarification. I am sure that there are keen musicians up and down the country who fear that the Bill, as it stands, will force restrictions on activities which they see as a basic human right. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

When we started our consideration of Schedule 1, I hope that I made clear the basis on which Schedule 1 is drafted. The principle is that the first concern should be for public safety and the avoidance of public nuisance. In the licensing objectives, there is also the prevention of crime and disorder and the prevention of harm to children. They should be included in the appropriate places. But I hope that at that stage I explained that if one is concerned with public safety and with the avoidance of public nuisance, it does not make much difference, as regards music, whether it is live or recorded.

Recorded music can be quiet and cause few problems to anyone. Live music, on the other hand, can be extremely loud and offensive to some people. Anyone who has been to the Wembley Arena or to the Glastonbury Festival surely would not say that they, being live music, should be exempt from the licensing procedures. Indeed—I hope the Committee will not mind my saying so—anyone who has been to a State banquet will have heard the bagpipers going around the table twice very loudly indeed. That is all right in St George's Hall and in Buckingham Palace, but it would not be much fun if one lived next door.

What we are concerned with is the public safety and avoidance of public nuisance aspects.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I apologise. But there seems to be a theme to some of the Minister's answers that any live music will bring about disorder. I know that some of the original regulations about live music were brought in because it caused disorder in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the noble Lord's comments indicate that live music is a cause of disorder and of public nuisance. I did not wish to speak to this amendment but the noble Lord's comments have forced me to. Can the Minister tell us what evidence he has for the assertion that he makes?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

I have made no such assertion. I am saying that there is no distinction to be made, from the point of view of public safety or public nuisance, between live and recorded music. To single out live music for the purpose of the amendment is to misunderstand both the purpose of the Bill in the way it is drafted and the effect that it has.

It is a widespread misunderstanding but it is just wrong. As a result of the Bill, not only will there be no further impositions on live musicians, but there will be huge new opportunities for live musicians. The Bill does not discriminate against live music in any way. Let us take as an example the pubs, which after all much of the Bill is about. At the moment one has the "two in a bar" rule. One must get special permission for more than two live musicians in a bar.

Under the Bill as drafted the pub licensee will get a licence for the sale of alcohol. At the same time, without any difficulty and without extra charge, and subject only to conditions about noise and capacity levels, he will be able to get a music licence. In that sense, the possibility of live music being available in pubs and other places where alcohol is being sold will be greater rather than less. Regulation is being reduced not increased.

I simply do not believe that the distinction between live music and recorded music that is made in the amendment helps in any way. Of course that is not saying that all live music is damaging. I gave examples—perhaps extreme examples—of Glastonbury and the Wembley Arena. Of course a small folk group in a pub will not cause the kind of problems that Wembley or Glastonbury can cause. But it should not make a difference whether it is two, one or three people taking part in such a group.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, introduced the amendment by talking about carol singers and nativity plays. Singing in nativity plays is not going to be licensable. In most cases those activities will come within the exemption in paragraph 9 as incidental to a religious meeting. In any case, they will be for the family and friends of children and will not be for members of the public. Neither of those circumstances will be licensable. Carol singers going door-to-door, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, or taking part in a religious service are not licensable. People singing carols in a supermarket or a railway station and so on would need to be covered by a premises licence or a temporary event notice. That is hardly different from the present situation. In any case, a temporary event notice just says that there will be carol singers. That is all. It does not require any more than that.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

The Minister cannot be allowed to get away with saying that there will be no real difference from carol singing at the moment. Nor, with respect, should he be allowed to get away with the notion that there is nothing to getting one of these notices. Getting the forms, filling them in, returning them 10 days before the event and paying the fee is a series of bureaucratic impediments that will put off a great many people who are only too happy now to sing in Liverpool Street station or wherever. The Minister misjudges the feeling of the House if he believes that this combination of bureaucratic hurdles is of no significance.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 4:30 pm, 12th December 2002

Let us talk about that aspect; I am certainly happy to do so; but I have given the assurances sought by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about both Nativity concerts and carol singers. I insist that the regime that we propose is enormously easier for live music and would not be helped by the amendment.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I appreciate the Minister's reasoning as to why, on this occasion, my noble friend Lady Buscombe is wrong, but he made the most amazing assertion in his answer. He said that there was no difference to him between live and recorded music in this regard. Why, then, are they separated in the Bill?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

They are both there; they are separated, presumably, for the sake of completeness. There is a much greater difference in terms of public nuisance between amplified and unamplified music than there is between live and recorded music.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I thank the Minister for his reply, but I am now deeply confused. I heard the Minister say that, to take carol singing as an example, it is perfectly all right to go carol singing in certain places but not in others. With regard to the need for a premises licence, there must be people up and down the country who are about innocently to go out on carol singing sprees and may enter supermarkets—where I am sure that they would be welcome—or railway stations, not realising that they would be in difficulty if they did not have a licence to cover that activity. I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale when he said that I was wrong in that regard.

The Minister said that school Nativity plays would be exempt from the need for a licence if, as was suggested, they were incidental to a religious meeting. That returns us to an argument raised earlier: most Nativity plays attract all sorts of people, not just immediate family and friends. How far and how wide does the definition of friends extend?

In essence, we seek clarification from the Government. We said on Second Reading that we support the Bill in principle, but we passionately believe that, in a number of areas, it deserves and demands improvement. Otherwise, to return to the reference made this morning to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, the Bill will be a licence for lawyers.

I urge the Government to reconsider what we have said on this and previous amendments. We are in Committee; there is an opportunity to revisit the issues on Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 109, line 14, leave out "playing" and insert "performance"

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

In moving Amendment No. 12, I shall speak also to Amendment Nos. 21 and 25, which are grouped with it. I shall speak first to Amendment No. 25, which sums up the meat of our objections to the Bill.

I have campaigned against the "two in a bar" rule, and I do not intend to introduce grandfather rights for the "two in a bar" rule into the Bill—although in a way, that might be helpful to the Bill as drafted. I understand—and, to a degree support—the Government's objective of making entertainment licences an easily accessible form of variation of a licence.

However, I have concerns about such variation of licence. The Minister said that varying the licence to include an entertainment licence will be easy. However, will licensing authorities reject variations if people then seek to add an entertainment licence? That is a matter of considerable concern. If someone applies for a variation of licence, the licensing authority has the opportunity either to reject the variation or to impose conditions. Pubs may be worried that if they apply for an entertainment licence they may be rejected unless a vast amount of work is undertaken at the pub for live music to be performed there—because of health and safety considerations, which have been cited in the past in the granting of public entertainment licences.

That is one reason why we were so keen to remove the "two in a bar" rule. Amendment No. 25 is therefore an attempt to allow live, unamplified music to take place outside the confines of the Bill. That is important, especially as the Bill is promoted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, because we are discussing a vast amount of folk music. Folk music is a form of culture in this country and is often passed on by word of mouth in pubs. Reducing people's ability to hear folk music played could lead to its decline and extinction. I think especially of areas such as Tyneside, where much traditional folk music has been passed down through word of mouth in pubs.

We are therefore attempting through Amendment No. 25 to exempt unamplified music. As the Minister said, amplified music can be extremely loud and intrusive. However, unamplified music is rarely complained against. The Noise Abatement Society, which most keenly opposes any noise pollution, states that 81 per cent of noise complaints about pubs and bars are due to noisy people outside. Most of the rest are due to recorded music and noisy machinery. The United Kingdom Noise Association states that noise complaints about live music are relatively rarely lodged. There are more complaints about amplified pre-recorded music, which is exempt under the Bill.

I find it anathema that, under the Bill, while pubs can happily play canned music—most pubs do—they cannot host unamplified live music of a type that is so important to the cultural diversity of our country through folk clubs, which often meet in pubs. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on all the amendments to which my name and that of my noble friend Lord Luke have been added. It would be otiose to repeat what he said. The Bill appears to be clamping down on entertainment while liberalising the drinking of alcohol—a strange juxtaposition.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I shall speak briefly to Amendment No. 21, which would remove from Paragraph 7, which exempts incidental music, the word "recorded", so that the exemption would apply to incidental music whether recorded or live. I agree with what the Minister said about the previous amendment, when he was adamantly disinclined to distinguish between live and recorded music, and said that they should be treated the same. What is good for the goose in that amendment should be good for the gander in this.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

Perhaps I may make a brief suggestion about the amendments and some of those that we discussed earlier. It concerns the concept of live music as a discrete and recognisable commodity. Live music varies enormously between the chap crooning with a friend over a ukelele in a bar and the "Hallelujah Chorus". The Government have got into difficulty by providing such precise definitions that do not translate into the world in which we live. Perhaps they will reflect on that as we consider the Bill further.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, is entirely justified in reminding me of what I said on the last amendment; I was very deliberate. The difference between amplified and unamplified music is more important than the difference between live and recorded music.

The noble Lord referred to Amendment No. 21 and to paragraph 7 of Part 2 of the schedule. The point is that we are referring to recorded music when it is incidental to other purposes, rather than being the purpose itself. Generally speaking, I hope, live music is not incidental. I have been to parties at which pathetic string quartets of music students play in the corner and no one pays the faintest attention. People clap politely when they finish. That is as deplorable, in its way, as Muzak is. However, my personal views should not come into it. Generally speaking, background music may be offensive aesthetically. But it is not offensive in public safety or public nuisance terms. That is why there is an exemption in paragraph 7.

The fundamental point is the one I have made—clearly, not to adequate effect—on several groups of amendments. The licensing regime that we propose is related to the effect of the entertainment, not to its origin. When a distinction is made between amplified and unamplified or live and recorded, we must consider the effect. There can be quiet—relatively quiet—amplified music, and there can be loud unamplified music. A brass band can be very loud, and I gave the example of bagpipes. A symphony orchestra is loud. I would not care to live next to the "1812 Overture", even if—especially if—a live orchestra was playing it.

If we stick to the fundamental principle that we are licensing the effect for the sake of public safety and the avoidance of public nuisance, we will not get into the trouble that the amendments would get us into. The amendments would not help musicians or live music and are not in the public interest.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

I would like the Minister to clarify something that I find mysterious. Under paragraph 7, it will be permissible for stores, hotels and so on to play the revolting Muzak that most customers loathe. I cannot understand, from a marketing point of view, why they do it. If they had live music in the foyer, for example, would that be regarded as incidental to the other purposes of the establishment? They hope to attract people to stay in the hotel or to eat or drink there. Railway stations, already referred to, are there to persuade people to travel on trains. The position is similar for any other termini. Where is the logic in saying that there can be Muzak in all those places but not a string quartet or carol singers?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 4:45 pm, 12th December 2002

I am in danger of being swayed by my aesthetic judgments, rather than by the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is right. People go to a railway station to travel by train; they go to a shop to buy things. If the criterion used is whether the music is incidental, it may be that we should think again about the adequate distinction being whether the music is live or recorded. I say that because Amendment No. 21 is in the group.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I am rather interested by that change of tack. The Minister is talking about incidental music. Surely, folk musicians playing in the corner of a pub are incidental to the licensing criteria of the pub. If they are playing for their own amusement, and it is incidental that they are doing so, music is being performed.

Noise abatement, noise pollution and health and safety are important issues. However, I find it amazing that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is promoting the Bill and should be promoting live music as a cultural aspect of our life, is more interested in the health and safety aspects. The health and safety aspects are already covered by the premises licence and the facilities licence.

If the Government are prepared to change their view on the incidental playing of music in, say, hospitals, railway stations or anywhere else, that is fantastic. However, I must bring to the Minister's attention something about which he might get a few letters. He mentioned his personal aesthetic view that it is sad that people play in a corner and are never listened to. Many music students make a living or support their studies by providing that service. That is an important point. I am sure that the music schools will put him right on it.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

Of course, that is a different aspect.

