My Lords, the Government gave undertakings in Committee that certain matters relating to administrative and procedural detail would be set out in regulation, not on the face of the Bill itself, to ensure that, should changes be needed in the light of experience, we should not have to amend primary legislation.
The Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform made helpful recommendations: first, that the Bill should provide expressly that regulations under Clause 17(5) and similar provisions must secure that there is an advertising and representations procedure; and, secondly, that there should be an express requirement for consultation in relation to orders under Clause 169. These amendments address those two recommendations.
As a result of amendments in this group, instead of having a discretion, the Secretary of State will have a duty to make regulations providing for an advertising and representations procedure in relation to applications or, in the case of Amendment No. 134, a review following a closure order.
Amendment No. 229 will insert into Clause 169 a requirement that before making an order to relax opening hours for special occasions, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as she considers appropriate.
Amendment No. 228 has the same effect as government Amendment No. 229, so I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will not move the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, my amendment is grouped with this one. The Minister has brought forward the issue of regulations and the amendments are very welcome. I had proposed an amendment relating to regulations which would be positive, not negative, in their resolution. I shall read the Minister's remarks carefully. At this stage, I shall not move my proposal on regulations. I shall study the matter closely and retain the hope of bringing back my amendments at the next stage if these provisions do not match up to our expectations.
My Lords, I shall not speak to Amendment No. 63, but shall speak to Amendments Nos. 65, 77 and 78. Thereafter, many of the amendments are consequential.
Amendments Nos. 62, 67 to 70 and 72 deal with the possible violation of convention obligations by a licensing authority that could arise because the licensing authority is compelled to grant a licence pursuant to Clause 18(2) in circumstances when it believes that such a course of action may violate the rights of individuals—even when there are no relevant representations. The DCMS agrees that a licensing authority cannot be put in such a situation but points to Clause 18(1) as giving the licensing authority a power "not to determine the application" in such circumstances at all.
But the convention obligation on the licensing authority is to make a determination and to reach a balanced decision—one that is proportionate, having regard to all the circumstances. The DCMS argument is unsatisfactory as refusing to make a determination is an interference in the rights of licensees and others. A determination, once an application is made, is required. That means that a hearing will have to be held and the licensing authority will have to consider representations from those who might be affected. In the light of all the material considerations, the licensing authority would have to make a decision and grant the licence subject to conditions, if appropriate, rather than rejecting or allowing it without modification. Then there would have to be rights of appeal against the decision of the licensing authority.
Clause 18(1) makes no provision for all this. Furthermore, it does not allow the licensing authority to reach a proportionate decision; nor is it drafted with sufficient clarity for it to bear the meaning proposed by the DCMS. If Clause 18(1) were interpreted in the way suggested by the DCMS, that would give rise to great confusion about the role of Clause 18(3). There is correspondence on the matter—from a residents' association in Soho to the Government dated 2nd December 2002; a letter from the Joint Committee, dated 5th December 2002, to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone; Dr Howells' reply to the Joint Committee, dated 10th January 2003; and a further letter from the residents' association in Soho dated 28th January 2003. All contain important details.
The amendments that I have identified propose to simplify the Bill by, first, leaving Clause 1 to have its original meaning, as set out in the Explanatory Notes—a decision that can be delegated to officers; secondly, to remove Clause 18(2) from the Bill altogether; and, thirdly, to amend Clause 18(3) to allow the licensing authority to determine applications in the light of the licensing objectives, which include the protection of human rights if the amendment to Clause 4 is accepted, and make decisions, including imposing conditions that are proportionate.
Control over abuse of power by the licensing authority would exist through the rights of appeals by licensees, responsible parties and interested parties. If the earlier amendments proposed to Clause 13 were accepted—I believe that they were not—interested parties would comprise all those who have arguable rights to bring convention claims in the courts by virtue of Section 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
On Amendment No. 65, in relation to Clause 18(2), the Secretary of State's guidance should make it clear that the licensing authority has power to insert conditions that relate to securing aspects of the licensing objectives in accordance with matters contained in its statement of licensing policy. Otherwise, local licensing policies cannot be effectively met. The Civic Trust, on behalf of whom I moved this amendment, asked for support for that.
Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 are marginally different. The licensing authority is required to give reasons for granting as well as refusing applications, whether or not there are relevant representations to ensure that those who did not or could not make relevant representations can know the reason for the decision and can challenge it if they believe that their rights have been violated. Such parties may have no rights of appeal to the magistrates' court, so their avenue of appeal will be to the administrative court by way of judicial review.
I believe that all subsequent amendments are consequential, but if the Minister tells me that I am wrong, I shall have to leave without having spoken to them. It is my impression that they all refer back to the group that I have moved. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have listened carefully to my noble friend's comments in respect of Amendment No. 62. He has not quite clarified the matter in my mind, or cleared away all my concerns.
As I understand the matter, Clause 18 will require the authority to grant the licence, provided that conditions have been properly met. If we removed subsection (2), the whole matter could be reopened again, and we would create a situation in which a second bite of the cherry was possible. That is an issue on which I have had concerns in the past, and on which I shall be concerned with amendments that we have yet to debate. I may have misunderstood the thrust of my noble friend's remarks, but his amendment seemed to introduce a degree of undesirable uncertainty.
My Lords, I have seen the correspondence to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, referred, and in particular the letter written by the DCMS to Jean Corston MP, who has the chair on the Joint Committee on Human Rights. That left me with some residual anxieties.
The DCMS appears to rely entirely on the operating schedule to set these matters correctly in their context. The letter says that if,
"the operating schedule does not address any of the matters it should address e.g. it does not set out the steps which the applicant will take to promote the prevention of public nuisance, the duty imposed upon a licensing authority in clause 18(2) to grant the application would not apply".
I look at that the other way around. If the operating schedule complies with the licensing authority's requirements and does not contain anything that explicitly contravenes the licensing objectives, the duty to grant the application under Clause 18(2) applies. There is no explicit mechanism by which the licensing authority can take into account the matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, believes it should. The original correspondents—the Meard and Dean Street Residents' Association—first raised that matter with the Select Committee.
Will the Minister explain the mechanism by which human rights considerations are to be considered, in the event that the operating schedule does not contain anything that explicitly contravenes the licensing objectives set by the licensing authority?
My Lords, the amendments strike right at the heart of the Bill. They tip the balance too far in favour of the licensing authority. I was not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, intervened in that regard. They would increase massively the regulatory burden on the industry, the cost of running the system and the ability of the new licensing regime to promote the diversity of provision in the late-night economy that we hope will do so much to make our cities safer and more attractive.
The amendments would remove from the Bill the basic principle that hearings must be convened only when relevant representations have been made. The Government firmly believe that, when the experts are satisfied that a particular application raises no issues that might undermine the licensing objectives, it should normally be granted automatically and administratively, with no costly or burdensome hearings required. Amendment No. 62 and those consequential upon it would totally undermine that principle.
Let us examine the responsible authorities—the experts—under the Bill, who will have a voice on applications. They include the police, the fire authority, the local health and safety authority and the environmental health authority. It also includes, as a result of action we have taken to respond to issues raised in this Chamber, the local planning authority. At least two of those bodies— the environmental health authority and the local planning authority—will, in the vast majority of cases, be drawn from the same local authority as the licensing authority. Interested parties include local residents and businesses, and organisations that represent them. All those organisations and individuals can make representations on an individual application.
Given the range of opportunity for concerns to be raised about an application, it is surely totally unnecessary for a hearing to be held where no representations are received from those quarters. In such circumstances, there is no reason for the public interest regulatory role of the licensing authority to come into play. The degree of scrutiny afforded by the Bill will ensure that, when problems arise, the chances of them not being picked up are absolutely minimal.
In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I should say that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, in its latest report on the Bill, found that the provisions which would result in the grant of an application for a premises licence where no representations are received were compatible with convention rights.
Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 would allow the licensing authority, under circumstances in which no relevant representations had been made and therefore no hearing was required, to attach conditions to the licence that were,
"consistent with the licensing policy and planning guidance", rather than only those that are consistent with the operating schedule. The amendments would have a serious deleterious effect, by discouraging the collaborative approach that the Bill seeks to engender between the police and the responsible authorities. After all, why would applicants go to the trouble in advance of talking to the police—for example, to make sure that they had got their application right—if the licensing authority could then impose conditions of its own? That makes little sense.
Similar issues arise in relation to Amendments Nos. 69, 89, 101, 118, 141, 154, and 159, which would allow the licensing authority, when holding a hearing, to take into account, in addition to relevant representations, "any other material considerations". Again, the Bill is designed to focus on a clear and transparent set of licensing objectives. "Other material considerations" is so vague as to make it nearly impossible for a licensee to produce a well thought-out and effective application.
Amendments Nos. 78 and 149 would give the licensing authority more latitude in its requirement to notify an applicant of a decision following a hearing. Instead of being required to notify the applicant of its reasons for taking any of the steps mentioned in Clause 18(3)(b), it must simply give reasons for its overall decision.
I recognise the wish to remove the perceived strictures on the licensing authorities in that respect, but it again tips the balance too far. It will be of great importance not only to individual licensees but to the trade in general to build up experience of the type of action a licensing authority is likely to take in relation to a particular application. That will improve the quality of applications over time and, I hope, further reduce the need for hearings. It is vitally important that reasons for decisions are provided which are sufficiently detailed so that those affected by them can decide whether to challenge them.
These amendments pull the Bill apart. I very much hope that they will not be pressed.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for the trouble she went to in responding. I am also in the paradoxical situation of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for coming in in support of me with his particular expert knowledge. Of course I express appreciation to my noble friend Lord Hodgson, whom I recently assisted in a small pairing matter, for having drawn attention to infelicities in Amendment No. 62.
The Minister was kind to respond to Amendment No. 66, to which I had not actually spoken. As a plea is contained in what I would have said, I shall allude to it in responding to her. The point that I would have made is that the licensing authority must be able to use its own knowledge in deciding the weight of representations and not burden residents with providing the evidential base. Many residents will be lay people and it may be the first time that they have made representations or appeared at a hearing. The local authority must be able to decide the weight to give to representations even when these have not been articulately put, let alone founded upon some sort of evidential base. Not to do so would be to create a complete inequality under the European Convention on Human Rights. Local authorities will have knowledge from registers held and from inspections and their other functions, but that evidence must be capable of being brought to bear.
The plea that I was going to make is that this matter might be considered in guidance. Given the problems encountered by those making representations without professional experience, guidance might afford a degree of latitude to the local authority in deciding the weight of those representations.
There were suggestions that, this morning, I shot a bolt into the heart of the Bill. So far no experience from outer space has avenged that act. However, it would be foolhardy of me to run the risk twice with the Minister. I shall not complicate her life further in this regard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 76:
Page 13, line 43, at end insert—
"( ) A determination under this section does not have effect—
(a) until the end of the period given for appealing against the decision;
(b) if the decision is appealed against, until the appeal is disposed of."
My Lords, the amendments grouped with Amendment No. 76 are all consequential to it and reflect the same concept in Clauses 35, 75 and 84.
The convention requires that the procedures by which convention and civil rights are determined create "equality of arms"; and convention rights, including the right to a fair hearing in civil matters (in Article 6), are subject to a requirement (in Article 14) that there should be no discrimination between people in analogous positions with respect to their convention rights. As currently drafted, the Bill seems to violate that principle because the licensee is given rights in this clause to commence trading as soon as the licensing authority has granted the application. However, in Clause 51(11), on a review where the licensing authority has made a decision to terminate or amend the licence, that decision is not given effect until after the time for appealing is over. That is an imbalance between the parties and a violation of the presumption against interference in Article 87.
The belief behind this amendment is that the most proportionate amendment is, first, to delay the coming into effect of extensions of the property rights that arise from a decision to grant a licence under Clause 18 until after the appeal is over and it has been demonstrated that there is a pressing social need for the restriction on residents' rights, which is the requirement in Article 8; and, secondly, to allow the licensee to continue trading after an adverse decision following a review under Clause 51 until the appeal has been determined. The purpose of such amendment would be to amend this clause and leave Clause 51(11) unchanged. I beg to move.