The incidental nature of the music is one aspect of the matter. On this side of the House, we are concerned about our cultural heritage of folk music and the ability of people to play it in local pubs so long as they do not infringe health and safety or noise pollution rules. Those rules should be covered by the premises licence criteria anyway; the Bill is too restrictive.

The Minister said that the purpose of the Bill was de-regulation. We believe that also. If it is, and if the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is to take seriously its responsibility to promote culture, the issue must be addressed. I say that because we will bring the matter back at the next stage. I hope that the Government will consider changing their position. We will press the issue hard at the next stage. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 109, line 14, at end insert "to the public"

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

In moving Amendment No. 13, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 28. Amendment No. 28 deals with the issue of play rehearsals. The issue has already been covered and the Minister has, I think, spoken to it. However, I would like some reassurance that if the rehearsal of a play was not for the benefit of the public, it would not be covered by an entertainment licence. I say that because the issue has direct financial consequences for production companies that are rehearsing. There can be a difference in the fee they are charged, according to whether the premises are licensed. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I support the amendments, to which my name and that of my noble friend Lord Luke have been added.

There is huge scope for confusion between the reference to,

"any playing of recorded music" and paragraph 7, which provides an exemption for the playing of recorded music,

"to the extent that it is incidental to some other activity".

That begs the question of when recorded music is deemed to be incidental. I was pleased by the Minister's response to the previous group of amendments and will read that part of Hansard extremely carefully tomorrow.

The question of when music is,

"incidental to some other activity" could make an enormous difference to the gulf that exists between how we on this side of the House and in other parts of the House interpret the Bill and how the Government interpret it. Will businesses risk being in breach of their operating plan if they misinterpret their recorded music as incidental and do not include it when submitting their application to the licensing authority?

I turn to Amendment No. 28. It is unnecessary to regulate a rehearsal without an audience. Surely, if it has an audience, it is caught anyway.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 1 lists the descriptions of activities that are entertainments, including,

"any playing of recorded music".

Amendment No. 13 proposes inserting at the end the words "to the public". Any playing of recorded music to the public which is not exempt under paragraph 7—because it is incidental to other activities and satisfies all the conditions in the schedule—is clearly a licensable activity. If the intention is to exempt the playing of recorded music which is not to the public, I am baffled. I cannot envisage a situation where recorded music would be played for consideration or with a view to profit where neither the public nor members or guests of a club were present and the other conditions of the schedule were satisfied.

As regards Amendment No. 28, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, recognises that I have already given the assurance for which he asked. Rehearsals are specifically mentioned in that paragraph because we want to make it clear that a rehearsal to which an audience is invited—such as a press performance or a dress rehearsal—should be licensed because of concerns for the protection of the public. People attending would expect to be protected as they would be for a proper performance. But I can give the assurance that closed rehearsals need not be licensed.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 109, line 15, at end insert—

"( ) a performance of comedy which is not a play,"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

In moving Amendment No. 14, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 15. This is a small point—a probing amendment. Both comedy—the obvious example being stand-up comedy—and hypnotism shows, such as those staged by Paul McKenna, are forms of performance put on for the purposes of entertainment and take place in the presence of an audience. Therefore, as with the amendment that we sought to include in relation to martial arts, we see no reason why they should not be included within the definition of entertainment in paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 1. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

The amendments seek to bring within regulated entertainment as defined in Schedule 1 comedy routines—I assume mainly stand-up comedy—and stage hypnotism. I shall deal with hypnotism first—not a subject on which I have a great deal of expertise. The Hypnotism Act 1952 apparently already controls and regulates performances of hypnotism at places licensed for public entertainment and at other places. Therefore, it would duplicate those provisions to regulate it under this Bill. I should perhaps point out that hypnotism and, I assume, hypnotism shows, give rise to issues which go beyond the licensing objectives of the Bill, but there are obviously health matters at issue. It remains the case that many people are concerned about the effects of hypnotism on certain vulnerable groups. It is right that it is addressed separately by its own legislation and we would not want to change that.

I am rather puzzled why the noble Baroness wants to add stand-up comedians to the list in Schedule 1. Laughter is not normally excessively noisy. Therefore I believe that the proposal would be unnecessarily bureaucratic. In addition, there are problems with defining, in practical terms, what constitutes stand-up comedy. How does one define whether someone is funny or not? We might say that there is a good deal of stand-up comedy in this House, but people would probably disagree about the extent to which some noble Lords are being comic and some are being serious. Therefore, it probably would not be appropriate or make much sense to extend the coverage of the regime in this way, and certainly not as far as hypnotism is concerned.

In the light of my comments, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, which I recognise was a probing amendment.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I thank the Minister for her reply, especially in relation to hypnotism. I am grateful to her for informing us of the 1952 Act. It was a probing amendment. It sought to give clarity to the Bill and send signals to those in the business of hypnotism that while they are exempt from the Bill, they are not exempt in every which-way. In relation to stand-up comedy—for example, a performance of comedy which is not a play—the purpose of a probing amendment is to highlight the fact that there is an opportunity perhaps for individuals or groups to circumvent the Bill by saying that whatever performance they provide, it will be stand-up comedy as opposed to the performance of a play.

I hear what the Minister has said and I do not want to detain the Committee on this point. But it is important to show that many areas are not covered in the Bill and that there are questions beyond your Lordships' House as to what is included in the term "entertainment". On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 109, line 17, at end insert—

"(i) a playing of a programme included in a programme service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42),"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

Schedule 1 contains a number of definitions relating to entertainment. The various descriptions of entertainment are to be found in paragraph 2 which include,

"an exhibition of a film", and,

"any playing of recorded music".

Curiously, entertainment, for the purposes of the Bill, does not include television. We doubt that the reason is that television is no longer entertaining, but we cannot think of any good reason why television should not be included. The televising of live sporting events on large-screen televisions on licensed premises is a frequent occurrence. Quite often a considerable amount of alcohol is consumed at those events. They attract large crowds and are frequently the source of disorder. Indeed, the potential for disorder from such an event could be greater than the potential for disorder from the exhibition of a film.

Similarly, we find it curious that any playing of recorded music is within the definition of entertainment, but not the playing of a radio programme even if that radio programme consists only of recorded music. We believe that it would be appropriate for television and radio to be included within the definition of entertainment in paragraph 2 of the schedule. We are not saying for a moment that events involving television or radio should be banned or be subject to onerous conditions. What we are saying is that there should be a licence for such events so that if there is likely to be an adverse effect on the promotion of the licensing objectives or such an event would undermine the crime prevention objective, appropriate steps can be taken by the licensing authority. Those steps may be minimal but at the very least it should be open to the licensing authority to take those steps. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I support the amendment, especially as it could involve the showing of football matches close to grounds where football is being played. I understand that there are other provisions under which the police can control such activities. However, this seems to be an easy measure. One of the major problems of crowd control at many sporting events is not within grounds but outside them.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

This is a deregulatory Bill and Amendment No. 17 would increase regulation. We have listed several types of entertainment and are providing regulation for those. But these entertainments in themselves are noisy or could constitute public nuisance. Everyone has television in their own home. It cannot be turned up beyond a certain level without it becoming impossible to hear. We are regulating where we have to; namely, for noisy entertainments, late-night refreshment, fire safety grounds, and so forth. But the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, are saying that the very showing of television—especially the showing of football matches—could give rise to disorder, particularly where alcohol is being sold. I do not deny that. But the solution is not licensing the showing of television. Televisions are on in the background in pubs all the time, I am sorry to say—with the admirable and notable exception of JD Wetherspoon, which is not the brewery of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson—and we would not want to license them merely because on occasion football is shown and may give rise to disorder.

The solution to disorder arising from the showing of television is by imposing conditions on alcohol licences, not by increasing the regulation of the showing of television itself.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative 5:00 pm, 12th December 2002

I am looking at a comment sent to us by ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, which is deeply concerned by the exemption. It states, quite rightly, that very often these events are accompanied by drinks promotions, which attract large crowds and are frequently the source of disorder. We entirely agree with the Government's stated aim of being deregulatory, but they seem to be deregulatory as it suits. On the one hand, we find that carol singing in a supermarket will need a licence, but, on the other, enormous pubs, with huge screens, drinks promotions and hundreds of people in a crowd near a sports stadium, can make as much noise as they like without the need for a licence. This seems to be entirely inconsistent.

We urge the Government to consider what we have said and the concerns raised by noble Lords. The Musicians Union, as well as ACPO and others, has raised concerns in this regard. We are at the Committee stage and we can ask the Government to think again on this issue. We are not seeking to regulate where it is not necessary, but we are concerned about inconsistency.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Before the noble Baroness decides what she is going to do, I have listened carefully to the point she made about ACPO. I repeat our strong belief that the correct way to deal with this issue is by placing conditions on a licence and ensuring that if a licensee permits disorder and noise nuisance on his premises he will face a review of his licence, and it will therefore be in his interests to maintain an orderly public house. However, in view of what ACPO has stated, we shall talk to it again about this matter. I believe that there is a misunderstanding here.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention. ACPO has a deep concern. As to the point the Minister made about conditions on the licence, that is a possibility. But the Explanatory Notes dealing with such conditions exist in a framework for guidance which will not be published until the spring, way beyond the time for scrutiny of the Bill in this House. It is a matter to which we shall return later in the Committee stage. I am grateful to the Minister for what he has said in this regard and welcome the fact that he will meet again with ACPO on this point. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 20 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I had not realised that Amendment No. 21 was grouped with an earlier amendment. If I am not out of order, I should like to add my plea to that of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, to the Government to accept Amendment No. 21 when it comes up at the next stage.

The other day I was in the lobby of a London hotel, having battled my way through Livingstonian traffic jams.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

The amendment cannot be moved. The proposer is not present. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, will have to find another way of making his point, perhaps on another amendment.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I hesitate to correct the Minister, but if he looks at The Companion to the Standing Orders he will find that once an amendment is on the Marshalled List it is the property of the Committee and not of an individual peer.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

In that case, perhaps I may complete my short intervention.

I was in the lobby of a large London hotel, having battled my way through traffic, waiting for a guest. I heard some marvellous, soothing, attractive, beautiful music coming from somewhere. I went round the corner to investigate, and there was an attractive lady harpist plucking on her harp, giving pleasure to all those present and offending no one. It is perfectly preposterous that a licence should be needed for that kind of music. The case rests there.

[Amendments Nos. 21 to 25 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 110, line 32, at end insert—

:TITLE3:"Small premises

The provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities is not to be regarded as regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if—

(a) it is undertaken on premises on which no more than 250 persons are present;

(b) no charge is made for entry; and

(c) the provision of the entertainment ceases no later than 11 p.m."

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

The Minister has made much of deregulation, and this is an extremely good piece of deregulation. The amendment seeks to promote mainly folk singing. I know that some Members of the Government find folk singing anathema and have said so in the press—I am sure that they were very unfair comments and probably misquoted—but I am sure that if tickets to folk concerts were sent to those people they would be only too glad to accept. Or perhaps not.

This is a probing amendment to which we may return. We believe that it meets the criteria for allowing folk singers and other small musical groups to practise and perform among themselves in licensed premises. The amendment introduces the criteria that there should be no more than 250 people present; that there should be no charge for entry, and therefore raves would not fall into this category; and, in order that we do not again receive the threat that it should be treated as a rave, the entertainment should cease at 11 o'clock at night, the start time of entertainment of the rave variety.