My Lords, Clause 22 provides that licensing authorities must give notice to applicants and those who made relevant representations following the determination of applications for premises licences. Clause 75 sets out the same procedure in respect of club premises certificates and Clauses 35 and 157 for the variation of premises licences and club premises certificates. These amendments would introduce unacceptable and unnecessary delays into the process by preventing decisions of the licensing authority from coming into effect until either the period for making an appeal came to an end, or until the appeal that had been made was disposed of.
Clauses 22 and 75 concern the procedure following a determination, not the determination itself. As I said during our debates in Committee, I wonder whether these amendments really have a place in those clauses. Aside from that observation, however, the general position in law is that where an appeal against any decision is made, the decision stands and is effective until overturned. The licensing system has to be efficient and effective and provide certainty. The net effect of the delay which these amendments would impose on the industry would be enormous.
No licence or certificate or variation of them could come into effect for at least 21 days. Some businesses could be shut down for a long time pending the hearing of appeals, which would affect not only the owner of the premises but any staff employed there, too. It is not simply an applicant who has a right of appeal against a decision of the licensing authority, but anyone who has made relevant representations as well. The applicant may be very happy with the decision and want to go about his business as quickly as possible. Why should that be denied for at least three weeks just in case someone decides to appeal? Why should we depart from the normal position in these cases?
I know that the noble Lord tabled these amendments, at least in part, because he was concerned that once an application for a licence or certificate, or indeed a variation of either, had been made, a court would not be able to overturn that decision on appeal. I think that he suggested that the only remedy for an appellant would be to seek judicial review. In fact that is not the case. Clause 176 provides that on an appeal in accordance with Schedule 5, which applies to all of the circumstances dealt with by these amendments, a magistrates' court may either dismiss the appeal; substitute for the decision appealed against any other decision which could have been made by the licensing authority; or remit the case to the licensing authority to dispose of it in accordance with the direction of the court.
I believe that these amendments are unnecessary and would place an unnecessary burden on the industry. Given the existing protections in the Bill, and the reassurances I have given about the ability of the magistrates' court to overturn a licensing authority's decision, I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.
My Lords, again I express my appreciation for the manner in which the Minister has responded. She is right that we discussed this in Committee and has a very clear recollection of our exchange. It was her noble friend Lord Davies who responded to my original amendment seeking to add to the licensing objectives the protection of human rights which we debated just after dinner last Monday. I indicated then that there would be a series of human rights amendments thereafter, which have been discussed between the residents' association in Soho, the department and the Select Committee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred.
I am appreciative of the further information the Minister has given on Clause 176 in relation to avoiding the necessity to go to judicial review. In the light of the Minister's reassurance and the revisiting of the matters that we discussed in Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 80:
Page 15, line 34, leave out from "he" to end of line 35 and insert "shall give written notice to the relevant licensing authority and any person who has registered an interest in the premises under section 32(6) and the licensing authority shall not accept such surrender unless satisfied that the person so registered duly consents"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 28 [Application for a provisional statement where premises being built, etc.]:
My Lords, by virtue of Clause 18(6)(d), interested parties and responsible parties are prohibited from making relevant representations about provisional licences after a provisional statement is issued. But these parties have the opportunity to make representations in relation to provisional licences before the provisional statement is issued by virtue of Clauses 29 and 30. It is important, therefore, that interested parties and responsible parties have the same information in respect of the provisional licence as they would in respect of the final licence. The amendment would ensure that the information requirements are the same. I beg to move.
My Lords, Clause 28 provides that where a premises is being built, extended or altered for use for licensable activities, a person with an interest in the premises may apply for a provisional licence. A provisional statement will give a degree of assurance to those who are investing in such work that the premises can be used for carrying out licensable activities once the work is completed.
The Bill currently provides that an application for a provisional statement must be accompanied by a schedule of works. A schedule of works is a document in the prescribed form which includes a statement including particulars of the premises to which the application relates and of the licensable activities for which the premises are to be used; plans of the work about to be or being done at the premises; and such other information as may be prescribed.
The amendments would remove the need to supply a statement including particulars of the premises and licensable activities and replace it with the operating schedule in Clause 17(3) and (4). An application for a provisional statement would need to be accompanied by a plan of the premises to which the application relates and, if the licensable activities which are to be undertaken include the sale of alcohol, a form of consent from the individual the applicant wishes to have specified in the premises licence as the premises supervisor.
Clause 17(4) provides that an operating schedule includes information on a number of matters relating to the operation of the premises, including the licensable activities that are to be undertaken there, the times when they will take place and the person who is to be the designated premises supervisor.
By its very nature, a provisional statement will be applied for only where work is to be carried on at a particular premises or, indeed, a new premises is being constructed. The work will often be carried out by an individual or company who have no intention of operating the business but intend to lease or sell the premises to another party who will operate the business. Clearly, under those circumstances, they could not be expected to provide all the information which is provided for in an operating schedule.
A developer might intend to build a multi-use leisure complex with cinemas, bars and restaurants. He will wish to have some assurance that permission to carry on licensable activities at those premises will be granted, so he will apply for a provisional statement. In that application, he will say that he expects there to be a certain number of bars, restaurants and cinemas, give an idea of their size and the kind of activities that will take place there. He will clearly not be able to state the precise hours when these places will be open or the name of the designated premises supervisor.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, might say that an applicant for a provisional statement who could provide all the information required by the operating schedule should be required to do so. But if the applicant has all that information, he might as well just apply for a premises licence straightaway. That would save him the fee associated with applying for a provisional statement as well as giving him greater assurance.
If we accepted these amendments, we would be getting rid of the provisional statement procedure. We would be getting rid of a relatively simple way of providing an assurance to somebody who will spend money on developing or constructing licensable premises that they can go ahead in the assurance that, subject to no material change, they will have a licence when the work is complete. I cannot imagine that the industry would be happier with that. It seems out of keeping with the kind of development work and investment that we wish to see in the licensable trade.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister will forgive me if I say I had the sense that he was, in the latter stages of his speech, engaging to establish eye contact with my noble friend Lord Hodgson in the hope of receiving an assenting nod. The Minister made a cogent case, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendments Nos. 83 and 84:
Page 16, line 35, leave out "power to make regulations under" and insert "duty to make regulations imposed on the Secretary of State by"
Page 16, line 38, after "made" insert "under section 17(5)(a)"
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 30 [Determination of application for provisional statement]:
[Amendments Nos. 85 to 89 not moved.]
My Lords, I was encouraged by the Minister's response to the previous amendment in relation to Amendments Nos. 90 and 93. As drafted, Clause 31(3) allows a "relevant person" to raise objections to the opening of licensed premises following construction, even though no such objections were raised at the time of the operator's application for a provisional statement. It appears that objections can be raised where the individual concerned can show that he or she could not have raised that objection at the time of the original provisional statement or had a good reason for failing to do so. Similarly, objections can be raised where there has been a material change in circumstances relating to the premises or to the area in the vicinity of those premises.
The creation of a power to object, following the completion of a development, creates a substantial, potentially insurmountable, barrier to investment. The retail and leisure industries are major players in assisting the achievement of regeneration policy across the United Kingdom. But operators, developers or lenders in respect of a project to construct a new supermarket, hotel, leisure centre or public house will be unable to establish whether a local residential property is likely to change hands prior to the completion of their project, thus creating the risk of a late objection.
The Explanatory Notes give the example of a local resident being in hospital as a reason for having failed to object earlier. Presumably, an opportunity to object would also arise if the householder could establish that they were, for example, on vacation at the time that the original application was advertised.
How could any developer protect himself against such an eventuality? The amendment would provide for a closer alignment between licensing law and planning law and would provide more certainty for operators. It is proposed that provisional statements should be time-limited in the same way as planning consents and should have the same three or five-year time frame. We assume that that will be confirmed in the next planning Bill, which we hope to see. Provided building works are started within the life of the planning consent, there should be no grounds for a second round of representations on the planning consent or the provisional statement. However, if work has not started within the appropriate period, the planning consent and provisional statements expire, but can be renewed, with representation invited if there are any material changes in circumstances.
That is a sensible solution that is mindful of the rights of those living in the locality to make representations, but also provides a necessary level of certainty for operators, which is crucial to avoid inhibiting future retail and leisure investment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of Whitbread plc. I try to deal with issues on this Bill that in my view are of practical significance. I support Amendment No. 90. It is clear from our discussions on a number of clauses that we have to keep a balance between two sets of interests. In this case, we need a balance between the possibility for representations to be made and properly considered in Clause 30—there is nothing wrong with subsections (1) to (7)—and some element of stability or at least some years of certainty for the proper planning of the provision of new premises or the renovation, development or improvement of premises.
We have a full system for representations. There is no difficulty about that. However, Clause 31, headed, "Restriction on representations following provisional statement" —but not, "exclusion of representations"—refers clearly to:
(a) the application for the premises licence is an application for a licence in the same form as the licence described in the application for the provisional statement, and
(b) the work described in the schedule of works accompanying the application for that statement has been satisfactorily completed".
I commend that drafting to the Plain English Campaign. It is clearly intelligible: there has been no substantive change. Surely, if there has been an opportunity for representations on the provisional statement and there has been no substantive change, we need to be able to give a clear assurance that no further representations will derail what has already been agreed.
A company or an individual hotel, pub or restaurant owner might well hesitate to carry on with their plans for new premises or amendments or improvements to premises if they might be derailed later, when resources had already been committed to the improvement. This is a modest amendment that would give an assurance of stability to the developers of new or renovated premises for three years. That is not a lot to ask. It seems reasonable and I support it.
My Lords, I have two amendments in this group and have added my name to a third. We discussed the issue at length in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and I clashed over the use of "and" or "or". The source of our confusion was that the Explanatory Notes said "or" and the Bill said "and".
The issue is the second bite at the cherry. We have talked at length about the need to promote investment and the necessary timescale. The heart of our difficulty relates to the material change in circumstances specified in Clause 31(3)(b), particularly the words,
"to the area in the vicinity of".
I had hoped for some clarification in the guidance notes, but paragraph 6.53 on page 41 more or less repeats what is in the Bill. There are concerns about how material changes in circumstances and the area in the vicinity could be interpreted. For example, it has been put to me that the construction of a block of flats close to the proposed location after the original provisional statement could be a change to the area in the vicinity, so the people who moved into the flats should have a chance to object. Another example was soaring crime figures in the area, which could be a change in circumstances that might give rise to the chance of restricting the original proposals.
The costs of a subsequent refusal are a considerable issue. However, restrictive conditions that were not originally envisaged being imposed on the premises licence would be a less draconian but still very expensive outcome. Such conditions could include a reduction in the allowed opening hours or a reduction in capacity. That could change or undermine the commercial viability of the project. Perhaps the most likely outcome is that the opening of the premises would be delayed while the lawyers fought out exactly what the two phrases in question meant, during which time the fully kitted out entertainment facility—a pub or whatever—would be eating interest costs, unable to be opened. That would also be unsatisfactory.
I have no problems with the three-year timescale proposed by my noble friend in Amendment No. 90. If the operator or developer chooses to change the situation completely and does not complete the works in the way that was originally envisaged, all bets are off. However, the current drafting leaves open the possibility of developers of entertainment facilities who have acted in good faith being undermined by people with an axe to grind. I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, only to the extent that the wording of the guidance is more or less identical to the Bill and does not give any further interpretation of what is meant by material changes of circumstances to the premises or to the area in the vicinity.
I have a different anxiety, which arises from our debate on the last amendment, when the Government opposed the presentation of information about opening hours in the application for a provisional statement. It is possible for a person to have complied with all the requirements to get a provisional statement by saying that he wishes to convert the premises from their existing use within the A3 user class—for example, there might be a series of cafés next door to one another—into a larger establishment to be used for drinking purposes. As we heard earlier, he would not have to say what the opening hours would be. What happens if the potential objectors in the vicinity think that it will be an ordinary establishment that closes at 11 o'clock, but when the operating schedule is submitted for the full licence they find that the proposal is to open it until 3 o'clock in the morning? Will that be a material change of circumstances which restores the right that would otherwise be excluded under Clause 18(6)(d)? There may be a misprint in Clause 31(2) with reference to Clause 18(6)(d), which the noble Baroness may wish to address, but that is a small point.