The amendment seeks to ensure that traditional folk music can take place in an acceptable environment. I hope that the Government will consider the amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward. It seeks to maintain and promote the proliferation of music. One of our major problems at the moment is that through the PEL system which the Bill seeks to remove—I quite understand the Minister's view that that is a good thing and may lead to many more venues opening up—the number of venues providing for folk music, jazz and other types of entertainment is presently 5 per cent of premises, which is unacceptable.

Music should be a part of everyday life. Indeed, one of the reasons for tabling the amendment is that we believe that some of these regulations could infringe on human rights legislation. I know that the Minister may say that that is debatable, but I am not sure that a case taken to the European Court of Human Rights under the relevant articles would not be successful. Given that the Minister has signed to say that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, that is an extremely serious point.

The aim of the amendment—and, indeed, of the previous amendment—is to allow the flourishing of a cultural renaissance in folk music. I understand that certain Ministers would not like that to happen, but I hope that this Minister, when considering the amendment, will take forward the point we are making and perhaps even accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I support the amendment, to which my noble friend Lord Luke and I have added our names, and I support the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. We believe that the amendment helps to address many of the questions that have been raised. It reflects the Government's clarification that spontaneous activities are supposed to be free from regulation. In a sense, it provides a measure of de minimis. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that it attempts to meet the requirements of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human RightsArticle 10 in particular: the right to perform such music being an intrinsic part of an individual's right to freedom of expression. This is a good amendment. It would help to alleviate an enormous amount of concern, and it would reduce the work of lawyers. We therefore hope that the Government will seriously consider supporting it.

Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Conservative

I, too, support the amendment. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, restricted it to folk musicians. I feel that it should be wider and take in jazz musicians. Many young jazz musicians in this country have nowhere to play. To cut down on their ability to perform would severely restrict a good British art form.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

It depends on the kind of jazz that is being played, does it not? It depends on whether it is West Coast or somewhat louder.

This is a well-meaning amendment. I well understand the frustrations that have given rise to it. We have agreed that the "two in a bar" rule is a nonsense. It is a nonsense to suppose that two musicians using amplification who are presently exempt from restrictions will cause less disturbance than a quintet playing at a tea dance. There is a whole range, both in terms of numbers of musicians and in terms of the kind of instruments they are playing, or indeed in terms of their voices.

But this amendment, like the others, goes against the way in which we are approaching regulation here. We say that, whatever the origin of the music, the concerns should be for public safety and the prevention of public nuisance. That can happen whether there are 250 people present, or more, or fewer than that. I am sorry to say that public nuisance could be caused before 11 o'clock. What about music being played next door to where a mother is seeking to put her child to bed at seven o'clock?

Given the way in which the amendment is drafted, a full orchestra could be performing in premises with a capacity of fewer than 250 people. It means that a small pub, for example, would have to employ people to count. It could cover a free rave involving 250 people. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that it does not cover raves, but not all impose an admission charge: they make money on the sale of drinks.

The fact that music is presented commercially on a regular basis to boost sales of alcohol would be irrelevant. Pubs are commercial enterprises. They do not present music for altruistic reasons. We license many activities because the profit motive can make people careless about safety and the nuisance caused to others. The fact that no formal charge is made does not alter that. As I said, the 11 p.m. finishing time suggested in the amendment does not help mothers who want to get their children to sleep. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to introduce an exemption of this kind. It is better to rely on what the effect of the entertainment is, as we do in the Bill, rather than to introduce new criteria of this kind.

As to the human rights issue, Article 10 provides, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, for the right of freedom of expression. But residents are entitled to the right to enjoy their possessions in peace. That is the balance that must be struck. The European Convention on Human Rights—notoriously, I almost said—recognises that this balance needs to be maintained, which is why there are always disputes about what it means.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 12th December 2002

It is unfortunate that the Minister has taken the line that he has. He talked about disturbance. There are many venues throughout the country which hold regular events in regard to which there is no complaint. The Minister said that it was possible to put an orchestra into small premises. I cannot think why anyone would want to do that. Yes, you can stick 31 jazz players in a cupboard, but that is a ridiculous concept.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

Indeed. As a former member of the Parliamentary Rugby Club, one would hope so. However, the issue is that many venues are already covered by health and safety regulations. Noise abatement is already one of the considerations that is undertaken. If a pub plays music, those noise considerations are already covered. So the issue of disturbance is already dealt with.

If disturbance is covered already, there can be no counter-argument under the convention. If no one is being disturbed, the counter-argument to the first argument about right of expression does not apply. It has been suggested that someone might try to bypass these rules. But as the noble Lord has pointed out on numerous occasions and will no doubt continue to point out, there are both new and existing regulations in terms of police powers, council noise abatement orders and all kinds of other regulations. If all these are in place, the argument about disturbance is unfortunate. This provision will lead to the destruction of a cultural form of expression—namely, jazz, folk music and many other forms of music.

I very much hope that the Minister will reconsider the rather hard line that he has taken. This is an issue to which we shall return at the next stage of the Bill, which may well leave this House containing such an amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 110, line 32, at end insert—

:TITLE3:"Educational and social establishments

The provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities is not to be regarded as regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if it is undertaken on the premises of—

(a) an educational establishment for purposes directly connected to the activities of the establishment;

(b) a prison for purposes incidental to the activities of the prison;

(c) a hospital for purposes incidental to the activities of the hospital; or

(d) a museum or public gallery for purposes incidental to the activities of the museum or public gallery."

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

The amendment seeks to provide exemptions to educational and social establishments for the provision of entertainment.

We propose that performances in certain educational and social establishments should be unregulated—a point to which we referred in earlier debates. While some may argue that providing exemptions to the licensing of entertainment would leave loopholes in the system, we believe that an insistence on including in the Bill the establishments and social institutions which we have sought to exclude is over-regulatory.

It is over-regulatory to insist that people cannot perform a play or even rehearse one without paying a fee for a licence. Since such establishments would be likely to host more than five such entertainments a year, a full licence will be required. Our amendment, however, seeks to protect social establishments from incurring these extra costs.

It is a recurring problem in the Bill that one type of legislation is imposed to fit all circumstances. It seems abundantly clear that entirely different considerations arise for a school play than they do in relation to, say, a public performance in a pub. We have heard what the Minister has said regarding concern for public safety and public nuisance, regardless of the origin. But we urge the Government to think carefully about the effect that the Bill will have on educational and social establishments. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

I support this amendment, to which my name is attached. I particularly support the provision to exclude hospitals. Live music in hospitals, as performed in some London hospitals, has been shown to be extremely beneficial in patient recovery. It has also been shown to be extremely helpful in staff retention. There is good evidence in several studies that that has happened.

Incidental music in museums and galleries could be seen as extremely beneficial to visitors, creating a mood that canned music often fails to achieve. It is an excellent amendment.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

I also support the amendment, particuarly with regard to prisons. A couple of years ago, the board of visitors at Brixton prison organised a visit by the National Theatre, which put on performances with prisoners as actors. It invited many local people and friends of the prison to attend the performance and raised a substantial sum of money for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Surely such an activity is incidental to the purposes of a prison, which is to enable prisoners to lead a good and useful life, as rule 1 of the prison rules states. What could be more enhancing of a prisoner's self-esteem and ability to cope with a variety of situations than taking part in the live performance of a play with distinguished actors from the National Theatre who were giving their services free? It would be a frightful nuisance for prisons if, on top of their myriad paperwork, they needed a special licence every time an external theatre group came to engage in such activity.

On the contrary, we should encourage entertainment provided not only by theatres but also opera companies. Recently, I heard a radio programme about a performance of the opera "Sweeney Todd", which some might think an unsuitable subject for the group of prisoners involved, who were "lifers". Nevertheless, the activity engaged them and the staff. Everyone was enthusiastic about it. I am sure that the noble Baroness would not want to discourage such activity. I hope that the Government will favour the amendment and do everything possible to encourage incidental activities that are therapeutic to the people involved.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

I declare an interest as chairman of an NHS trust. I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about music in hospitals. It is becoming increasingly popular and prominent. Some organisations specifically provide music in hospitals, playing in wards and amphitheatres. It would deter them if they had to apply for a licence every time they wished to take a quartet into a ward or to provide music elsewhere in a hospital. I support the amendment, particularly that aspect.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

If a hospital needed an entertainment licence, the provision of health and safety would be an issue. But it would be difficult to say where the musical activity should take place. Incidental music for therapeutic value would have to be performed in wards or corridors. An entertainment licence may specify that it would have to be performed in an auditorium, which would contradict the purpose of using live music as a therapeutic method.

Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Conservative

I imagine that many museums survive only by holding evening functions. The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum host functions virtually every evening, for which they charge a lot of money. I imagine that that helps their budget a great deal. I do not have figures, but I am sure that this point should be considered.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

Paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 exempts the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities for a religious service or meeting under the requirements of the Bill. The amendment would exempt entertainment incidental to the activities of prisons, hospitals, museums or galleries where they take place on the premises of those bodies. It would also exempt activities undertaken at an educational establishment for purposes connected to that establishment.

Entertainment is regulated under this Bill to achieve licensing objectives, not least public safety. The establishments that would be at least partially exempted through this amendment host occasions that the public can attend. For example, occasionally prisons put on plays for the public. Museums such as the Natural History Museum— the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, has just mentioned museums—rent out their buildings for dinners with dancing, for example. Some schools stage commercial music concerts, as we discussed with reference to earlier groups.

Just because events are taking place at schools, prisons, museums or hospitals does not mean that the public should not be protected. Of course they should be. Members of the Committee might argue that the activities I described are not incidental to the purposes of the establishments. I am not entirely clear about what is meant in the amendment by "incidental activities". However, if a performance is for therapeutic purposes for hospital patients and staff, it is not licensable. It is a private event. In fact, it is not incidental to the activities of the hospital. It is part of the process of helping people to get better. Similarly, a performance in a prison for the benefit of prisoners is not licensable. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said about that. Prison regimes should allow such events to take place.

A major public event attended by many people from outside is a different case. People would expect such an event to be licensed. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw the amendment. The purpose of the Bill is to try to have a coherent, unbureaucratic system, with a light touch. But it must create a level playing field between all the different bodies that might hold public events at which noise could be an issue and where the public need to be protected.

To exclude some premises entirely from the provision while including others would not further the aim of the Bill. I hope that I have assured Members of the Committee who have spoken that, where entertainment is obviously for the benefit of patients, prisoners and other recipients of care from the institutions mentioned, or for the benefit of pupils in a school, it is not licensable.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, the vast majority of museums host many events. They already have licences and would need to continue to do so for such activity.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

Perhaps we are being pernickety about the issue because of the bad experience many premises have had with public entertainment licences in cases where only one or two members of the public have triggered issues. That might not happen if public entertainment licences cost much less.

If staff spend their lunch hour at a performance by a small group of musicians in a ward, is the activity defined as a public or private one? Is there not a crossover at that point?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

This is a good example of where common sense must prevail. Common sense tells me that, if people wish to use their lunch hour to listen to music being played for the benefit of patients on a ward, it is a private activity and should not therefore be licensable.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

The noble Baroness talked about the performance of music in a hospital as part of the activities of the hospital. Will she extend those remarks to the provision of entertainment by schools that are designed for that purpose, particularly drama schools and music schools? Putting on performances is part of their activities. It is what they are there to do for their pupils. If somebody from outside comes to attend a performance at, for example, the Royal College of Music or the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, do those performances then become licensable?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts) 5:30 pm, 12th December 2002

If the performances are for the public, they are licensable. That is the key issue. If, on the other hand, they are done entirely privately, with students listening to students, they are not. Most conservatoires put on public concerts and would expect to have to get a licence.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I thank the Minister for her response. Sadly, I am disturbed by it. In a sense it confirms our worst fears. We are talking about particular institutions that we have singled out for exemptions—prisons, hospitals, educational establishments, museums and public galleries. I am grateful to noble Lords who have supported the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to performances in prisons attended only by those directly involved with the prison. We understand that that would not attract the need for a licence. I went to a performance of "The Threepenny Opera" a couple of years ago at Winchester prison. It was a fantastic performance put on over a number of nights by prisoners working with professional actors. It was the best form of rehabilitation I have ever witnessed, giving the prisoners a feeling that they were working with the outside world and gaining confidence and self-respect. I am pleased to report that some of those prisoners are now free again and pursuing the activity of drama. That must be applauded and I applaud Winchester prison.