However, there is a serious point here as regards the rights of objectors to make representations where the nature of the occupation of premises changes between the issuing of the provisional statement and the application for the full licence. Therefore, I should like the Minister who will reply to satisfy your Lordships that representations will not be excluded in cases where no one had any reason to suspect that the premises would be open until three or four o'clock in the morning at the time the provisional statement was issued but people were then suddenly confronted with that situation at the time of the licence application. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that such persons would still have the right to make representations, notwithstanding the provisions of Clause 31.
My Lords, Amendment No. 90 proposes time limiting a provisional statement for a period of three years, which aligns it with the period after which a renewal of a planning consent will be required in the future. That would require applicants to make a new application every three years, as they would in respect of planning permission. As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, on each occasion of a new application, local residents would have their say.
If Amendments Nos. 91 to 93 had been proposed in isolation from Amendment No. 90, I should have been inclined to oppose them. However, by matching the three-year limitation with the possible deletion of Clause 31(3), I see greater merit in the amendments. The limitations in Clause 31(2) would still apply.
Both the approach taken in the Bill and in this group of amendments attempt to preserve what the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, rightly described as the very delicate balance between the needs of investors for some degree of certainty before they commit to major building projects and the need for proper protection for local residents. If the approach suggested by these amendments maintains that balance but would provide industry with greater confidence than the Bill does now, we should be prepared to look at the proposal.
We need to examine the implications and talk to people involved in the industry and stakeholders before we reach a final decision but I am happy to take the matter away and consider it. I cannot promise to return with an amendment at Third Reading, or that an amendment on the face of the Bill will be necessary. However, we are certainly sympathetic to the objective behind the amendments.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that the Government opposed a statement of opening hours in the provisional statement. I did not say that. I said that in many cases it would not be possible to give a statement of opening hours or, for example, the name of the designated premises supervisor, as would be required by the operating schedule. If that information is known, there is no reason at all why it should not be provided or, indeed, why it should not be required.
I do not think that the noble Lord is right with regard to a misprint in the reference to Clause 18(6)(d), but I shall write to him on that point. With those assurances, I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.
My Lords, if someone did not know what the opening hours of a particular premises would be at the time of the provisional statement being issued, and then suddenly discovered that the relevant premises would be open until three or four o'clock in the morning, would they have forfeited their right to make representations?
My Lords, I should have thought that if that circumstance were entirely unexpected it would constitute a material change. Therefore, people would have the right to make representations. If I am wrong about that, I shall write to the noble Lord.
My Lords, I am rather disappointed in the Minister's reply given what he said in response to the previous amendment and our efforts to come up with what we feel is a sensible suggestion; namely, the proposed three-year period in relation to provisional statements. The Minister said that it was important to consider the needs of investors for some degree of certainty before they committed themselves to major projects, and for them to be confident that, subject to no material change occurring, they would get a premises licence when the relevant work was completed.
The Explanatory Notes refer, for example, to the possibility that someone may be confined to hospital during the period in which representations could have been made. They state that the restriction on making representations following the issuing of a provisional statement would not apply to someone in those circumstances. We do not believe that that is a valid point.
There is a delicate balance to be struck here. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, for his support. It is helpful to have the benefit of noble Lords' practical experience in this field. In many cases considerable investment is made in the projects we are discussing and that follows lengthy periods of planning. It is not always a case of big businesses investing in these projects, but rather all kinds of establishments. It may not always be the large supermarket operators and the big hotels and leisure centres which invest in the projects we are discussing. Smaller operators may invest in a project which they believe will contribute to local industry or to the tourist industry. I thought that we were encouraged to develop a more attractive, liberalised culture. However, they may be stopped in their tracks under the current provisions.
The Minister said that he wanted to take the amendment away and think about it further, but we have considered the matter for two-and-a-half years. I should like to be confident that the Government will bring back an amendment at Third Reading. However, our amendments have been tabled for some time. We debated the matter at length in Committee. With some regret I believe that it is right that we—
My Lords, obviously, I have not made my position clear. I said that we agreed with the thrust of the amendments. I said—if I did not, I apologise—that we thought that the amendments reflected the delicate balance which needed to be maintained. We have said that we think there is much to be said for integration with the planning arrangements. I said that we would consider sympathetically Amendments Nos. 90, 91, 92 and 93. What I could not say is that we would be ready by Third Reading, and what I did not want to say was that there would necessarily be changes in primary legislation. But my intention is to be entirely sympathetic to the group of amendments.
My Lords, I feel that I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I entirely accept what the Minister said. He wishes me to back off with regard to the amendments. I am tempted to do so. However, we should feel more comfortable if the Minister could give us an assurance that a measure will be brought forward at Third Reading.
My Lords, I shall certainly write to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, before Third Reading but the gap between Report stage and Third Reading is very short. When we bring forward new thoughts on matters, we always consult those concerned. We would consult the industry and residents before making what is a significant change. Although the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Williamson, were sympathetic to the change, it has not necessarily been raised before with the industry. I am very unconfident that we would be able to consult to the extent that we would need to do between now and Third Reading. But that does not mean that we do not intend to do something about the measure.
My Lords, before the amendment is withdrawn, I should say that I am not taking the amendments away for the sake of the industry. I am doing it because there is a balance to be maintained between the interests of public nuisance, public safety and those of people living in the vicinity of licensable premises and the proper concerns of the industry. If I gave the impression that our consultation would be only with industry, that was not the impression that I wished to give.
My Lords, I hear what the Minister is saying. What I really meant was that I appreciate that further consultation is necessary. I regret that such consultation was not dealt with earlier, because I think that the point being put forward is one of common sense. We all agree that there is a delicate balance to be struck, as I said earlier. However, I accept what the Minister has said, so I look forward to seeing what happens in another place on this important point. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 94:
Page 18, line 42, at end insert—
"( ) Upon the application of any person who has an estate or interest in the premises whether as owner or lessee, prior or paramount to that of the occupier, the relevant licensing authority shall enter the name and address of that person and the nature of such interest upon the register of licences, subject to the payment of such fee as may be prescribed.
( ) It shall be the duty of the relevant licensing authority as soon as reasonably practicable to notify any person registered under the preceding subsection of any matter entered in the licensing register under section 8(1)(c), save for notices recorded under paragraphs (b), (g), (h), (m), (r), (s), (t), (u), (v), (w), (x) or (y) of Schedule 3."
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 33 [Application to vary premises licence]:
[Amendment No. 95 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 96:
Page 19, line 15, leave out "power to make regulations under" and insert "duty to make regulations imposed on the Secretary of State by"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 34 [Determination of application under section 33]:
[Amendments Nos. 97 to 101 not moved.]
Clause 35 [Supplementary provision about determinations under section 34]:
[Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 not moved.]
Clause 36 [Application to vary licence to specify individual as premises supervisor]:
[Amendments Nos. 104 to 106 not moved.]
Clause 37 [Circumstances in which section 36 application given interim effect]:
[Amendment No. 107 not moved.]
Clause 38 [Determination of section 36 application]:
[Amendment No. 108 not moved.]
Clause 39 [Duty of applicant following determination under section 38]:
[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]
Clause 40 [Request to be removed as designated premises supervisor]:
[Amendments Nos. 110 to 113 not moved.]
Clause 46 [Interim authority notice following death etc. of licence holder]:
moved Amendment No. 115:
Page 29, line 27, at end insert—
"(1A) Without prejudice to subsection (1), the chief officer of police for the police area in which any premises are situated must apply for a review of the premises licence for those premises if he is aware that there is being, or had been, carried on at those premises the sale, letting for hire, playing or exhibition of sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes in circumstances which amount to an infringement of copyright for the purpose of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48).
(1B) In subsection (1A) "sound recordings", "films", "broadcasts" and "cable programmes" have the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48) (copyright)."
We are now coming to the amendments on infringement of copyright. Again, we tested the point in Committee and had some considerable debates. We were disappointed by the Government's response.
Many people who buy, or permit their premises to be used for the sale and use of, pirated material do not consider that the theft of intellectual property seriously harms those businesses which are legitimately using it and whose fees paid, either directly or through collecting societies, remunerate the distributor, producer and artistes. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said on 16th January 2003 that he believed that the current law was sufficient. That can be found in col. 335 of Hansard.
It is accepted that piracy is a major funding source for crime and is one of a number of methods of money-laundering. Page 64 of the draft guidance, under paragraph 8.52, states in relation to Clause 177 that the licence does not need to spell out the legal requirement, but advises that failure to observe the law in practice could lead to a review of the premises licence.
It is well known that the cost of piracy is great. The police are reluctant to act so, unless there is pressure on them to undertake actions by anti-piracy clauses in the Bill, there is a distinct danger that one of the licensing objectives—the prevention of crime—will not be pursued with vigour.
We are grateful to the Government for tabling Amendment No. 194, which is welcome so far as it goes. However, it is effective only in respect of the sale or use of pirated material where alcohol is used at licensed premises. It would not apply to entertainment facilities as set out in paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 such as a church or village hall or community centre. Such places are regularly used as venues for car boot sales, where many pirated products are sold to the public.
Will the Minister reconsider our amendment, which is rather more far-reaching and would cover the area that we believe is not covered sufficiently by the government amendment? I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for her reference to Amendment No. 194. Both amendments address the problems of the use of copyright material without appropriate permissions, which includes films, sound recordings and cable television. We are well aware of the problems caused for many industries by infringement of copyright, and we are committed to constructive solutions to the problem. To that extent, we are at one on the matter.
We have had representations from the British Video Association, the Cinema Exhibitors Association and Phonographic Performance Ltd. They have suggested ways in which the issues might be addressed through the Bill, and I am pleased that we can help them through Amendment No. 194.
I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that although I clearly share her concerns on the matter I cannot accept Amendment No. 115, which would make it compulsory for the chief officer of police to apply for the review of a premises licence in any instance where the sale, letting for hire, playing or exhibition of sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes had taken place in infringement of copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. No provision in the Bill compels either interested parties or responsible authorities, such as the police, to apply for a review because of a particular offence committed at the premises, even though conviction would not be a requirement if the amendment were accepted.
The Bill provides discretion for those authorities to decide for themselves when to apply for review, and that discretion should be preserved. I see no reason to compel the police to apply for a review following an infringement when they are not compelled to do so for other—dare I say it—more serious offences. If the amendment were accepted. the police would be required to request a review of a premises licence if a licensee played music to his customers for which he did not have the appropriate permissions. However, if the premises is the scene of repeated outbreaks of violence, it may or may not be subject to review.
The situations envisaged by the amendment can be dealt with by the Bill as currently drafted, as interested parties and responsible authorities may apply for the review of a licence if an offence is committed under the 1988 Act or any ground relating to the licensing objectives, which includes the prevention of crime and disorder. Of course, a breach of the 1988 Act is a crime. In that way, a cinema might make an application if a licensed premises was showing films for which it did not have the necessary permissions. However, to require the police to request a review would be disproportionate.
Amendment No. 194 will provide a very valuable tool to help the licensing authority and the police address that issue. It would add certain offences committed under the 1988 Act to the list of relevant offences for the purposes of the Bill. That would mean, for instance, that a relevant offence would be committed by someone convicted of playing recorded music or exhibiting a film without appropriate permission. A person convicted of having in their possession for commercial purposes any unauthorised decoder would be guilty of a relevant offence.
Under the Bill, applicants for personal licences will need to reveal whether they have committed any relevant offences. If they have, the licensing authority will be required to notify the chief officer of police and, if he is satisfied that granting a licence would undermine the crime prevention objective, he must issue an objection notice. That would lead to a hearing, and the authority could reject it if it believed that that was necessary to promote the crime prevention objective.