I am depressed to think that such activities would attract a licence. I hear what the noble Baroness says about noise, but surely that issue would not arise for prisons and hospitals. When I went to Winchester, my family and I—particularly my children—remarked at the level of protection provided for the public. The public do not need protection. My noble friend Lady Hanham referred to the patients and staff of a hospital. What about if visitors of those patients come in and listen to the performances? An element of common sense must prevail, but, regrettably, the Bill will unquestionably cause insecurity for musicians and performers across the board about what they can and cannot do and the spontaneity with which they can perform.

We will not divide the Committee at this stage, but given the support shown around the Chamber we will want to return to the issue on Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 111, line 23, leave out "(other than" and insert "(including"

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

This takes us back to Amendment No. 11, to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, replied. He said he wished to save his ammunition for later. He now has a chance to fire it off.

The amendment relates to Clause 14 in Part 3 of the Bill. The definitions of buildings have been drafted to exclude structures with roofs that may be opened or closed. The amendment would treat them as if the roof was permanently closed.

The aim of the provision is probably the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which is a splendid building. It is currently the only major building with a sliding roof, but it is unlikely that it will be the only building with a sliding roof over the next 25 or 30 years, which is the likely life of this legislation.

When the roof is closed, I do not see how the stadium is any different from any other major indoor arena, such as Earl's Court, Docklands or the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. I understand that rock concerts in the latter three would fall within the provisions of the Bill, but rock concerts in the Millennium Stadium, even with a closed roof, would not. Except for the convenience of the parliamentary draftsman, who could not find a way of excluding it neatly, that does not seem logical.

It also raises the wider issue of the position of people who live close to major rugby and football grounds. We heard much at Second Reading about late-night drinking in central London and the associated problems. Those living next to major football grounds experience some of the same problems that occur in central London; people being sick in their front gardens and worse. In these cases, not even the council will help to clear up.

I accept that this is a difficult issue, but it is part of the general policy area covering the licensing of entertainment and the sale of alcohol. My fundamental point is that, given human ingenuity, legal tenacity and developing building techniques, if the Bill is not amended we must expect that wholly or partly movable or removable roofs will become more prevalent. In the meantime, I am not clear why a stadium that can be roofed in should have any special treatment in the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for the way he moved his amendment. I assure him that I said only that I would reserve my arguments for later on. I certainly did not talk about ammunition. I have not come here armed. In fact, I am seeking to disarm on this issue.

I recognise the noble Lord's point. Of course the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is a unique sporting venue. I must emphasise that it is subject to its own safety and licensing regime, as would any other stadium of such a size that had this particular facility. I am not sure that I share the noble Lord's pessimism that we may be several decades away from getting a replica, but, as he rightly says, such stadiums will be few and far between. That is why the Millennium Stadium has a regime all its own, as would other similar stadiums. It is certainly the case that it has a development in terms of the roof which gives added protection to spectators. We realise what an enormous asset that is to the sporting facilities at Cardiff.

In drafting the Bill's provisions, we had no desire to make such stadia subject to duplicate licensing regimes merely because "indoor" sport, when the roof is closed, could cover football or rugby played in the stadium. We therefore explicitly exempted them. Members of the Committee should rest assured that, like all such stadia, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff—and other buildings that can close their roofs in the future—are subject to strict safety regimes. I recognise the point identified by the noble Lord that this particular stadium is a mix between "closed" and "open" buildings because of this special facility. I can reassure him that there is a licensing regime in existence that controls and ensures public safety. That regime does not need to be replicated by adding further provisions to the Bill.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances, and his "disarming" comments. I just wanted to ensure that we were not allowing a lacuna to develop in the Bill. In the light of the noble Lord's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 111, line 38, at end insert—

"(2) For the avoidance of doubt, "music" does not include the ringing of church bells, for the purposes of this Act."

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

I shall begin by declaring an interest in the subject. I am a bell-ringer. I normally ring bell number four in a peal of eight at our parish church—a bell that my wife and I gave to the parish. I am also a member of the Suffolk Guild of Bellringers.

The reason for troubling noble Lords with this subject is that, unless you are careful when engaged in bell-ringing, you can cause a certain amount of inconvenience to people living nearby. Unless we insert a provision of the kind that I suggest in this amendment, I am worried that some people who are unhappy with the noise made by the bells, or with the time at which they ring, may approach the licensing authority or take legal steps to stop the bell-ringing. I do not believe that that is the right way to set about it.

Our church tower fell down in 1830 and was only reinstalled in 1960 with the help of many people, including assistance from the millennium bell fund. We managed to get a peal of eight bells installed again. Our bell-ringer, who was a wise and sensible person, took certain steps; for example, he made sure that the recruitment of the band covered the whole social spectrum of the village, and all ages. At the age of 75, I am one of the eldest, if not the eldest. We also took the unusual step of placing louvres with shutters attached to them in the bell chamber. Therefore, when we are practising, we close the shutters and the sound of bells ringing is not heard outside the church. In that way we have managed to gain the overwhelming support of our small community. That is what we should try to do.

It would be helpful if we could put into the Bill the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, gave on Second Reading when he said that,

"bell ringing and carol services do not require licences".—[Official Report, 26/11/02; col. 734.]

All my modest amendment seeks to do is to insert that wording into the Bill. I trust that Members of the Committee will feel able to approve it. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

Church bell-ringing is not music that is licensable under this Bill. I can confirm what my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey said on Second Reading. Amendment No. 30 seeks to make this explicit on the face of the Bill, but it would be very odd if we listed in the legislation every single thing that is not licensable. Indeed, the Bill is about directly the opposite. Schedule l sets out a series of conditions that must be met before particular entertainment, or entertainment facilities, become a licensable activity. It also sets out a number of exemptions in Part 2.

In many cases, church bell-ringing is unquestionably for the purposes of, or incidental to, a religious meeting or service. It is, therefore, without doubt exempt from licensing. When the bell-ringers are practising, there is no audience present, as would be required if it were entertainment. Practice is also not for the purposes of entertainment, as would be required. Finally, if we examine the term of "entertainment facilities", we find that the church makes no charge on the bell-ringers for the use of the bells. Whichever way you approach the issue, church bell-ringing is not licensable under the provisions of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

I listened with attention to what the noble Baroness said. I must say that I am both surprised and disappointed by her response. It seems to me that we are dealing with a very detailed Bill, which contains provisions regarding everything under the sun. I am attempting to make life simpler for the citizen, while at the same time seeking to avoid unnecessary litigation or appeals as regards the licensing authority. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will reconsider the arguments. I may have to retable the amendment at the next stage if she is unable to give me the reassurance I seek. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Provision of late night refreshment]:

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 112, line 5, leave out "5.00" and insert "7.00"

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

This is a very straightforward amendment. Schedule 2 deals with the provision of late night refreshments and includes the definition of "late night refreshment". The late night refreshment licensing regime will operate between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., thus reflecting the existing night cafe licensing regime.

It is generally and understandably considered that the night cafe licensing regime is there to ensure that there is some control over cafes and takeaway premises so as to prevent disturbance to local residents late in the evening. It should also be borne in mind that residents may be just as likely to be disturbed early in the morning; and, to many people, "early in the morning" means before 7 a.m.

This amendment is intended to bring into the scope of the licensing regime premises open between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., thus extending the scope of the regime to cover the whole of the night-time period when it is generally accepted that the majority of people sleep. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Crossbench 5:45 pm, 12th December 2002

It seems a little strange to say it at this stage, but I think that we are at a watershed in the Bill. We have left the realm of the potential imposition of licensing on the activities of Coco the Clown, the martial arts, hypnotism and noisy renderings of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", all covered by Schedule 1, and moved on to something much more simple—eating and drinking—which is covered in Schedule 2. That is why I am intervening now. I should like to declare an interest which applies now and for the remaining 436 amendments to which we shall come. I am a non-executive director of Whitbread plc, an extremely large hotel company and a very large owner and operator of restaurants and sports clubs. I declare that interest now as we move from entertainment more directly into the operation of hotels and restaurants.

Rather remarkably, I can support the Government on the text of the provision. I know that the Minister will be extremely pleased by that. I have been in the Committee all day, since just after 11 a.m., and I think that this is the first time that a noble Lord has stood up and supported the Government on any aspect of the Bill. I therefore know that she will be very encouraged by my view that the Government's proposal in this amendment, on going to 5 a.m., is quite reasonable.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

I apologise for not being able to participate in the Committee's earlier proceedings, but I hope to be able to take part in the later proceedings. I declare my interest now and hope that it will apply for the duration of our debates in Committee. I am a member of a local authority, and local authorities will certainly be affected by later provisions in the Bill.

I support the amendment. The provision will not matter very much in small villages, but it will matter very much in big urban areas with accumulations of premises operating late at night. Such accumulations could cause a disturbance. It may seem odd to say that those two hours can make a difference, but I think that they probably do. Control of premises open at that time, particularly as regards people entering and leaving them quietly, is probably important, particularly in urban areas.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I begin by declaring my great gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, not only for supporting the Government on this amendment, but for so patiently sitting through the debate. I think that he has it right. Paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 provides that, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the provision of late night refreshment must be licensed as under the existing regime. We see no reason to extend the existing regime and thereby to extend regulation. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, was in favour of our being deregulatory, but his amendment would extend regulation.

Amendment No. 31 would extend the coverage to all premises providing late night refreshment until 7 a.m. I think that the Committee should be very careful before accepting this proposition. Our main aim is to minimise the impact of disorder and disturbance on local residents late at night. The main cause is people who have been drinking alcohol, turning up at takeaways and night cafes on their way home and making a terrific din. If we extended the regime to the early morning, after which I believe that most of those people will have gone home and tucked themselves up in bed, we would catch all kinds of early morning cafes that provide breakfast for workers.

Members of this House may not often get up at five in the morning—we tend to get up later and work later—but many people do. I do not believe that there is a problem with regard to those premises. Therefore, it would not be right to bring them within the ambit of the Bill. I do not believe that local authorities would want that and nor would that part of the industry that provides for cafes that open in the early morning. In the light of what I have said, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

The evil that the noble Baroness says that we seek to address is indeed that of some establishments catering specifically for people coming out of pubs and clubs who do not want to go home until they have eaten a burger or fries.

Last Saturday I went to central London to have a look at the late night economy. I was interested to learn from the police, particularly those in the Charing Cross division, that up until fairly recently—I am not sure when the change was made—they experienced enormous problems with people coming out of pubs and clubs, particularly those between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square where several thousand people are being entertained at any one time, going into burger joints in that neighbourhood and causing an enormous amount of nuisance and litter which the council then had to clean up. Some of us heard about that when Councillor Simon Milton attended a meeting here sponsored by the noble Baroness. Westminster Council has to employ people who are on duty at three and four o'clock in the morning—I saw that for myself—to clean up the mess left by these mostly young people who indulge in that form of entertainment.