When any personal licence holder is convicted of a relevant offence, it will be open to the court to order the forfeiture of the licence or its suspension for up to six months. In deciding whether to order forfeiture or suspension, the court will be able to take into account any previous conviction of the licence holder for a relevant offence.
We have listened to the industry. Amendment No. 194, which I stress is supported by the industry, underlines how seriously we take the issue of copyright infringement. It will ensure that those who wish to be personal licence holders under the new regime will be subject to scrutiny as a result of committing those offences and should therefore ensure that they are deterred from doing so.
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will support Amendment No. 194 and acknowledge that it will address the concerns of industry about the use of intellectual property without appropriate permission.
My Lords, before the Minister concludes, will he respond to my concerns about Amendment No. 194, which we welcome? My concern was that the amendment would not apply to an entertainment facility such as a church hall, village hall or community centre, or to places that are regularly used for car boot sales. This is an important aspect of the matter.
Yes, my Lords. Amendment No. 194 is in Schedule 4, which is entitled: "Personal licence: relevant offences". Schedule 4 is triggered by Clause 111, which seeks to provide the authority for "relevant offence" and "foreign offence". I do not see in Schedule 4 or Clause 111 a restriction to premises where alcohol is being sold.
However, my understanding is that I cannot give the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, the assurance that she seeks. The industry is principally concerned with breaches of copyright in pubs. It asked for the amendment to reflect that and we understand that it is content with our response.
My Lords, it would be worthwhile for the Government to consider my point. We entirely support Amendment No. 194: I hope that there is no misunderstanding there. It involves an important step forward. The area of copyright needs constant revision. A generation of people who are growing up now simply do not believe that it involves theft; they do not even look on what they do as piracy. They believe that the more that they can borrow each other's records and other material, use that to their own ends and share and multiply it among themselves, the better. They do not believe that there is anything wrong with that.
My Lords, I hope that I can be of more help to the noble Baroness. I should have said that Schedule 4 and Clause 111 refer to personal licences. She rightly said that personal licences apply only to premises for the sale of alcohol. Premises licences, to which she seeks to extend this arrangement, cover any of the licensing activities, including entertainment, and they can be reviewed if there have been copyright infringements. That is already the case.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that clarification. We should continue to watch and review this matter. We are grateful that a step forward is being taken in the Bill. We and the Government know that this matter concerns the industry. There is a huge difference of opinion in this regard beyond your Lordships' House about whether people who are effectively stealing sound recordings, films, cable programmes and so on, are doing anything wrong. We are grateful to the Government. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 116:
Page 29, line 30, leave out "Regulations under this section may" and insert "The Secretary of State must by regulations under this section"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 51 [Determination of application for review]:
[Amendments Nos. 117 to 119 not moved.]
My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. The amendment deals with the need to give the licensing authority powers to act proportionately. The steps in Clause 51(4) do not allow the licensing authority to issue warning letters, for example, which may be the most appropriate outcome of a review in many cases. I have reason to suppose that my noble friend Lord Hodgson will disagree with the amendment. I hope that I have given him a reasonably narrow target at which to aim.
My Lords, I shall not disappoint my noble friend, although he has given me a very narrow target indeed! When we have applications for review, open-ended provisions of the sort proposed in my noble friend's amendment are undesirable because they open up a wide, as opposed to a narrow, target. I have been critical of the Government when they sought to add such catch-all phrases in various clauses in the Bill. I feel that logic means that I must oppose my noble friend's proposal.
My Lords, once again, the question of balance comes in. As I explained in Committee, the ability to seek a review of premises licences and club premises certificates, which is set out in the Bill, is new. At present, licensing justices have two routes open to them if a licensee has failed to observe his obligations. They can either revoke the licence altogether or do nothing at all. The licensing justices are often reluctant to take any action, particularly for minor transgressions. There is no ability or opportunity to consider a justices' licence in the absence of a breach of obligation. It severely undermines the ability to regulate the licensed trade.
That is why the Bill introduces a much more flexible arrangement through which an interested party or a responsible authority may seek a review of a licence or certificate on a ground that is relevant to one or more of the licensing objectives. The steps available to the licensing authority in determining a review include the following: to modify the conditions of the licence or certificate; to exclude a licensable activity or qualifying club activity from the scope of the licence or certificate; to remove the designated premises supervisor where one exists; to suspend the licence or certificate for a period not exceeding three months; or to revoke the licence or certificate.
I am sure that the House will appreciate how much finer the degree of control will be under the new system and the review process will be available even where there has been no breach of obligation. The review process is a significant and powerful one. The steps that the licensing authority may take following a review provide it with all the levers it needs to monitor and regulate the licensed trade effectively in the absence of non-compliance. At the same time, they ensure fair treatment for industry. The steps are the result of long consultation with stakeholders and I believe that it would be unwise to unpick them at this stage.
Finally, Amendments Nos. 120 and 160 would allow the licensing authority to impose its own bespoke outcome to a review process. That would completely undermine the openness and transparency that we have sought to achieve. It must be remembered that the system of review is just that—a review—and is not an alternative to the taking of proceedings. It is designed to allow the continuation of an authorisation to be considered in the light of an application that sets out grounds that are relevant to the licensing objectives. The steps available to the licensing authority in determining the review must be proportionate and consistent. The amendments would make the system arbitrary and introduce widespread inconsistency throughout the country.
If we really want to inflict damage on the industry, I suggest that we go ahead and agree to the amendment. If, on the other hand, we want to operate a system that is fair and transparent and which is completely clear about the duties of licensees, and the steps that might be taken where a review identifies concerns, we cannot agree to the amendments. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will withdraw them.
My Lords, I must necessarily have a certain protean quality if I can provide simultaneously both a narrow and a broad target. I am perfectly clear what target my noble friend Lord Hodgson was aiming at, but at whichever target the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was aiming, she has reasonably hit it in my case. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 122, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 162. Both address the same issue, with one amendment relating to premises and the other to clubs. First, I apologise to your Lordships for not being in attendance to speak on these issues in Committee as I was ill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for conveying my apologies to the House as we were speaking to the same amendments at that time.
The reason for returning to this question is that there has been a material change in the reasons that the Minister gave in her answer to the Committee on these amendments. In addition, the discussions between the Local Government Association and the DCMS on this situation are ongoing. I thank the Local Government Association and, indeed, Camden Council, for the briefing and information that they provided for me. Perhaps I should also declare an interest as a council tax payer in the London Borough of Camden.
The current statement in Clause 54 refers to regulations that may,
"prescribe the amount of the fee".
The DCMS has said on numerous occasions that it will ensure that the centrally set application fee and annual fee will cover all the associated costs. That is a welcome assurance. By costs, I assume that the DCMS means the costs of policy development, pre-application discussions, adequate consultation, hearings, mediation, inspections and enforcement, and not only processing applications. However, it is hard to envisage how the DCMS will come up with a one-size-fits-all fee that does not involve local authorities either making a loss or making a profit.
The amendments that I propose today would still impose statutory regulations on fee setting as it would tightly control what may be charged for under the fee and how the fee should be calculated. But within those guidelines, local authorities would set their own fee in consultation with licensees, residents and business.
I wonder why the DCMS would want to involve itself in that kind of local government business. My assumption is that, in principle, this Government would normally, I hope, allow independent decision-making to be taken at the lowest level. That, in any event, seems to fly in the face of that principle. Therefore, why would one size not fit all?
In Committee, the Minister said that the DCMS was considering introducing a separate fee band for London and the South East because of higher costs. That would be a step in the right direction. But that alone will not achieve a fair licensing fee for both local authorities and licensees. Apart from anything else, what about places such as Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds?
I understand that DCMS civil servants are due to meet the LGA to discuss the results of an LGA fee questionnaire of rural, town, metropolitan and London local authorities. That will demonstrate that in every possible area of the licensing process—from numbers of full-time staff to average salaries to numbers of inspections, and administrative costs for processing applications—rural, town, metropolitan and London councils have varying costs. I do not want to pre-empt the questionnaire results or the meeting, but I want to give noble Lords two examples of the differing costs that local authorities incur.
In terms of the associated costs for local authorities, I shall name but two. The first is wage costs. Those will impact on the cost of every part of the application process, from policy development, inspections, enforcement and the actual processing of applications. London weighting is an obvious example of that. If the DCMS calculates an "average" wage cost for the whole of England and Wales, London boroughs and metropolitan councils will lose money but rural councils, with lower wage costs, may make money.
The second is travel expenses. In rural districts where licensed premises are spread over a wide area, travel costs associated with inspections and enforcement will be far greater than, for example, those in inner-city boroughs, notwithstanding the congestion charge. Therefore, it is not appropriate for the DCMS to give a petrol allowance as part of the fee, as many urban local authorities do not use vehicles to get around. So, again, there may be an unwelcome result, with some local authorities making money on travel costs and some losing money. I believe that those are legitimate questions that need to be addressed.
The DCMS and some groups within the licensing trade seem to believe that some local authorities are currently making vast profits from their licensing fee. In Committee, the Minister said:
"Local authorities have had their chance [to set fees] and they have failed".—[Official Report, 16/1/03; col. 343.]
As a result, as my noble friend argued, imposing a nationally set fee was justified.
As the basis both for the argument for a nationally set fee and to guide the setting of a national fee in the regulatory impact assessment, the DCMS has used figures from a CIPFA report. However, I am informed that the CIPFA figures on the annual profit that local authorities make from fees were misquoted in the Committee debate on 16th January. In the debate, a figure of £8.9 million was quoted as the net profit made by local authorities nationally. My understanding is that, in reality, local authorities nationally make an annual loss of £7.1 million. Therefore, it appears to me that the DCMS's argument for taking fee setting out of the hands of local authorities is fundamentally flawed.
I am grateful to the Minister, who acknowledged in a letter to me that there will indeed have to be some reassessment of the RIA. I ask what exactly that would mean, because it seems to me that there needs to be a complete reinterpretation.
However, the LGA acknowledges that a minority of councils make a profit from the licensing fee. But the vast majority operate at a loss—and sometimes a huge loss. I want to take Camden Council as a case study of how the £100 to £500 regulatory impact assessment might work.
At present, Camden Council's licensing responsibilities involve 175 premises. That number will rise to 1,500 when all the premises with liquor licences are included. The guidance framework for the Bill notes that the Government's expectation is that local authorities will receive "a very considerable income" during the transition period. That is based on the fee income expected to arise from existing premises transferring their licences to the new regime. Under the regulatory impact assessment, all licensed premises will be required to pay a one-off fee of between £100 and £500 during the transfer from the old to the new licensing system.
If we assume that the midpoint of that range is £300, then Camden can expect revenue of around £0.45 million from its 1,500 premises. The inadequacy of such fee levels is exposed by the fact that Camden's current licensing costs are more than £0.5 million. That is for processing some 300 licences annually, including some occasional licences. Therefore, current costs already exceed the expected fee income, and I believe that there is a problem here.
Camden Council also estimates that the volume of variations likely to be received during the transition period could be considerable. A preliminary survey of business responses suggests that between 400 and 500 existing businesses will apply for a variation in the licence. Again, that is a conservative estimate as many businesses are not yet familiar with the Bill and have not yet considered what changes they may make.
Surely a much fairer system for both licensee and local authority would be for the Government to prescribe guidance on how to calculate the fee and what may be charged under the fee but not to prescribe the amount of the fee. That is why the amendment has been tabled. Regulations would need to make clear the process for calculating fees and would need to be transparent and open to scrutiny. Local authorities would then need to consult local businesses and residents and so on before setting the charge. Indeed, auditing and scrutiny of local authority systems are already in place. That would also ensure that local authorities do not make money out of the fee.
In conclusion, I reiterate that if the fee is set centrally, not only will thousands of local authorities lose money but, perversely, some local authorities which have lower costs will make money. I suggest that that is not a welcome scenario for the Government, the licensees or the local authorities. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak extremely briefly. Many points have been raised, especially regarding the issues of which I am well aware in Camden. I shall ask the Minister one question about fees. The fees are now to be set by regulation. We have already discussed the joys of centrally set fees in regard to regulations for public entertainment licences, which will make the system a good deal easier. If fees are to be set by regulation, which groups will be consulted on a change in the fee bands at a later date? Does the Minister have a set procedure on groups which should be consulted to discuss whether the fee structure is working?
My Lords, I speak to Amendment No. 237A which stands in my name and which is grouped with the amendment. It is concerned with the question of fees. It seeks to give an applicant a specific right of appeal against an unreasonable fee. First, I apologise for not being present in Committee, which was due to my being absent from the country. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for raising the issue on my behalf in Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that,
"fees will be set centrally by the Secretary of State, following consultation. There will be no scope for variation by the licensing authority and, as a result, no need for appeal against them.—[Official Report, 20/1/03; col. 464.]
Clauses 54 and 90 of the Bill state that,
I stress the word "may"—
"prescribe the amount of the fee".
Amendment No. 122 raises the question whether the provision will be a prescription or guidance as to the fee. It would be difficult, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, to set fees centrally for the wide diversity of, in particular perhaps, public entertainment licences.
My questions for the Minister are: is the matter a question of prescription or is it guidance? What is to stop the local authority/licensing authority in any event adding to the fee? In the event of an additional or unacceptable fee, will the applicant be able to appeal?
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for having moved the amendment. She provided some examples in the context of Camden. I shall take the liberty of providing some information in the context of Westminster. I shall do that in particular because—and it is not a secret to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—Westminster City Council has both this morning and this afternoon been conducting a seminar for local authority officers from all over the country to discuss the Bill and its implications. I say that it is not a secret because the department was invited to be present and to take part in the panel. It is no surprise and no discourtesy on the part of the department that, because of its preoccupation with the business in the Chamber today, it was not able to attend. I mention it in order to demonstrate that the seminar was in no way being conducted behind the Government's back.
I cite the seminar because a local authority officer from Southampton said that he received a telephone call from the department last week, which was the first contact that Southampton City Council had had on the matter, to ask what fees it currently charged. That gave the impression that perhaps the amount of data available to the department at this stage in the proceedings is not as far advanced as it might be. I had the privilege of commenting on the parliamentary progress of the Bill. I went out of my way to praise the courtesy with which the Minister and indeed her two colleagues on the Front Bench had treated the House.
I have some figures of a similar nature to those for Camden. They are somewhat larger because of the greater number of premises in Westminster. It is projected that Westminster will have 3,241 liquor licences transferring in the first year and that on average there will be 54 new licences per year during the next 10 years. The base for those figures was supplied by the magistrates' court. They were then applied to a logarithmic equation to project the figures over 10 years from 2004 to 2014.
Based on fees in the DCMS regulatory impact assessment, Westminster's income is estimated to be £7.285 million on a best case basis and £2.293 million on a worse case basis. The anticipated cost to the council of providing the service over 10 years is £27.4 million. The best case scenario therefore envisages a net loss to the council over 10 years of just over £20 million. On a worst case scenario the net loss to the council over 10 years is £25 million. The cost per licence of the council was based on the cost per licence for a public entertainment licence and a night café licence. The logarithmic equation was based on the growth of public entertainment licences and night cafés since 1992. It has been assumed that the rate of growth of liquor licences follows the same trends and timescales.
On personal licences, where the figures are much more modest, it is projected that there will be 454 personal licences created for Westminster in the first year, and that on average there will be seven new licences per year during the following nine years. The percentage of people in Westminster who will require a personal licence is based on the number of street traders living in Westminster applied to the number of new premises that will have a liquor licence.
Based on the figures in the DCMS regulatory impact assessment, Westminster's income is anticipated to be £15,000. The anticipated cost to the council over 10 years will be approaching £60,000. The cost of a personal licence is based on the cost of a door supervisor's licence. Therefore, the net loss to the council over 10 years would be £43,000. The figures in the first category of premises licences—where the best case scenario is of a net loss to the council over 10 years of £20 million and the worse case scenario a net loss to the council over 10 years of £25 million—underlie the anxieties of local authorities up and down the country as to the economic consequences of this new licensing arrangement as regards both their costs and their income. I hope those details may be of some service to your Lordships' House.
My Lords, we had a constructive debate on the issue of the central setting of fees in Committee when my noble friend was ill. I emphasised then that fees will be set at a level which will allow all licensing authorities to recover the costs of administration, enforcement and inspection. Fee levels will be decided following extensive consultation with local authorities and local authority bodies, as well as other stakeholders, and will be set in regulations made by the Secretary of State and made subject to the negative procedure. I hope that that answers the question of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. So there will be extensive consultation with everyone involved.
The Government will of course consider whether the fact that some geographical areas have significantly higher overheads relating to labour and accommodation should be reflected in the levels of the fees. Our intention is that fee levels will take into account the size of premises because the costs relating to a large night club could differ from those of a small pub or bar. But fees will allow all licensing authorities to recover their costs and will be structured in such a way to ensure that that is the case.
One answer to my noble friend's question of why the Government want to set fees is the current large variation in both the level of fees and the way they are calculated. Fees differ significantly across the country. Furthermore, some places, on top of a flat fee for public entertainment licences, charge per person above a certain number. Others do not. Some areas increase the fees to premises in town centres and some do not. Some charge a higher fee if the licence is to operate at later hours. All this inconsistency leads to uncertainty and confusion for businesses and others seeking to apply for public entertainment licences.
The Bill seeks to make the licensing process simple, straightforward and transparent. An important means to achieve that is by setting appropriate and fair fees centrally. The principle that fees will be fair and proportionate would be undermined by Amendment No. 237A. I should perhaps add, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, that the licensing authority will have no legal powers to impose additional fees.
The House should also appreciate that there is nothing radical in our proposal to set fees centrally. The 155,000 holders of alcohol licences pay fees to the licensing justices that are set centrally by the Lord Chancellor's Department. Similarly, the fees for the 40,000 occasional permissions are set centrally for the 22,000 organisations seeking them each year. The fees for cinema licences are set centrally by statutory instrument. The businesses paying local authority-set fees for public entertainment, theatre and late night refreshment are very much the minority under the existing regimes.
I should tell my noble friend Lady Thornton that, under the new regime, premises licences will not have to be renewed. It is important to avoid drawing direct comparisons between the old system and the new one—they will be very different.
To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, one must wonder why the figures that he cited have not been passed to my department, despite promises that were made. I certainly do not accept those estimates of the cost of the new system. However, no doubt when they are presented for challenge, we shall be able to have a more constructive debate about fair and reasonable fee levels. Given my assurances that fees will be set at a level that will allow all licensing authorities to recover costs, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
I should perhaps add a word about the CIPFA figures. The department's interpretation of the CIPFA figures was incorrect, for which I apologise. That of course means that my assertion that local authorities make a net gain from entertainment licensing was incorrect. That was a genuine mistake. We are updating the regulatory impact assessment but, even taking account of that, our estimate of a premises licence fee in bands between £100 and £500 is still correct.
I do not accept what my noble friend Lady Thornton said: that that requires a complete reinterpretation. The CIPFA figures were not the only justification for setting licensing fees centrally—far from it. We want to institute a national system that does not contain all the awful inconsistencies of the current one, but I reassure my noble friend and others who have spoken that we shall continue to discuss the issues with the Local Government Association as we work on setting precise fee levels.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those remarks and her explanation. I am not sure that I am reassured, or that local government will be, but I am pleased to know that discussions are continuing and will continue. I thank noble Lords for their support.
This is not a London conspiracy or just a London concern; there is great concern across the country. It essentially concerns the quality of the scheme. There is no point in having a brand-new scheme if it is under-funded and therefore ineffective. I urge further discussion, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 123:
Page 32, line 18, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
"(4) If the annual fee is not paid by the prescribed time, the relevant premises licence will lapse on that date.
(5) If a licence lapses under the provisions of subsection (4), the former holder of that licence may for a period of three months, commencing on the date the licence lapsed, seek reinstatement of the licence.
(6) The applicant for reinstatement shall pay to the relevant licensing authority the annual fee together with such reasonable reinstatement fee fixed in advance by that licensing authority.
(7) The premises licence shall be deemed to have been reinstated as soon as the requisite fees have been received by the licensing authority."
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 163, which addresses the same issues as Amendment No. 123. They concern the problem of defaulting. My noble friend addressed the issue in Committee, but on reading the Official Report of our debates, I felt that the issue and its implications—which are important for how the whole system will operate—were not fully explored and explained.
Currently, the law states that if people do not pay the performance entertainment licence fee before the expiry date of the licence—usually after one year—their entertainment licence lapses until the operator pays the fee. The Government propose that local authorities will effectively be able to chase up the fee—which will be for all licensable activities, not just entertainment licences. That will cause significant problems, which is why new subsections (4), (5) and (6) have been tabled.
First, under the new legislation, the majority of premises licences will run continually until surrendered or revoked. What possible incentive is there, therefore, for operators to pay their ongoing annual fee? The Bill appears to contain no redress or active action that local authorities can take. It is a bit like people saying that they want to defer their car tax for a month or so, because they cannot afford it this month. The principle is exactly the same.
Secondly, there is the issue of the unnecessary time and resource burden on local authorities who will have to chase up the fee. The Bill assumes that local authorities will have the time and resources to chase up fees—a concern to local authorities across England and Wales. In the real world of local authorities' priorities, they will have to choose whether to spend council tax payers' money on subsidising a debt collection service for the licence fee or whether to spend the same money on teachers, books or other things that they may think more important.
The potential impact of a reduction in the cash flow necessary to keep the licensing system running should not be underestimated. Local authority budgets cannot sustain year-on-year under-achievement of income because licensees have no incentive to pay. The result could be an under-funded, inefficient service of benefit to no one—especially not to responsible licensees who pay on time.
In essence, that is the heart of the issue. If 5 per cent of the 1,500 licensed premises in Camden council's area—to cite that example again—do not pay up on time, that amounts to 75 premises. First, they must be identified. Then letters need to be sent to them—which is, perhaps, two full days' work. Then further chasing will be needed. Then the matter will have to be passed on to the finance section for further chasing. If, say, 20 of the 75 still do not pay up, legal fees, bailiffs, debt collectors and possibly court proceedings will be involved. That cannot be a sensible use of our council tax payers' money.
In fact, it is highly likely that the cost to the council of recovering the annual fee from licensees who are slow in paying will be equal to, if not significantly more, than the value of fee. That will be in addition to the extra costs and resources that local authorities will have to find to process the initial increase in applications. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have sympathy with the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, but I observe that paragraph 8 of the draft guidance to local authorities includes a large section—which does not spring immediately to mind—regarding conditions attached to premises licences. As the noble Baroness said, the payment of fees is vital to the proper administration of the scheme by local authorities. I cannot see any reason why a condition should not be attached to the licence specifying that fees must be paid annually on whatever date is necessary—presumably, the anniversary of the application for the licence, but that may not be so. I ask the Minister: is such a provision in mind under the conditions that attach to premises licences?
My Lords, we also support the amendment. I had assumed that a premises licence included a public entertainment licence, so that the two would not be divorced. However, if regulations are to be set, will the provisions be added to them, or do they need to be in the Bill?
My Lords, the conditions in these amendments would make the penalty for late or non-payment of the annual fee a suspension of the premises licence or club premises certificate. As I said when the amendments were discussed in Committee, the approach is disproportionate. I cannot agree with my noble friend.
She is being unduly pessimistic in her assumption about non-payment also. So far as I understand it, there is not a serious problem of non-payment of fees for entertainment licences, for which local authorities are currently responsible. I see no reason why there should be problems with fee payment for alcohol licences either. Any unpaid fees will be recoverable as debts. Local authorities already have powers to recover debts. But the actions proposed by these amendments in cases of non-payment or late payment of fees could threaten the livelihoods of many people, not just premises licence-holders. I agree entirely that fees should be paid, and that that should happen on time. I am sure that local authorities will encourage licence-holders to do just that. But late or non-payment of fees could be the result of something as simple as administrative oversight, and one reminder could produce the fee. In such cases, suspending a licence is not an appropriate or proportionate sanction.