However, the police have somehow managed to persuade the late night eating establishments to close at an earlier hour so that when people leave clubs—particularly when they do so between three and four o'clock in the morning—they have no option but to go home. That made an enormous difference to the amount of litter and nuisance that had to be dealt with.

The Bill will allow drinking establishments to open much longer hours. People leaving such establishments may well want to visit the kind of completely unobjectionable refreshment establishments that cater for early morning workers who want a cup of tea and so on. If the result of allowing people to drink all night—which is what the Government's policy appears to be—is that at five, six or seven o'clock in the morning they may want to eat a burger, and we do not include any measures in the Bill to deal with that situation, we might regret that.

I have some sympathy with the amendment. Will there be a power for the police, or the local authority as the case may be, to ensure that wherever late night licences are granted to allow people to drink, for example, until four, five or six in the morning, eating establishments will not continue to serve after that time as it is the juxtaposition of drinking and eating that causes problems? Could such a situation be avoided by including a provision in the Bill, whether it be the amendment we are discussing or some other measure? I hope that the noble Baroness will ascertain what can be done.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I am not sure that the amendment would solve that problem. If large numbers of people wish to remain at drinking establishments all through the night, they will do so irrespective of whether we extend the schedule to cover the provision of late night refreshment up until seven in the morning. If we did so, we would catch many perfectly innocent cafes that provide breakfast for people who start work early in the morning. The noble Lord needs to raise his concerns about the general issue of late night drinking when we reach that part of the Bill.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

This has been an interesting little debate. In view of the fact that we shall debate later some of the items referred to, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 112, line 6, leave out first "hot" and insert "immediately consumable"

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 to 35 and 37 to 60 . Of this long list, the amendments at page 112, line 11, and page 112, line 17, are the substantial ones. The remainder are consequential.

Schedule 2 provides a novel approach as regards the type of refreshment to be provided for an establishment to come within the night cafe licensing regime. Under current legislation, at least in London, an establishment would fall within the regime if it provided "public refreshment". Different local authorities take different views as to what is meant by refreshment. Some take the view that "public refreshment" means "immediately consumable refreshment"; namely, any type of refreshment that can be enjoyed immediately without the need to prepare it at home. The schedule provides that the regime will apply to premises where "hot food" and "hot drink" are served.

One concern is that, in order to avoid the licensing regime, premises will adapt so as to serve only cold refreshment. That may result in a proliferation of juice bars, which would be perfectly entitled to serve cold drinks and sandwiches without the need for a licence. Given that the whole purpose of the licensing regime is to ensure that licensing authorities can place proper controls over the location of late night premises and place conditions on their operation to ensure that residents are not disturbed, it is curious that the legislation provides such an obvious loophole. There is no reason to suspect that somebody drinking cold orange juice and eating a sandwich could cause less or more disturbance than someone drinking a coffee or eating a burger.

The amendments would introduce into the regime premises in which immediately consumable food was served. A definition of "immediately consumable" is provided. Food is immediately consumable unless it has to be heated, or prepared in some other way, before consumption, or if it requires a device such as a tin opener or corkscrew to be able to open the package. The amendments would bring into the scope of the Bill not only cafes but also shops selling crisps and cold drinks.

I turn to Amendment No. 45. Currently, premises that hold a cinema licence are not required to register as night cafes—in London, again—or suppliers of late night refreshments elsewhere, even when cinemas provide hot drinks or hot food, such as popcorn. My experience of popcorn is that it is usually no more than warm. It is understood that the purpose of the Bill is not to extend licensable activities unnecessarily. No reason has been given as to why cinemas should be required to register another activity under the Bill with the probability that new conditions of licence would be imposed. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

I support my noble friend on this amendment. I see what he is driving at and understand the illogicalities that he is addressing. However, I want to extend the debate beyond the London-centric implications of the amendments. I particularly want to draw the Minister's attention to the concerns of the Forecourt Stores Association and discover from her the implications of the Bill, and these amendments, for that trade. I refer to small garages, perhaps on trunk roads, that are open throughout the night and which perhaps offer food as well as an opportunity to fill up the car with petrol. I shall give an example. I set out to drive and fill up with petrol at a garage that sells coffee from a machine. I buy a cup of coffee when I pay for my petrol. In those circumstances, the owner of the forecourt shop—of the premises—will presumably need a licence because under paragraph 3(1)(a), I have been "admitted to the premises" and I do not fall within the exemptions in paragraph 3(2). Suppose, for security reasons, that the owner decides to lock the garage at night, and drink machines are placed in the forecourt. In those circumstances, as I read the Bill, I can buy Coca-Cola, which is non-alcoholic and cold, but not coffee because it is hot, and has to be licensed because it involves the supply,

"of hot food or hot drink on or from [the] premises".

I do not see the logic of that distinction. If the regulations apply to small forecourt garage shops outside London on trunk roads—I seek the Minister's guidance on that point—they will be very damaging. Petrol retailers are already heavily regulated in terms of the safety of the sale of petrol. They provide an important centre for village life—I do not suggest that they do so at 2 a.m. but they do so the rest of the time. We should try to find ways of making their lives easier rather than harder. I have tabled relevant amendments to Clause 173.

How will the position of those garages, which offer incidental food and drink—hot and cold—change under the provisions of the Bill, and will the fact that they are heavily regulated be taken into account? In the mean time, I entirely support my noble friend Lord Luke in his attempt to remove the distinction between cold and hot food or beverages.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative 6:00 pm, 12th December 2002

I declare an interest as a former Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster. I am delighted to have given the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, the maiden chance to support the Government during this Bill's Committee stage. I exercised discretion in that regard when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was praying in aid the noise at Wembley and Glastonbury. I could have supported him in that argument by referring to Hyde Park on behalf of my former constituents living around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I erred in favour of discretion because the concerts there are a matter of controversy with the Royal Parks Agency and even the DCMS. I thought that such a reference would be unfriendly to the Government's overall position and therefore counterproductive. However, I am delighted to have given the noble Lord that opportunity.

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 36, which stands in my name. I recognise that it is possible that my amendment may not be self-explanatory to Members of the Committee; it is just possible that it is not even self-explanatory to the Minister. One of the main problems experienced in certain parts of London is the smoking of tobacco in Shisha pipes late at night.

To expand on that, those pipes are used by Muslims at—to give a specific example—open-air cafes along the Edgware Road, where they are serviced by waiters. Because that provision of supplies is not included in the current definitions relating to late-night refreshment, they are a potential nuisance to residents outside ordinary licensing hours. If the licence of a cafe finishes at 1 a.m., the smoking of these pipes and their servicing by waiters can continue long into the small hours with, to the annoyance of other residents, all the consequential noise of extended activity.

I understand that a local government (miscellaneous powers) Bill is to be introduced in the other place to extend the definition to include such pipes, but that is the reason that I moved the amendment. The amendment is intended to give the power, if necessary, to a local authority to regulate this activity.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

All premises where licensable activities are carried on will be required to operate in a way which is consistent with the four licensing objectives—that is, ensuring public safety, the prevention of crime and disorder, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. As we know, people who have consumed excessive alcohol often seek to obtain hot food or hot drink from take-aways, fast-food outlets and late-night cafes. That can lead to disorder and disturbance and these premises should be regulated. It is therefore logical to include such establishments in the licensing regime between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Amendments Nos. 32 to 35, 37 to 44 and 46 to 60 seek to extend the licensing regime to include any premises, including late-opening or all-night supermarkets, which sell any food or drink products for immediate consumption between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Any move to bring into the regime late-night supermarkets and grocery shops selling food that can be readily eaten would be immensely bureaucratic and simply cannot be justified. Again, if the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench is in favour of trying to maintain a deregulatory regime, then I do not believe that we can justify going down this path. It would include every premises selling bread and milk late at night. I am a little surprised that the Opposition Benches would be happy to present such a policy to the retail industry, and I wonder whether they have thought through the enormous implications. I know that the retail industry would greatly object to it.

I turn to Amendment No. 36. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, seeks to extend the definition of "late-night refreshment" to provide for the inclusion of tobacco sales. Again, I do not believe that there is a great deal of justification for the inclusion of such sales. I have not heard of premises which sell tobacco attracting drunken crowds and giving rise to disorder and disturbance. We should impose restrictions only where there is a very clear necessity to do so.

The point of licensing night cafes is to deal with premises where people behave in a drunk or disorderly fashion. Muslims do not usually consume alcohol. Therefore, I cannot see that we need to extend the regime in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, suggests.

I wonder whether we could deal with the issue of the prohibition of alcohol sales at service areas, garages and so on when we reach the point where the Bill deals with that. I believe that amendments will be, and already have been, tabled on Clause 173.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. It is not a question of selling alcohol; it is a question of selling food. The Forecourt Service Association is concerned about alcohol, but in the letters that have been circulated, which I am sure the Minister's department has received, two distinct issues are raised. One is alcohol and the other is whether more regulations will be placed on an already heavily regulated sector in relation to the sale of a coffee or a sandwich to people who fill up with petrol in the middle of the night on some A-road in the country. I am happy to return to the matter, but this issue does not concern alcohol. I am driving at non-alcoholic sales which are incidental to petrol sales but in the middle of the night. Are those caught?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I understand that they would be caught by the amendment but not as far as the legislation is concerned. If I am wrong about that, I shall write to the noble Lord.

On a rather different note, Amendment No. 45 seeks to exempt premises when they are used for the exhibition of films under a premises licence. That is odd. If premises already have a premises licence for the showing of films, why would not late night refreshment be covered under the same licence? Under the Bill, unlike the existing regime, all those activities can be covered by a single licence. Therefore, the terms of the amendment do not appear to make much sense. As I made clear, we do not consider that there is justification for extending the late night refreshment house regime beyond the terms in the Bill. I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

Throughout the day I have become more and more confused. My most recent confusion is that the noble Baroness has just said that a single licence will be required. However, we heard earlier from her noble friend Lord McIntosh how easy it was to get a supplementary licence for various events. Surely, she cannot have it both ways.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

There must be a misunderstanding. The position is clear. Under the Bill it will be possible to get a single licence, but that licence will have to specify what it covers. I believe that that is what was meant by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

Photo of Lord Luke Lord Luke Conservative

I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Like many others, this amendment is a probing amendment. We seek clarity. Some of us find it rather difficult to achieve that. No doubt by the end of Committee stage we shall have a great deal more clarity than appears possible at present. In any case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 to 60 not moved.]

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Licensing authorities]:

Photo of Lord Grenfell Lord Grenfell Other

Before calling Amendment No. 61, I must advise the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments. Nos. 62 to 66.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 2, line 33, leave out subsection (1).

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

We now come to Part 2 of the Bill, which relates to licensing authorities. I make clear that in Amendment No. 61 and in any debate on the question that Clause 3 stand part, we are probing what the Bill proposes. We do not have any intention of wrecking the Bill. However, having said that, I wish to return to what I said at Second Reading. I said then that we were not convinced that the case had been made by the Government for this radical change of procedure from magistrates' courts to local authorities. We have nothing but praise for the magistrates who give up their time for no reward and for their clerks, without whom the magistrates' court system could not operate.

We believe that the Government are determined to introduce this change, but we are concerned, as we have been on earlier occasions during the proceedings today, to probe the Government in relation to the evidence and the reasons for making this change. We are doing so in response to approaches from many outside organisations, including the Magistrates' Association and many publicans, who want to know why the Government are making this change.

The Government support the evidence-based approach to drafting legislation. That being the case, we should like to have the evidence from the Minister today as to why this change is being made.