The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked whether a condition about the payment of the fee would be attached to the licence. Such a condition does not relate to the licensing objectives, so it would not be appropriate to attach it to the licence. Payment of the fee is a matter of law and is legally enforceable. I suppose that it would be perfectly feasible to include a provision about fee payment in the regulations, but I do not think that the Government intend to do so at present.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, my understanding is that, at present, a public entertainment licence lapses if the fee is not paid. Without a penalty, there is no incentive to pay. Is the Minister saying that the Government regard past practice as totally unsatisfactory and unfair, when it has worked perfectly satisfactorily? Because there is a penalty, licence-holders have made sure that they pay the fee on time.
My Lords, I am extremely sorry; if the noble Lord is right, I stand corrected. I was not aware that the present system of entertainment licensing involved the immediate suspension of a licence if the fee was paid late, or if there was a delay in passing the fee to the local authority. If I am wrong, I shall let the noble Lord know and place a letter in the Library.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answer and other noble Lords for their support. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton-Mandeville, was my precise reason for moving this amendment. I understand that the licence lapses if the fee is not paid. It is a jolly good way of making sure that people pay their fees on time. The approach works well, so it seems sensible to extend it to the whole licensing system.
I shall withdraw the amendment. But I ask the Minister to look again at the matter, which we can perhaps discuss at some other time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 124:
Page 32, line 19, at end insert—
"( ) In regulations made under this section, the Secretary of State shall prescribe a nil fee to certain categories of premises which shall include—
(a) church halls,
(b) village halls,
(c) parish halls,
(d) community centres, and
(e) similar community buildings."
My Lords, this important amendment would result in nil fees for certain categories of premises. We considered it following an extensive and fruitful debate in Committee. The amendment is straightforward and self-explanatory. We moved a similar amendment in Committee in respect of which we argued that the financial burden of a full premises licence on community and parish halls would be potentially crippling and stifle the use of such buildings for local events.
The Bill has raised a multitude of fears among non-profit-making organisations. Notwithstanding full debate and full responses by Ministers at previous stages, particularly in Committee, we are still receiving a significant amount of lobbying from all kinds of organisations—particularly non-profit-making bodies—that remain deeply concerned about several aspects of the Bill.
I am pleased to say that Amendment No. 124 is tabled in response to encouraging noises made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in Committee. She set out to clarify the position on the setting of fees in regulations, saying:
"The Bill provides for the Secretary of State to set a reduced or, indeed, nil fee for categories of premises in the regulations. We are looking at the position of all the premises types covered by the amendment, with a view to trying to minimise the financial burden so far as we can. That may well involve waiving the fee altogether, although various issues obviously need to be considered".—[Official Report, 16/1/03; col. 357.]
In the light of that positive response, I hope that we may be assured on the issue by the inclusion of details in the Bill. The Government clearly agree with our point in principle. Although the rest of the fees may be decided by regulation, such exemptions for premises hosting a range of community events would allay the fears of many small-scale, non-profit-making venues. We are clear in our amendment. We are looking simply at church halls, village halls, parish halls, community centres and similar community buildings. This is an occasion where something should be set in stone in the Bill rather than in regulations. We all know what happens with regulations in practice. They can be changed, but obviously there can be debate.
This issue affects so many people, particularly volunteers, who are not out to make a profit but simply to do all that they can to support their local community. Over the years we know that that will become increasingly difficult for communities. In that case, we believe that it would serve the Government well if they accepted this amendment and made clear in the Bill that there should be no fee for activities in those premises. I beg to move.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendments, which are also in the name of my noble friend Lord Falkland. The amendment is eminently sensible in the bodies that it sets out. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said that issues would arise from the nil fee for those premises. There will be a cost implication for local councils, if they are still expected to inspect the premises involved. However, the cost must be weighed against the social benefit of ensuring that the organisations involved are viable.
Village halls, in particular, are the lifeblood of many rural communities, and are under severe threat. Even the smallest charges are difficult to meet from the limited funds of many such bodies.
A further consequence of no inspections would be the safety implications. Obviously, inspections should continue on a regular basis. The Government indicated that churches will be exempt from inspections. Will the Minister give an indication of the level at which inspections will take place on these buildings if no fees were set under regulation? I hope that the Minister accepts the amendment.
My Lords, I support the amendment. If the Minister is not ready to come forward with this solution, will she at least tell your Lordships the issues that need to be considered? She mentioned them on 16th January at col. 357 of the Official Report, as indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. If they are not complex issues, the Minister has had almost six weeks in which to consider them. I should have thought that at least a description of the issues could be put forward so that we know precisely what is involved. Small village halls work on extraordinarily precarious economics. They even have whip-rounds. My former home was in the village of Down in my former constituency of Orpington. Every so often I receive a letter asking whether I will contribute to the cost of running the village hall; and I am delighted to do that. That demonstrates that the economics of such village halls mean that they cannot break even on the activities that take place in them, but need to be subsidised by the generosity of local residents and anyone else that can be roped-in. To charge village halls fees on top of other costs which they already incur while maintaining what is essentially a service to local people, would be an additional burden that they do not deserve. I hope that the Minister will agree to this amendment.
My Lords, I do not want to waste the time of the House, but I want to say that all these halls and community centres operate on a shoestring. Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I receive letters from the new town—except I suppose that these days it is an old new town—of Skelmersdale, and my family has not lived there for three generations. Perhaps I am a little more divorced from it than the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.
It is important that the lowest possible fee—which ideally should be a nil fee—be charged for licences for these types of places. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, raised health and safety issues. During the passage of the Bill, we have been told time and again by Ministers that certain aspects of linked but somewhat extraneous law are outwith the purposes of the Bill. Fire inspections and health and safety inspections of village halls, community centres and so forth, must fall into that category.
My Lords, the Government have taken seriously the many representations that we have received on this issue. On 7th February we confirmed that we intend to exempt church halls, chapel halls and other similar buildings occupied in connection with a place of public religious worship. In addition, village halls, parish or community halls and other similar buildings will be exempt from the fees for entertainment under the licensing regime.
Our intention mirrors current licensing law outside London where such premises are already exempt from the fee for an entertainment licence, although not from the licensing regime itself. Inside Greater London a fee is payable. Our scheme therefore represents a considerable liberalisation within London.
However, we do not agree that it is necessary, or would be helpful, to set these arrangements out on the face of the Bill. It would weaken the flexibility to extend the fee exemption to other classes of premises if it became clear, in the light of experience of the new system, that that would be desirable.
I hope that those on Benches opposite accept that this is a firm undertaking to carry out the proposals in the amendment. We are now on record in the House and elsewhere that this is what we intend to do—and we shall do it. It is to be hoped that noble Lords agree that the Government's clear statement of intent ensures that small local entertainment, so vital to our communities, continues to thrive and develop as a result of this concession. On that basis, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. We are grateful for the concession that the Government have made with regard to these particular types of premises. I also thank noble Lords who supported the amendment. However, I take issue with the Minister at the suggestion that having this list clearly on the face of the Bill would limit the ability of the Government at a future date to extend the exemption. Having the list on the face of the Bill should not be considered exclusive. However, I am grateful that during today's debate, and in a letter to me, the Minister has confirmed that the Government are keen not to exempt, but to ascribe a nil fee to these categories of premises. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 126:
Page 35, line 28, at end insert—
"(7) Nothing in the following condition applies to a club which restricts membership to persons of one sex.
(8) Condition 6 is that the club does not practise sex discrimination (within the meaning of section 1(1) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) (sex discrimination against women)) in the arrangements made or operated as regards the rights of participation in the governance of the club."
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked me to move this in his place. He has had to leave in order to fulfil another commitment. Amendment No. 126 stands in the names of my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In speaking to this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 127 and 128, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Lester.
We have reached Part 4 of the Bill, which deals with clubs. In order to obtain a club premises certificate under this part, a club must be a qualifying club. Under Clause 60, if a club wishes to provide alcohol or entertainment or both, it must satisfy each of the five conditions set out in Clause 61. If the club wishes to supply alcohol, whether or not it also provides entertainment, it must also meet the three additional conditions set out in Clause 63.
It might be helpful if I spoke first to Amendment No. 127, although that might take us out of numerical order. That amendment deals with a relatively straightforward point, which is distinct from the point raised in the other two. Amendment No. 127 would impose an additional condition along with the general conditions set out in Clause 61. It says:
"Condition 7 is that there is no finding by a court in proceedings under section 20 of the Race Relations Act 1976 . . . that the club has done an act which is unlawful by virtue of section 25 . . . of that Act".
That condition would not apply in cases in which the finding was made before the clause came into force or more than three years before the application.
The Race Relations Act 1976 applies to clubs. If a club is found guilty of discrimination on grounds of race, legal proceedings can be started against it and sanctions can be applied. Amendment No. 127 would create an additional sanction, the effect of which would be that, for three years after there had been a finding against the club, the club would not be able to apply for a club premises certificate, as it would not be a qualifying club. That sanction should be applied. It would be a powerful sanction against racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is a serious evil, and banning such a club from applying for a club premises certificate for three years is a proportionate penalty for breaching the Race Relations Act.
Amendments Nos. 126 and 128 apply to the question of sex discrimination. The position is different because the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 does not apply to private members' clubs. As is well known, private clubs retain the right to be men-only or women-only clubs. However, there are clubs to which women are admitted as members but in which they are excluded from certain rights enjoyed by men who are members. We are particularly concerned with the right to participate in the management and governance of the club, and we feel strongly that such exclusion is a breach of the spirit of the Sex Discrimination Act.
The exemption of clubs under that Act was intended to protect a long-standing right—it may now be thought by many to be anachronistic, but it has a great deal of tradition behind it—to have clubs of which only men or only women could be members. My noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill is in a better position than, perhaps, anyone else now living to know about the Sex Discrimination Act, as he was involved in its creation. The intention of the Act was not to allow women to be admitted to membership of a club only as second-class members. We believe therefore that the appropriate step to take would be to say that a club which allows women to join, but then makes them second-class members because they are not allowed to take part on an equal basis in the governance of the club, should not be entitled to a club premises certificate. In order to gain the certificate, the club must admit women on terms of full equality as regards its governance.
I understand that an amendment tabled in Committee would have gone still further by providing that a club premises certificate could be issued only in a case where women were equally entitled to participate in all the functions and benefits provided by the club. We have narrowed that down and are now bringing forward an amendment to apply only where women cannot take part on equal terms in the management of the club.
Amendment No. 126 adds a further condition to the general conditions set out in Clause 61 which would exclude the right of a club to be a qualifying club if it practised sex discrimination,
"in the arrangements made or operated as regards the right of participation in the governance of the club".
Part of the amendment also makes clear that that condition does not apply to single-sex clubs. However, whenever a club admits members of both sexes, then the condition as regards participation in the governance of the club must be satisfied.
Amendment No. 128 deals with Clause 63, which sets out the three conditions for those clubs wishing to sell alcohol. It requires that the purchase of alcohol must be managed by a committee whose members are,
"(a) members of the club;
(b) have attained the age of 18 years; and
(c) are elected by the members of the club".
It may well be that under the provision, women would be entitled to take part in the voting procedure, but it would be legitimate to say that although they might be able to vote for the committee because they were members, the club could validly have a rule that excluded women from membership of the committee which purchased the alcohol. We feel that that activity is also an important part of the governance of the club and therefore, for the avoidance of doubt—although it may well be implicit in Amendment No. 126—we believe that it should be spelt out as suggested in Amendment No. 128. Membership of the committee as well as the right to vote for members of the committee must be open to members of both sexes.
We believe the amendments to be important and useful. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased to support the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, pointed out, I have added my name to Amendment No. 126.
The three amendments take forward our debate in Committee on the issue of sex discrimination in clubs. At that stage I moved an amendment which sought to make unlawful discrimination in the provision of goods and services, access to facilities and participation in the governance of clubs.
The crucial piece of legislation which is to be repealed by this Bill is Schedule 7 to the Licensing Act 1964, which deals with the governance of such clubs. The schedule states that the affairs of private members' clubs,
"must be managed by one or more elective committees", and that,
"There must . . . be a general meeting of the club at least once in every year", at which the voting must be confined to members. The 1964 Act goes on to say,
"all members entitled to use the club premises must be entitled to vote, and must have equal voting rights".
"the rules may exclude from voting . . . women if the club is primarily a men's club, and men if the club is primarily a women's club.
I think it fair to say that in Committee some confusion arose about whether the repeal of Schedule 7 to the 1964 Act left the situation better or worse than before. My concern was that repealing the schedule would make the situation worse because it would remove the modest protection for governance.
When my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham replied to the debate—I believe that I am paraphrasing what he said fairly accurately—he tended to agree and said that he would look further at the matter because it was not desirable, obviously, for the situation to be made worse. He was kind enough to offer a meeting with himself and his officials, which was held on 11th February. It was attended by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, and myself. We had an interesting discussion on these matters and the officials promised to come back to us with further advice on how the Bill would affect the governance of clubs.
Noble Lords who attended that meeting received today, at lunch-time, a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Davies, in which he states that the primary escape clause is repealed. However, if I understand the letter correctly—I hope that my noble friend appreciates that I have not had long to study it—the Bill represents a modest step forward as all full and associate members, men and women, will be empowered to vote for the committee.
I hope that this means that committees elected as a result of these new governance arrangements will, if they wish, be able to eliminate discrimination in the provision of facilities and access to them. I hope that when my noble friend replies he will confirm that that is the case. If it is, and the situation is taken forward and improved as a result of the Bill, I would not encourage the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to press his amendments.
Tomorrow, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will introduce the Second Reading of his Equality Bill, which deals with this and many other equality issues. I am looking forward to taking part in that debate and to supporting him on that occasion as well.
My Lords, having recently returned from the dentist I have had even less time to read the Minister's letter. I support entirely everything that has been said about all three amendments. It is absolutely crucial that the position is made clear. Unless the Minister can assure us that what he states in the letter is accurate and can be referred to should the need arise, we would wish to press the matter further. But, in the meantime, that is quite enough from me.
My Lords, I feel slightly irresponsible in that what I am about to say is purely a jeu d'esprit. I declare an interest as a member of both the Beefsteak Club and Brooks's Club, which admit ladies as guests but not to membership.
In the 1930s, in the latter of those two clubs, Brooks's, a noble Duke—presumably, at that stage, a Member of this House—was dozing in an armchair when he became conscious that a man and a woman had entered the room. He waited for them to leave the room. When they did so, he pressed a button and a club servant arrived. The Duke said, "What was that?" The club servant said, "That, your Grace, was the club secretary and Her Majesty the Queen". "The thin end of the wedge", said the Duke, and shut his eyes.
I feel that somewhere in another place the shade of that noble Duke will be enjoying the fact that at least three-quarters of a century later we are still discussing these matters.
My Lords, I cannot accept these amendments. It is not the business of the Bill to make judgments on the composition of clubs. I am probably old fashioned, but in general terms I believe that the purpose of clubs is to bring together like-minded souls. It is for the club to decide its own rules.
My Lords, I should not be surprised if the focus is mostly on clubs in London. However, I got the impression that the clubs mainly affected by the proposal will be golf clubs. I abhor the game of golf—I find it boring and cannot play it. However, the amendment may be able to remove a perennial problem that arises in many golf clubs around the country, which I find anachronistic; namely, women not being allowed full voting rights. This issue should be moved forward and the Bill should address it. Many golf clubs rely heavily for their continuance on the income from bars. I raise the matter partly because I had a long and detailed argument with my brother-in-law about voting rights in golf clubs.
My Lords, when, a few moments ago, I raised the matter of paragraph 10 of the draft guidance, the noble Baroness the Minister slapped me down, very nicely but very firmly, by pointing out that the conditions refer to licensing objectives. Surely, if that is the case as regards premises, it ought to apply to clubs. There is nothing in the objectives, so far as I can see, which covers the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart.
My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment. It follows on from the very full debate that we had on this subject in Committee. I have spoken on this issue on a number of occasions in this House. I do so with the support of Her Majesty's Opposition, as a matter of policy. We will not support any proposal that makes women second-class citizens.
Noble Lords have talked about being old-fashioned. They might feel differently were they to be put in the invidious position of being allowed only into certain parts of a premises. At a reception I attended recently I met a wonderful lady who explained to me how one day, as the first woman member of the board of British Rail, she was put in a very difficult position. A luncheon was held in a club that shall remain nameless, a club that invited women in as guests. The luncheon was held on the first floor. The other members of the board of British Rail walked up the stairs and she was in the awful position of having to go up the back stairs. The other members of the board were rightly embarrassed by the situation. It had not even occurred to them how she might feel having to use the back stairs as though she were a second-class member. Having met her, I suspect that she was indeed first-class and ahead of her colleagues.
I need add little to what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote. This is an extremely important area. I am sorry that I was unable to attend the meeting on 11th February when this matter was discussed fully and sensibly. I feel that I have been "meeting-ed out" lately and for some reason I could not be present. I regret that, because I may have been tempted to see whether I could put my name to, for example, Amendment No. 127. I want to show great sympathy for this important amendment. As explained to us by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, it represents a powerful faction against racial discrimination. In that regard, I have a great deal of sympathy for the proposal, as I hope the Government will.
I hear what my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale says about whether such a proposal is apparent in the licensing objectives. But I believe that in this House we are in a privileged position. When scrutinising legislation, we can look for any opportunity to try to put right matters which we passionately believe—in different ways; we have the wonderful right to differ—to be discriminatory and unfair and which compromise the quality of people's lives for no good reason. I have great sympathy in relation to Amendments Nos. 127 and 128. It is an extraordinary situation when a woman has the right to vote for a committee but no right to have membership of the committee. That happens in many cases still, and it cannot be right. I appeal to all noble Lords who have never been in the position of being discriminated against to imagine what it feels like to be compromised in that way.
My Lords, we had an extremely interesting debate in Committee on similar amendments. My noble friend Lord Faulkner took the leading role in that debate. The debate has been interesting again today.
The noble Lord, Lord Lester, was present at the meeting to which noble Lords referred when we discussed these issues and after which he tabled the amendments. He has a great reputation for the work he has done in this area. I regret that he is not with us today, but the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, did more than an ample job of stepping in for him, as noble Lords would expect. He presented the amendments with customary force.
I make the obvious point that the Government support the broad concept behind the amendments. We recognise exactly what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, spoke about—the adverse effects of discrimination. She is not the only contributor to this debate who could have made that point with force. Only temporary ill health may have restrained the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, from speaking about the issues with force.
Discrimination on sexual grounds is not acceptable in our society, and we want it to be removed. There is another amendment dealing with the equally important issue of racial discrimination. The Government recognise that substantial work is being done in this Session of Parliament to address those issues. A Private Member's Bill is passing through the Commons with government support. My noble friend Lord Faulkner referred to the fact that tomorrow we will discuss another Private Member's Bill on equality. There is activity in Parliament to promote the principles of equality.
Our contention is that the Bill is not a suitable vehicle for advancing these issues, which need to be addressed more comprehensively. When they are addressed, the subsequent provisions will be valid for all institutions in the land. This Bill is concerned only with licensing; it has a restricted objective.
I was concerned in Committee by the contention that the Government, by repealing the Licensing Act 1964, were weakening the defences against discrimination. I am happy to take this occasion to reinforce what I conveyed in my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to which noble Lords who attended the meeting have also had access. It is important that the whole House should be aware of the fact that we are not reducing the protection against sex discrimination in clubs by repealing Schedule 7 to the Licensing Act 1964. This important issue was raised in Committee when I expressed my concern about the need to address it. I am now able to assert that the Bill marginally strengthens the position rather than, as some who spoke in Committee feared, weakens it.
As we know, sex discrimination in club membership is currently not unlawful. In determining whether a club may be registered for the purposes of the 1964 Act, the magistrates, in cases where a club does not conform to the provisions in Schedule 7 to that Act, have a discretion to consider whether it is established and conducted in good faith. Schedule 7, as a consequence, gives no absolute protection with regard to the mandatory application of its provisions.
There is only one area in which magistrates have to apply the provisions of Schedule 7 and have no discretion, and that is in the area of elective committees of clubs. Even here, however, the provisions of Schedule 7 provided a derogation. Although Schedule 7 applies certain voting requirements for elective committees, to the effect that all members entitled to use the club must be entitled to vote for the committee, there is an important exception. Where the club is primarily a men's club, women may be excluded from voting. Where the club is primarily a women's club, men may be excluded from voting. That obviously undermines any value which Schedule 7 has in reducing sex discrimination. The Bill removes that anomaly in the mandatory area and therefore improves the position.
Clauses 61, 62 and 63 clearly improve the position. Under the Bill, where a club supplies alcohol, the committee which purchases the alcohol must be elected by the members of the club. The effect of the formulation in Clause 63(2)(c) is that all members of the club of any class of membership must vote for the committee. For these purposes, the reference to "member" would not include "associate members" as defined in Clause 66. They are members of another recognised club or a guest of such a person. Unlike Schedule 7 to the 1964 Act, this provision does not have any exceptions and can therefore truly be seen as a strengthening of the voting rights from the standpoint of the prevention of sex discrimination. I therefore feel that we have taken on board the representations made in Committee and have ensured that the Bill marginally improves the position.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, also emphasised the significance of Amendment No. 127 on the issue of race discrimination. I believe that that stems from a concern that the Bill, when enacted, would override the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976. However, it is already unlawful for an association, which would include a qualifying club, to discriminate on the grounds of race under Section 25 of the Race Relations Act 1976. That is a specific provision in law, and the rules of statutory interpretation mean that the provisions in the 1976 Act will not be overridden by the provisions of Part 4 of the Licensing Bill. Therefore, although I have listened to the noble Lord's comments on Amendment No. 127, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary.
Amendment No. 127 also has the disadvantage of being somewhat disproportionate as it would impose the further condition, for a club to be a qualifying club, that it had not committed an unlawful act under Section 25 of the Race Relations Act in the three years prior to the application for a club premises certificate. I realise that the noble Lord regards that as a powerful sanction. However, the Government maintain that the provisions of the 1976 Act will apply in relevant cases to counter any abuse.
I have made it clear that the Government have every sympathy with the intention behind these amendments, but this issue is best tackled by means of sex discrimination legislation. As I have indicated, the race relations issue is covered by existing legislation.
The Bill improves on the current situation and will not remove any protection against discrimination on the basis of either sex or race afforded by existing legislation. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, said. He will recognise that on this occasion, his was a minority voice. It is a voice that we hear on many occasions, the last time being in Committee. However, the Government stand four square with the principle that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, identified in her concluding speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, referred to the provisions that would be affected by Amendment No. 128. If all the members of the club have voted for the committee, it would surely seem odd to then place a form of control on the way in which members of private members' clubs elected members of the committee. Surely there should be freedom of choice for the club, as long as we guarantee that all members have the right to elect the committee. Under this licensing measure, they have the right to apply for a licence.
I understand that there is no way in which I can satisfy all the representations made on these amendments. They stem from a position of real principle deeply felt by Members on both sides of the House, and I am dealing with a measure that is on the margins of these issues. I hope that I have given the assurance necessary that the Bill makes a marginal step in the right direction. In addition, we have other legislation on the stocks to which noble Lords will address themselves in due course.
My Lords, my noble friend's reply was very helpful, but will he assure me that a committee of a club that is classified as primarily a men-only club which, under the new rules, would have to change, will not be allowed to pass a series of regulations which disfranchise women members who are associates from taking part in future elections?
My Lords, the Bill does not prescribe how private clubs should operate. The committee applying for the licence must reflect the membership of the club because it will take responsibility respecting all the provisions of the Bill when it is enacted. Within that framework, women members of the club can participate.
My Lords, I imagine that the Minister will not be surprised to hear that his response comes nowhere near satisfying me. I am very grateful, as, I am sure is my noble friend Lord Lester, for the general, though not universal, support that the amendments in the group have received.