We are confident that local authorities, controlled by elected councillors, are well placed to take on the responsibility, and in so doing represent the interests of their respective communities, but we shall want to consider carefully whether this new system will work in practice.

Under Clause 5 each licensing authority must publish a licensing statement setting out its policy with respect to its licensing function. The licensing statement must cover a period of three years. In preparing that licensing statement the authority must consult with the police, the fire authority and various representatives of the industry in the locality and representatives of residents in its area.

As I said at Second Reading, the difficulty that might arise is the pressure on those elected councillors. As residents all have votes, any local authority ignoring their views, one might suppose, would do so at its peril.

There has been widespread anxiety among local authorities that the guidance described in Clause 177 may fetter their discretion to respond to local concerns. The role of residents and councils will, they fear, be diminished in the process. Conversely, industry representatives understandably fear that the process will be politicised and—again, as I said at Second Reading—that the "not in my backyard" syndrome might work unfairly against local businesses and consumer choice.

As I have already said, we have been inundated with letters and representations from different quarters. I quote one or two publicans who are concerned about this change. One said:

"I am concerned that, if the licence is derived from the local council, the power vested in me [as a publican] is bestowed with far less authority and far more political consideration. This alone will devalue the responsibility for the licence and its associated responsibilities".

Another publican's concern was:

"The magistrates have been performing the task of licensing for many years now in a fair, impartial and knowledgeable manner. Publicans do not wish to see local politics creeping into what is part of our National Heritage . . . Why do we need to change a proven system, which from what we read and hear in the media will cost over £1 billion? Who will pay for this? The poor old publican we expect".

Further concerns have been raised time and again by the various quarters to whom I have referred. There is the question of delay and of how this will all be implemented. Also there is an important question of consistency.

The Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell, in a "dear colleague" letter dated 13th November 2002 said:

"Existing public entertainment licensing law lays down no procedures for the processing of applications and local authorities have been left to create their own. This has produced inconsistency between one local authority area and another and uncertainty for operators".

Surely, inconsistency will continue. Noble Lords may say that that is not a problem. Do the Government accept that there will be inconsistency across the land? If one goes into one pub, which may have a well-known name, will it have a different licensing regime in one area from that of another pub with the same name in another area?

Different policy statements by different authorities in pursuit of their interpretation of the licensing objectives under Clause 4(2) may cause real problems, bearing in mind that one of the Bill's objectives—which we accept—is to encourage tourism and an understanding on the part of those entering this country of what they can do in a blanket manner. Will that happen in practice if local authorities have those powers and responsibilities?

We are also concerned about the question of fees and consistency. Again, we shall return to this at much greater length later. Publicans, in particular, ask about the costs of moving the system from magistrates' courts to local authorities. A question understandably raised at length by local authorities is that of resource implications for them. Do the Government intend to transfer resources from the Lord Chancellor's Department budget to local authorities to cover the additional costs of the alcohol licensing regime currently administered by magistrates' courts? Do they intend the additional costs to be met from fees or from local council tax payers' pockets? The Bill is unclear about that.

At the end of the day, magistrates will still need a system in place to respond to appeals—which will arise. We understand from the Bill that where there is a problem at local authority level, applicants can appeal to magistrates' courts. In that case, can magistrates' courts afford to reduce the costs and resources that they apply to the licensing system if they are to be ready and able to sit wherever and whenever necessary to consider appeals?

Many more questions are being asked. On behalf of those asking them, we look to the Government for clarity and confirmation. For example, many magistrates feel passionately that they have a unique local knowledge of questions of crime and disorder—they are dealing with it, they are dealing with the local problem individuals and areas day to day; they have that knowledge. We therefore ask again: is it right that responsibility for the system be moved to local authorities?

We also ask those questions and have tabled the amendments to highlight one of the most important concerns—raised at length by noble Lords at Second Reading—to which we shall return later in Committee, when we reach Clause 177. So much of the nuts and bolts of the new regime is not written into the Bill. That is why so many questions have been asked today about what are the real implications of the Bill. So much is left to what is to be called the national guidance, which at Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, told us will not be published until the spring. Of course the definition of "spring" allows for a broad period. My definition of spring is probably May or June, in our current climate.

We shall return to the matter, but we are being asked to accept so much, including a radical change to the licensing system—to which we do not necessarily object, but for which we must ask for the reasons—without clarity as to how it will be administered, because that will be in the national guidance. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

The amendment goes to the heart of the Bill, and I am glad that the noble Baroness said that it was an probing amendment and not one that she would push at this stage. It would wreck the Bill and, perhaps, give us an easier Christmas.

The question of whether responsibility should go to local authorities or magistrates has divided us. My party has always advocated the devolution of powers to local councils. The direction that the Government are taking is the right one. However, that is not to say that the magistrates have not done an excellent job. I welcome the fact that magistrates will be the court of appeal for any decisions. That seems fit and proper.

The amendments are the springboard for a long debate. At this time of night, I shall not do that. I shall wait for other amendments that meet our objectives. However, I have a question about one matter. I have not got my mind round it, and I have not found anybody who knows why it is in the Bill. The sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple and the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple are included in the clause, but Cambridge University has been kicked out into the cold, after centuries. Is there a particular reason why the Inner Temple and Middle Temple retain such wonderful powers?

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

My noble friend raised an important point of principle that should be debated. In the country at large, it is fair that the Government's view should be on the record as part of the Committee stage of the Bill. There is a hearts and minds job still to be done. Not everyone is, by any means, convinced about the change. There are concerns about the breadth of the change and about the detail—Clause 177—as my noble friend said.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey—I am sorry that he is not in his place—teased me by comparing the brewery of which I am a non-executive director unfavourably with JD Wetherspoon. He should be aware that Wetherspoon's takes a tougher line than my employer does. It thinks that the Bill should be killed; they take a robust view of it. There is a hearts and minds job still to be done. It would be helpful for the Minister to put on record the philosophy. It would ease some of the issues as we go forward to further discussions and when we get to Clause 177.

Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Crossbench

This is a central part of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, did well to draw attention to the importance of the issues. We need the maximum clarification, and I support her view that the more we can learn about the nuts and bolts, the better. The fees issue will become more important when we get further on with the discussion and people calculate the fees that, they think, will fall on them. It will be important to get more clarity on those issues.

It is a matter of balance which way to go. I thought about it for a long time, and I did not have an immediate view. On balance, I take the view that the Government have done the right thing in moving to local authorities, for the wider reasons that have been advanced by, for example, the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. In the longer term, it is right that those with responsibilities for the affairs of our citizens at local level should also be responsible for this part of the regulation of premises and people concerned with the provision of alcohol.

I support the approach, but it is a balanced issue. The more that we know about the reasoning, the better it would be for those of us who have taken that view.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I echo the commendation given by my noble friend Lord Redesdale to the role and history of the magistracy vis-a-vis licensing, which are wholly honourable and effective. On the democracy issue, I think that it works well in allowing local people to understand the system and being able to make objections and have them heard in an impartial manner that has public confidence.

I make only two brief points, which are not novel. My first is to ensure that impartiality is maintained. For example, the Lord Chancellor strongly advised magistrates who are also councillors not to seek election to licensing panels. Effectively, we are throwing the whole of the council system into the heart of the licensing process in a quasi judicial way. I am interested to know whether the Government have concerns about that aspect of the new regime.

My second point is that there will be a huge amount of extra work for councillors. They will want to do the job effectively and properly. These days they are already burdened with work. Again, it is an issue which gives rise to real concern. Does the Minister have anything to say on the matter?

Photo of Lord Cobbold Lord Cobbold Crossbench 6:30 pm, 12th December 2002

The purpose of the Bill, as I understand it, is to combine the licensing of premises with the existing responsibilities of licensing authorities. Amendment No. 61 suggests that one should ask what would happen to the existing licensing powers of the licensing authorities. Would they have to be transferred?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I am grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, introduced her amendment as a probing amendment. As she reflected, and other noble Lords supported her, this clause goes to the heart of the Bill. Therefore, it would be a wrecking amendment if it were pursued with force. However, as a probing amendment it gives a chance to engage further in the debate we had at Second Reading, and, it is to be hoped, meet the point which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, suggested. Outside, there are those who still need to be convinced about the wisdom of this move. We recognise that. It would be strange if we introduced a change to the licensing regime, a transfer from an extremely reputable body, the magistrates—to whom, rightly, tribute has been paid today for their licensing work—without explanation. I share in those commendations.

However, we see the advantages of bringing the whole of licensing under one regime. The local authorities do not lack experience as regards licensing and they will have additional functions as a result of this measure. However, we are consolidating under one body with the advantages that I believe the noble Lords, Lord Phillips and Lord Redesdale, reflected. We are transferring to licensing authorities the advantage of local accountability, which is an important role in local life.

I want to emphasise that local government's long experience in other functions relating to licensing, such as planning, have been part of the warp and weft of local life for a long time. The transfer will now create a more transparent and consistent licensing regime. In the Bill we shall ensure that the functions are discharged openly in the public interest. Local authorities have already managed the majority of the licensing functions in relation to entertainment and late-night refreshment. The effect of the amendment would make all our arrangements inoperable.

I recognise the strength of the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, in regard to consistency. I am not sure that people who go into a pub which is part of a national chain say, "The reason I come into this pub is because there is national consistency in regard to its licensing". They may go in because there is national consistency in regard to its beer or its food, but I doubt that people go into a chain of pubs in different towns on the basis of, "Thank heavens I am going into a comparable licensing system across the board". That does not happen. So it is not the licensing aspect that is the consistency.

It is necessary that there should be consistency and fairness in regard to licensing. That is where the guidance, for which the Secretary of State is responsible, will play such an important part. The noble Baroness chided us on the grounds that the guidance has still to be completed. I share with her an elastic notion of spring. These days, none of us seems to know what season it is. Certainly, most things in my garden do not know, but I take her point that she is pessimistic and believes that spring can be as late as May. We understand the importance of the guidance and it will be published in due course.

It is of course the case that people have anxieties when transferring from that which is familiar to that which is different. The number of publicans I have met from time to time who have expressed their anxiety about changing national life are absolutely legion. It is not always because they believe that they have a radical standing on the other side of the bar because I am also from time to time prepared to say that not all change is absolutely essential.

We intend to reduce red tape. We shall bring licensing regimes together in the local community and we shall safeguard its interests. Ministers have met with the British beer and pub associations and other trade organisations. They are largely content that the proposals contained in the Bill provide adequate safeguards against local authorities acting unreasonably, a point made at Second Reading and more obliquely today. A local authority's discretion will come into play only where a relevant representation has been made. The local authority will be able to impose conditions on a licence only when it is necessary to promote the licensing objectives.

As has been rightly identified, a local authority will be obliged to publish its policy and will be answerable to the community. Does that mean that local councillors are likely to be overworked, as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, indicated? In my experience, local councillors are resilient people who organise their lives extremely well. They are busy people but sometimes they bemoan the fact that certain functions are taken away from them and they exercise less power than they did in the past. Here is an opportunity for them to play an increasing part in their local communities.

The committees are not meant to be large. Not by a very long chalk will every councillor be involved in the licensing committee; it will be those who decide that this is an area in which they wish to make a contribution. I do not underestimate the onerousness of the work but, like national democracy, local democracy is demanding and we all respond to the challenges put before us. I have no doubt that local councillors will take on this responsibility and discharge it with the experience, commitment and enthusiasm that we have grown to expect of them. They will of course be governed by guidance.

Anxiety was expressed that local authorities will use the fee structure to advantage local taxpayers. That will not be the case. The fees charged will only defray the costs of the licensing system and they will be regulated under guidance. We do not envisage this as a revenue-raising activity for local authorities. We recognise that fees are involved in any licensing system, but the fees imposed will be only those necessary to meet the costs of carrying out the function.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Since he is addressing the important question of fees, has he any idea as to the cost that is likely to be incurred by a typical district authority, given that the demands of the Bill are very particular and will be very demanding of the bureaucrats who will have to be deployed? Have we any idea what kind of sum we are talking about?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I am wrestling with the concept of a "typical authority". These are district councils, with a whole range of licensed premises in their areas. I cannot give a flip answer in terms of what this would involve for a typical authority. I am seeking to give an assurance that the fees will be strictly related to the costs involved. That is a cardinal point that we seek to emphasise, and in regard to which we seek to reassure people.

So I am seeking to convince the Committee. I recognise that this is a significant change. Clause 3 is as important as any clause in the Bill. But we are bringing together under one authority all licensing requirements. It will reduce bureaucracy. It will make it possible for a licence application to be considered by one body, and an applicant will know where to go. There is a proper appeal to the magistrates. At Second Reading there was a slight suggestion that the Government hold magistrates in less regard than they ought. That is not so, and the fact that the appeal system involves the magistrates is proof of that. The reason for the transfer is not in any way, shape or form a matter of loss of confidence in magistrates. It relates to the advantages of bringing licensing under one set of auspices and at the same time ensuring democratic responsibility.

There are anxieties that councillors may come under undue pressures. It is a function of councillors to come under undue pressures in all aspects of their lives. I do not under-estimate the licensing dimension. I am all too well aware that, as a local feature, it can loom quite large in terms of local complaints. But a whole swathe of local complaints are being sharply articulated by an ever more demanding electorate, and local authorities, we trust and know, respond to those demands. That is why we have the quality of councillors that we do.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing a probing amendment at this stage. I hope that I have met the major points raised. I emphasise that this is quite a significant change. It is, therefore, bound to create some anxieties outside this place. All my interests are engaged in this transformation of our licensing regime. But it is based on firm principles. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that we can move on to the more detailed amendments that follow, including one relating to the Inner Temple.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

In speaking after the Minister has replied to the amendment, I give him an absolute assurance that I do not seek a response to anything that I say. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Buscombe for having provided us with the opportunity to revisit some of the issues that were raised at Second Reading. The noble Baroness who is in charge of the Bill knows that I was not able to speak at that stage. I give the Committee a categorical assurance that I am not about to make a long Second Reading speech now, but I want to resile in one regard from the alliance that I formed with the Liberal Democrats during the course of the morning.

I do not disagree with them about the way in which the magistrates fulfil the historic regime, except that there was a problem in one regard in inner London. Magistrates might be sitting on cases in inner London where residents came to explain what it was like to be in the vicinity of the relevant licensed premises. The magistrate, who was not from inner London and had no experience of living there, would say, "If you live in London, that is what you might expect". That is not the most sensible or friendly thing to say to someone who has lived in inner London for 60 years, who was born there and has never moved from his own street.

The regime removes that problem and transfers the issue to councillors. I rise only to say that that will be an improvement on the condition that I have just mentioned if councillors have the opportunity to exercise genuine discretion in their own areas. There are signs, in parts of the Bill that we still have to discuss, that there will be a high degree of central prescription and that the substitution of a councillor for a magistrate will not necessarily make any difference.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

of the Licensing Bill. The Government have presented this debate to the effect that we are enhancing local democracy. They say that we are giving councillors—elected representatives of the people—the opportunity to make licensing decisions on their behalf. It is a smokescreen for the fact that local authorities will be given very limited discretion, as the noble Lord has just said.

I shall refer to two sections of the framework document. First, on personal licences, it says,

"the norm should be for the vast majority of these registrations to be automatic".

Secondly, on page 5, on premises licences, it states that the document will,

"comprehensively detail the Government's recommendations in terms of best practice".

Do your Lordships, on reading that, think that local authorities will have much scope to make decisions in the best interests of their residents? Or will they be hedged about with such severe restrictions under the framework that they will get all the blame for things that happen in the neighbourhood that residents do not like, but will have no power to remedy objections made to them by local residents suffering severe hardship and distress because of the late-night economy?

I have a letter from people who were constituents of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville. The letter is from the South East Bayswater Residents' Association. They are apprehensive, to say the least, about what will occur in their area. They will go to the local authority and say, "You have been given this job. It has been taken from the magistrates and now you, our elected representatives, must deal with the nuisance and distress caused to us as a result of the licensing policy". The local authority will have to have a licensing policy. It will go through the motions of making decisions on what kinds of licences they will award and what kinds they will refuse. All the time, they will be constrained in the procrustean bed of this guidance, which will be issued after the Bill has completed its passage through this House.

I object to that most strenuously. The Government have got into a most pernicious practice of waiting until after all the stages of the legislation in both Houses before introducing the guidance, which is the guts of any legislation. It is an insult to Parliament. We are to blame ourselves. We do not take a stronger line on it. We have allowed governments of both complexions to get away with this over the years. We have not insisted that we will not look at legislation until we see its real meaning.

We are in grave danger of allowing the whole Bill to go through before being confronted by the restrictive clauses in the framework, which local authorities will have to operate, getting all the blame.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for his reply to the amendments and his appreciation of the fact that this was intended not just as a debate. There are many beyond your Lordships' House who still need to be convinced. As my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts said, this is a hearts and minds issue. There is no question but that Her Majesty's Opposition entirely support local accountability and local democracy, but it is important to respect the fact that many outside are still not convinced of the need for the change or its desirability, and question some of the implications.

I remain concerned about one or two issues. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, introduced a very good point. Perhaps he would like to think of an amendment on impartiality. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has said. However, it is important not only that councillors and magistrates show impartiality, but that the structure, the procedure and their behaviour is seen to be impartial if it is to be credible. As many of us know, in local communities it is often the same few public-spirited individuals who take on the very onerous and responsible roles of councillors, magistrates and school governors. The same few faces regularly appear in different situations in public service. It is therefore important to consider whether a magistrate, who may well sit on an appeal case, should also be on a licensing panel as a councillor in the same ward, district or area.

We shall return to the question of resources, but it is important for the Government to reassure us through the scrutiny of the Bill about the continued resourcing of training for magistrates for appeals and of the administration and mechanism for appeals, which will continue, notwithstanding that the bulk of the role of the licensing system will then be placed with local councils as licensing authorities.

Several noble Lords have raised the interesting question of consistency. I pointed out earlier that the Secretary of State has made it clear that one of the purposes of the Bill is to get rid of the problem of inconsistency between local authority areas. I am more confused now having heard the quotes from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and how he interprets some parts of the framework guidance on the potential powers and responsibilities of local authorities. The noble Lord expressed concern about the extent to which local authorities will be restricted in their power to carry out the onerous task of ensuring that their licensing objectives within their area are achieved.

I am holding another part of the framework guidance, which relates to the statement of licensing policies. Point 11 states:

"This section would provide guidance on the preparation of local licensing policy statements by licensing authorities, the general principles that should underpin them and core content to which local authorities would be free to add".

I make this point now because it would be helpful if the Minister were able to consider some of this evening's debate, particularly in relation to Clause 177, before we reach that clause so that we can better understand the breadth of powers that are being realistically given to local authorities to carry through their responsibilities properly, effectively, impartially and in a way that will reassure local residents that their interests and concerns have been covered, as well as reassuring the industry, which rightly wants to respond to a very different culture that has developed in recent years. We want flexibility on the serving of alcohol over a greater period of time.

I refer quickly to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold. If these amendments were successful, he questioned whether this would mean that the whole of the licensing system would then move from local authorities to magistrates' courts. That is certainly not the intention. However, I recall that the noble Lord referred to the question of temporary events on Second Reading, expressing a real concern as to what this will actually mean in practice. For example, there are organisations and individuals beyond this Chamber who are questioning whether local authorities will have the resources, and the capability, to respond with speed and offer licences to those who wish to stage events at reasonably short notice. These are some of the areas that we need to probe as much as possible at this stage, so as to give reassurance both within this Chamber and well beyond.

I could continue, but many of the other issues have already been covered. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for the spirit in which he has responded to our probing amendments. On balance, there seems to be support in the Committee for this move. The many individuals and organisations who have expressed concerned to us feel somewhat reassured that this move will be effective and work for them, and for the benefit of all. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 2, line 34, leave out paragraph (a).

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

We are dealing now with the definition of "licensing authority", which is given in Clause 3(1). There are seven categories involved, the first of which is,

"the council of a district in England".

My amendment, which is a probing device, seeks to delete reference to councils of a district in England, while leaving the councils of a county in England, those of a county or county borough, or of a London borough, as licensing authorities.

I understand the reason behind putting in the words "council of a district"—namely local democracy. We are trying to get decisions as close to individual people as possible, and to have as responsive a licensing framework as possible. But this is a very significant step because of the requirement on each licensing authority to produce a statement of licensing policy. That applies, therefore, to every district council.

I do not know how many district councils exist across the country, but I should imagine that they run into the hundreds. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, they will cover a whole range of opinion. We shall, therefore, see hundreds of licensing statements, which will amount to a patchwork quilt of views on licensing. Some people may say that that is an extraordinarily good idea, because that is what we should be trying to achieve with such a quilt. It will show that the process is very responsive. However, the problem with a patchwork quilt is twofold: first, there is always the danger of regulatory arbitrage between local district councils—that is, between those who take a minimalist view or a maximalist view of the provision of alcohol. Secondly, there are those who wish to push licensed premises towards the periphery of their area, or hold it at the centre. The result—in terms of the need to keep the licensing statement under review at all times, as provided for in Clause 5(4)—could be considerable regulatory arbitrage.

The second problem, as mentioned, is the possibility that, by having a local statement of licensing policy, we shall arouse expectations that the specified conditions will be enormously responsive. I share the concerns expressed by noble Lords that we may be setting up a system that cannot deliver those expectations. We may be arousing expectations about a system that will be wildly popular to begin with, but wildly unpopular when it proves that our intentions cannot have a practical impact.

A patchwork quilt approach presents the industry with problems. I believe that there is an argument for creating a scale in the establishment of licensing authorities. It would provide a framework which is more comprehensive and more comprehensible to the industry and the general public. We need a clear framework that can be explained to people in the relevant area without arousing too many expectations. If we do not do that, we could undermine people's confidence in the regime we are seeking to create. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 7:00 pm, 12th December 2002

I cannot support the amendment, but I have some sympathy for the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. It will be difficult, especially for some of the larger pub chains, to write guidance based on all the authorities' specifications.

I thought that the noble Lord was going to raise another point, but he did not, perhaps because an amendment to that effect has not yet been tabled. It is nevertheless a provision that we should consider—extending local accountability down to the ward councillor level. It is currently proposed that ward councillors should not represent their own wards on licensing authorities. The point goes wide of this debate, but we shall probably return to it. Although we support such provision, we also understand that it will be difficult for local councils to fill licensing committees. There will be much debate about how large committees should be and who should sit on them. The issue will be considered at local council level and it should not be underestimated.

The time issue was not raised in the previous debate. However, many bodies have objected to the transfer from the magistracy to local councils—I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, would deal with this point—because many pubs realise that, in some circumstances, such as when the licensee dies, the licence will have to be transferred in a hurry, perhaps over a weekend. The magistrates were able to act reasonably quickly, but local authorities may not be able to do so.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I strongly oppose the amendment. However, I liked the statement by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, that the new regime will create "regulatory arbitrage"—and a very good thing, too. However, what he calls "regulatory arbitrage" I call "local variation according to local needs". It is what old-fashioned Liberals call local democracy. I am very suspicious every time I hear a government spokesman—I am surprised to hear it from a member of the Opposition—advancing consistency as the great virtue because in these matters surely the important factor is to be sensitive to local needs which are so different as between at one end, a city centre, and, at the other, a country area.

I echo the points made by my noble friend as regards the framework guidance. If the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, reads it—I am sure that he has it by his bath—he would derive great comfort. It states, as I said on Second Reading,

"The Guidance . . . is a key mechanism for ensuring consistent application of licensing powers across the country".—[Official Report, 26/11/02; col. 711.]

That worries us. The guidance goes on to say—this appears at col. 712—that the norm,

"should be for the vast majority of these registrations to be automatic".

The noble Lord should take great comfort from that. The guidance, again I refer to col. 712, would,

"underline the need for . . . minimum bureaucracy in the process".

That worries some of us.

I come back to the underlying framework. If the guidance is subject to no parliamentary scrutiny, it could become an instrument of severe centralist control of a severely insensitive nature. We shall debate that later. Suffice to say that I—I cannot speak for anyone else—am dead opposed to the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I am afraid that I too take a rather different view from my noble friend on this issue. If we are to accept that local authorities are the appropriate bodies to administer licensing policy, we find it hard to envisage that district councils, which are the bodies closest to local communities, should not be involved. I speak as a former district councillor. I would have been rather upset if, as an elected councillor, I was expressly excluded from such matters.

As drafted—I realise that my noble friend tabled this as a probing amendment—the effect of the amendment would be that in any county where there were district councils there would, if the amendment were successful, be no licensing authority at all. Clearly, that cannot have been envisaged by my noble friend.

But the upshot of the acceptance of the amendment, coupled with an amendment to transfer powers to county councils, would be a major burden falling on county councils, a responsibility on them to devise a licensing policy that might have to apply to distant and diverse communities.

I fear that removing licensing policy from local communities would be counter-productive, arousing suspicions where none need exist. This is a major change in policy that is being proposed where all of us who are involved and who want to see it succeed will have to carry the public with us. That, I think, must involve leaving policy close to local communities with bodies that the public feel are sensitive to local conditions. I see no reason to fear that those bodies will be more obstructive of the liberalised regime that we all wish to see. I do not support my noble friend's amendment.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

It will come as no surprise to hear that I found the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, most attractive. It was a response I shall seek to emulate, but with considerably less eloquence.

I have identified the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, as the Scylla and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, as the Charybdis in this debate in terms of their polarity of view with regard to the licensing regime. The Government intend to sail a safe course between two such positions. Of course we recognise that there must be some consistency with regard to licensing policy. That is why the Secretary of State will issue guidance in order that local authorities will know the parameters within which they must work. The complete devolution of power would be an odd concept in regard to licensing. As I say, guidance will be issued. But, by the same token, we shall not have the regulatory arbitrage from the centre that has been mentioned. Local communities will play their proper role in determining licensing policy locally.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, we recognise the significance of one point that he made. It is important that local authorities should be able to respond quickly to emergency situations. The death of a publican might, for example, put the whole business at risk unless a speedy decision was made on reviewing the licence. Of course, we intend to have procedures, and expect local authorities to have procedures, to meet those emergencies.

Local magistrates are volunteers, too. They put their time at the disposal of the local community and meet their obligations. We are merely saying that this obligation will be fulfilled as responsibly by local authorities as it has been by magistrates in respect of speed and effectiveness with regard to policy. The great advantage is that local authorities are democratically responsible. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, is right in saying that if we accepted this amendment, we would not have any licensing authorities left at all. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, tabled this amendment with an exploratory, probing intent, such as has governed our discussions so far, so that we could advance the debate further.

We will not have a patchwork quilt with regard to overall licensing policy, but we will have local authorities that are able to be responsive to their local communities and to develop a licensing strategy against that perspective. That is the concept behind the Bill. We need to strike a balance, because people in the industry will need some certainties about aspects of the licensing regime, irrespective of where they are in the country. That goes without saying. By the same token, we see enormous value in the ability of local representatives to play their part in the development of a local policy.

I am merely reiterating the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, which preceded mine. It is crucial to this Bill that the amendment is withdrawn, and I rely on the noble Lord to do so.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Conservative

I understand the case for local democracy, which has been eloquently made. I shall withdraw the amendment and start pulling out the arrows that have been stuck into me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 2, line 40, leave out paragraph (f).

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 64 and consequential Amendments Nos. 120 and 123.

The Inner Temple and the Middle Temple are treated as falling within the City of London for the purposes of the law relating to county courts, commissioners of the peace, justices of the peace, magistrates' courts, sheriffs, juries and connected persons. They are local government areas for the purposes of the Local Government Act 1992, but are neither principal areas nor local government areas for the purposes of the Local Government Act 1972. In layman's terms, the Temples are sometimes local authorities and sometimes not.

In the Bill, the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple and the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple are to be the licensing authorities for the areas where they act. I am not convinced that that is a good idea. I am open to persuasion, but I need persuading.

First and foremost, one of the main purposes of the Bill is to transfer licensing powers from licensing justices to committees of democratically accountable local authorities. I am a keen supporter of the institutions of the Middle and Inner Temple, especially of the Inner Temple, which is the Bar to which I was called in 1977. However, with great respect, I could not describe either the Inner Temple or the sub-treasurer as a democratically accountable local authority.

The Inner Temple and the Middle Temple are governed by what are called "Benchers". New Benchers are elected by the existing Benchers, not by members of the Inn or those who live or work there. They are self-perpetuating bodies answerable, in effect, only to themselves. If the main purpose of the Bill is to move licensing powers to committees of democratically accountable local authorities, that aim will not be achieved with respect to the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple and the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple, if they will be the licensing authorities.

Furthermore, we should be told what steps the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple have taken to prepare themselves for carrying out the functions in the Bill. Do they have the expertise to prepare a statement of licensing policy? I cannot imagine that they would wish to do so. Will they really establish procedures for granting premises licences or even personal licences? I doubt it. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips) 7:15 pm, 12th December 2002

I can be fairly brief about this very limited pair of institutions. As the noble Baroness said, she is seeking to remove the ability of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple to act as licensing authorities. They presently enjoy that role; that relates to the question of competence, which the noble Baroness raised by asking about the preparations that they are making in this regard. We have not sought to inquire whether they are involved in any additional activities to fit them to do this function; they have done it to the satisfaction of everyone concerned to date .

These are not arcane institutions from which privileges should be stripped. As the noble Baroness said, they are in some respects local authorities of a very limited part of central London, and only in a limited way. She will recognise that we are seeking to amalgamate all licensing functions within local authorities; that is a key part of the Bill. They are a specific and special kind of local authority. They have indicated that they wish to continue in their role. They have given no cause for dissatisfaction with the way in which they have discharged it, and we do not see any reason to alter the situation.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I hope that the Minister can help me. If local authorities have objections to the non-granting of a licence, they appeal to a magistrates' court. To whom do the Inns of Court appeal?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

We are dealing with a very limited and specific group. I have to say to the noble Lord that I have not the faintest idea of the answer to his question! I shall write to him about it.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

At the risk of being a little mischievous, I am sure that the Minister did not really intend to say that the Middle Temple and Inner Temple are a limited pair of institutions.

I accept what the Minister said. If the Inns of Court have indicated that they are content to be included in the proposed way, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 64 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

moved Amendment No. 65:

Page 2, line 41, after "Temple," insert—

"( ) the University of Cambridge,"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

We have just been discussing exceptional provisions relating to the licensing of what I may call the apex of the legal world; we now turn to the apex of the university world.

Since time immemorial—since 1382, so the White Paper tells us—the University of Cambridge has had responsibility for policy on drinking in the university. Since the university was founded in only 1284, we can safely say that it has had it since the origin of the university. There is no evidence of which I know that Cambridge or Cambridge students are seen as the epicentre of unlicensed and unacceptable drinking in this country. I know of no complaint calling for the ending of a practice that has done no one any harm for centuries.

It may well be that the Minister will cite a statement from the university to the effect that it no longer sees the case for this power. That would hardly be surprising in the climate of fear that has been set for our so-called elite universities since Mr Brown's outburst against Oxford. It may well even be that some in new Labour smack their lips at another blow against what they see as ancient privilege. I hate to think that anyone on Cambridge City Council would like to have a go at the university, as has been known in the past.

This is not a big issue. However, it is symptomatic of something that is, in its way, quite big—a matter of principle. We believe that that is the apparent mania of this Government to sweep away anything that is anomalous, ancient or quaintly illogical in this country of ours. It is what I believe one of the metric martyrs referred to as the drive of the Government to narrow in on anything out of the ordinary and to homogenise, eliminate or abolish it.

I believe that everything is done according to the wish and will to modernise, whether or not it is any good. It is all summed up in that ghastly phrase that runs like a thread through all the failures of this Government and sums up their condescending arrogance: it has no place in modern Britain. I think too well of the Minister to think that he would use such a phrase.

What harm has this anomaly done and what harm does the Minister think it could do? What is the point? Why not leave it alone? Why not allow a little of our historic variety and colour to survive? Will the Minister not show some independence from his brief and think again? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I rise to declare an interest as a graduate of the aforesaid university but also to plead for a touch of harmless colour. I dissented from the eloquent plea of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, only when she said that the drinking habits of Cambridge students were anodyne. That is not my recollection.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I appreciated the debate on this limited area of the Bill. The reason that the University of Cambridge enjoys the privilege of being able to operate a licence is because it was granted by Richard II in 1382, which is certainly some time ago. I imagine that this week, when Cambridge scored a rather significant victory over Oxford, it probably took full advantage of the licence during the events following the rugby match.

Although the Government recognise that the Inner and Middle Temples are rather interesting institutions for which to make provision, they do exercise a local authority role, which is the basis of the clause to which the amendment relates, whereas the University of Cambridge does not.

I understand the democratic sensitivities of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. He always extends a little colour to a point when it immediately involves his own past enjoyment of such privileges. But, for other—

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I cannot let that pass. Perhaps I may ask the Minister how many members of the Cabinet will benefit from the two exemptions that he has just extolled.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Government Whip, Lords in Waiting (Whips)

I should think very few. I imagine that the number of occasions on which members of the Cabinet find the time to indulge in drinking in the Inner Temple is probably fairly limited. However, I will let that pass. I emphasise that, so far as concerns the Government, the University of Cambridge is not a local authority. This clause is central to the Bill. It seeks to bring all the licensing procedures within the framework of local authorities. Therefore, we believe that modernisation of the licensing laws should sensibly remove this rather obvious anomaly for which there is no clear current justification.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

I am deeply disappointed by the reply given by the Minister, particularly when I had—I thought quite powerfully—referred to the need to do away with the drive for modernisation and so forth. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, that there is no question that I said that the students of Cambridge were anodyne in their drinking habits. I said that there is no evidence that Cambridge students are seen as the epicentre of unlicensed and unacceptable drinking in this country, at least not to my knowledge. That does not mean to say that they do not do a lot of drinking.

The reply was disappointing. This is a small point but, as I said, it is symbolic. I hear the Minister's comments. I could almost have written his response myself, with some regret. It was expected. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she confirm that she reserves the right to return with this amendment at a later stage when there might be rather more noble Lords in the Chamber?

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Conservative

Absolutely. It is regrettable that so few noble Lords remained this evening. I wonder whether this has to do with the changes in our sitting hours, which mean, sadly, that many noble Lords leave the Chamber at an early hour on a Thursday. The noble Lord is right. We shall consider carefully whether to return on Report to a fair number of the amendments we have withdrawn tonight. I believe that there would be great support from a number of noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber for this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past seven o'clock.