The Minister says that Clauses 61, 62 and 63 marginally improve the position. I can only say that the improvement is so marginal as to be almost invisible. I can see no justification for saying that although women are now entitled to vote for membership of what I call the alcohol committee under Clause 63(2), it is perfectly legitimate for the club to pass a rule that women cannot be elected as members of the alcohol committee. If the Government are prepared to legislate to give all members a right to vote for the alcohol committee, it is wholly appropriate and logical that they should take the further step of saying that any member, subject to an age restriction, must be eligible to be a member of that committee.
However, in the circumstances, I do not intend to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 132:
Page 39, line 38, at end insert—
"( ) the local planning authority within the meaning given by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) for any area in which the premises are situated,"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 133 to 135 not moved.]
Clause 69 [Other definitions relating to clubs]:
My Lords, I declare an interest as an active member of the Parliamentary All-Party Group for Non-Profit Making Members' Clubs. This is a straightforward amendment to correct an omission in the Bill.
If Clause 69 is passed in its present form, members' clubs, including organisations such as the CIU, the Conservative Association, the Labour and Socialist Clubs, the Liberal Democrat clubs, the British Legion and others, will be deprived of a service that they have enjoyed for over 40 years: the right for a club to sell to its own members in person alcohol to be consumed off the club's premises. That right is enshrined in Section 39(2) of the Licensing Act 1964, which the Bill will replace. It says:
"No intoxicating liquor shall, on any premises in respect of which a club is registered, be supplied by or on behalf of the club for consumption off the premises except to a member in person".
I have been a member of members' clubs for more than 50 years and I have never known any difficulties or problems in relation to the operation of that part of the 1964 Act. It is not a major contribution to any club's prosperity; it is simply a service to its members.
I suspect that the right of clubs to sell liquor to their own members in person—I stress that no one can walk off the streets and purchase liquor for consumption on or off the premises in a club of which they are not a member—was overlooked when the Bill was drafted. There is nothing in the draft guidelines referring to this strange omission. I trust that my noble friend will accept my amendment and restore to members' clubs the status quo that they have enjoyed for more than 40 years. I beg to move.
My Lords, I emphasise that the Government recognise that there is much to be valued in this country's club movement and the role that private clubs play in our society. Of course, different considerations arise in relation to clubs, which are private premises to which public access is restricted. That is why they are treated differently and separately from pubs, bars and other licensed premises. It is why the supply of alcohol for consumption by members and guests on premises for which there is in a force a premises certificate is subject to a different regime, with lighter controls.
However, that applies only where clubs are run properly, where they do not pose a threat to the licensing objectives and where they do not seek, or encourage, trade from non-members. Safeguards are necessary here, as they are throughout the Bill, to prevent crime, disorder and public nuisance and to ensure public safety and the protection of children from harm. My noble friend, who has played a significant role with regard to working men's clubs, will confirm that the vast majority of such clubs present no problems in regard to the objectives I mentioned.
However, the amendment seeks to alter the definition of the supply of alcohol in relation to qualifying clubs. In doing so, it would affect all of Part 4, which sets out the new system for private member's clubs, and would broaden the scope of activities covered by the system of club premises certificates to allow for the supply of alcohol for consumption off the club premises.
Under the Bill, club premises certificates would not permit the supply of alcohol to members or guests for consumption off the premises—a premises licence would be needed for that.
My Lords, I ask my noble friend to withdraw the remark about guests. Guests have no right whatever to purchase alcohol in a club for consumption on, and definitely not, for consumption off the premises. The right of an individual member to purchase alcohol for consumption off the premises has existed for over 40 years, and exists today, and has never constituted an abuse at any time under any circumstances of which I am aware.
My Lords, I stand corrected on the point with regard to guests and their ability to purchase alcohol. I shall not try to compete with my noble friend's knowledge with regard to the purchase of alcohol at private clubs. However, no one has asked us to change the position. Indeed, we have received representations from certain quarters that we may have been overly-protective of the club movement. We listened to those representations but concluded that the club tradition in this country is so important to the life of the country that it is worth preserving as it is. That is what we set out to do and I firmly believe that the Bill achieves that.
Requiring clubs to apply for a premises licence to supply alcohol for consumption off the premises would require the specification of a designated premises supervisor and ensure the presence within the club of at least one personal licence holder. As noble Lords will know, under the Bill, to qualify for a personal licence, individuals must be over 18, not have had their licence forfeit in the previous five years, have no relevant unspent convictions and possess a recognised qualification. That qualification would cover issues of social responsibility and all the offences relating to the sale or supply of alcohol.
The requirement for a premises licence is justified in relation to off supplies or sales on the grounds of promoting the licensing objectives as it would also ensure appropriate powers for the authorities to deal quickly and effectively with premises that have become a source of disorder, nuisance or crime.
My noble friend's amendment would substantially change the position. We seek to preserve the present position, recognising the value of clubs. I hope that on that basis my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I appreciate the difficulty of my noble friend in that he is not particularly au fait with the whole situation with regard to the club movement. I confess my dismay at his reply but, as I say, I understand his difficulty. Will my noble friend Lord Davies and my noble friend the Minister consider the matter further before Third Reading? I shall certainly consult the clubs association—
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will allow me to intervene as the only opportunity I have to respond to that point is to intervene in his speech. I hope that he will forgive that rudeness on my part. I recognise that he presented the issue forcefully and contended that the provision would cause serious harm to the club movement. I should be only too happy to discuss the matter further with him.
My Lords, as we made clear in Committee, the Government recognise that different considerations arise in relation to clubs, which are private premises to which public access is restricted. That is why they are treated separately from pubs, bars and other licensed premises. I made that point when responding to my noble friend's amendment a few moments ago. It is why the supply of alcohol for consumption by members and guests on premises for which there is in force a club premises certificate are subject to a different regime with lighter controls.
In drafting the Bill, where appropriate, provisions have been applied to both premises with a premises licence and those with a club premises certificate. Clause 72 seeks to apply what is a mandatory condition for premises licences—that, where the condition is attached to a licence that door supervisors are required, the licence must include a condition that those supervisors are registered with the Security Industry Authority—to club premises certificates also.
As a result of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, as consequentially amended, that mandatory condition does not apply to premises used exclusively by clubs with a club premises certificate. That means that Clause 72 is disapplied in relation to the very premises to which it actually applies. It is therefore unnecessary, and Amendment No. 145 seeks to remove it. Amendments Nos. 138, 143, 155, 161, 280 and 281 are consequential, removing references to Clause 72. I hope that noble Lords will support the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 166, which proposes a new clause to Clause 102, to Amendments Nos. 170, 174, 176 and 178 in Clause 103 and to Amendments Nos. 179, 182 and 184 to 186 in Clause 104. Most of those amendments, noble Lords will be pleased to know, are consequential.
This group of amendments deals with extending the notice period and the grounds for objection to cover all the licensing objectives, and to make provision for the fire and licensing authorities to object to an application if they believe that that is necessary. The House heard many of the arguments in favour of the amendments at earlier stages of the Bill. While I do not want to delay our proceedings unnecessarily, it is right that comments should be made on the replies given in Committee by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey. We considered proposals to, among other things, extend the notice period that must be given to local authorities from 10 to 28 days; allow local authorities and fire authorities—not simply the police authority—to object; extend the "notice to object" period for police, fire and local authorities from 10 to 28 working days; and give powers to the relevant authorities to object on the grounds of all of the licensing objectives and not simply the crime prevention objective. I hope that the Government will reconsider their objections to the amendments.
I recognise and support the Government's plans to simplify the temporary events application procedure. In answer to the inquiry posed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh in Committee—he was explaining why the relevant authorities need more than 10 days' notice—I say to him and the House that it is recognised that in the vast majority of cases, applications for temporary events, such as church fetes, will be uncontroversial. However, there will be a minority of cases, such as an application for music festivals and other events involving, for example, marquees, where local authorities will have a duty to investigate the application and undertake noise and safety checks.
In addition, there will be some cases, such as a proposed event being put on by a major club promoter that is likely to attract more than 500 people, when local consultation will need to happen. Ten working days will not be enough time in which to send out letters to residents and receive responses. Twenty-eight days is the current notification period, and it is a reasonable notice period for any event, whether a pop festival or a church fete. Organisations putting on events usually advertise those events well in advance to attract people to the event. It is clear that the Government recognise the importance of having a reasonable notice period.
In the draft guidance relating to Clause 177, temporary event notice 9.9 states:
"Ten working days is the minimum possible notice that may be given. Licensing authorities should publicise locally their preferences in terms of proper notice and encourage notice givers to provide the earliest possible notice of events likely to take place".
If the Government acknowledge that a longer notice period of 10 days should be given, why can it not be included in the Bill? A better solution would be to formalise the process and increase the notice period in the Bill. In that way regional variations of notice will be avoided.
I turn to the amendments that deal with extending the grounds to object to cover the licensing objectives and allow the fire and licensing authorities to make objections. I again refer to the points made by my noble friend Lord McIntosh, who said in Committee that allowing fire and licensing authorities to object on the grounds of all the licensing objectives would make life difficult for applicants. He also said that it would require them to "jump through hoops".
It is my firm belief that allowing licensing and fire authorities to object will affect only a small number of applications. I refer, for example, to music events and other events where authorities have legitimate grounds for believing they will attract more than 500 people, the permitted limit for temporary events. It is inconceivable that local authorities will want to object to school fetes or Women's Institute coffee mornings; they would have no reasonable grounds, time or resources to do so. Increasing the number of objectors who can be considered is necessary to ensure consistency and uniformity through the Bill. That will simplify the application process.
The legislation as it stands requires a potential event organiser to apply to the local authority for an occasional licence. The local authority then surveys the venue and takes into account the size of the venue, the type of entertainment and any special effects, and so on. It assesses the suitability of the premises, sets an accommodation limit and ensures that noise nuisance is minimised.
Under the proposed new system of temporary event notices, local authorities would not be able to object. Therefore, it is possible that applications will be received for venues which are not suitable for public entertainment, regardless of the numbers attending. The police are not qualified to assess the suitability of premises or to calculate capacity. Under the new system, therefore, the possibility of the use of unsafe venues for one-off events is greatly increased.
Without the wider objectives being taken into account, there will be instances when safety and noise legislation cannot be brought to bear. For example, an event put on by volunteers is not subject to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act as no one is at work. It is obvious that the legislation would not apply in those circumstances. That means it will not be possible to protect public safety at such events. That cannot be right.
Considerable noise nuisance can be caused by such events and it will be difficult for local authorities to take action once the event is under way. An organisation cannot be said to be asked to "jump through hoops" if it is simply asked to indicate how it will comply with the law.
Section 9.10 of the draft guidance, which deals with temporary event notices, states:
"Licensing authorities may not seek to attach any terms, limitations or restrictions on such events other than those set down in the legislation. It is however desirable for licensing authorities to provide local advice about proper respect for the concerns of local residents; of other legislative requirements regarding heath and safety; noise pollution or the building of temporary structures".
Providing local advice about public safety and public nuisance is good practice. However, there seems little point in doing so if local authorities are then unable to assess the premises to ensure that the measures taken by the organisers to address public safety and noise pollution are sufficient and, if the measures taken are not sufficient, to have the right to object to the temporary event taking place. As I said, current safety legislation cannot deal with these matters.
In conclusion, we are all aware that police resources are stretched in most areas of the country and therefore the police will not always be able to respond to public safety or public nuisance call-outs on the day of the event. It is much better to consider these objectives at the time of application for the temporary event.
A further consideration is the tragedy of the fire at Rhode Island last Thursday night. That occurred as a result of the unauthorised use of pyrotechnics. Under the current system of occasional licences, local authorities would pick that up and control the use of pyrotechnics through conditions. Under the proposed system, local authorities would not be able to object to the event, even if they knew that pyrotechnics were to be used by an inexperienced person in an unsuitable building. It is worth noting that the licensed capacity of the venue was 300. That event, which resulted in tragedy, would not have needed a premises licence under this proposal. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name appears in this group in that I have tabled Amendments Nos. 164 and 173. From the wording of Amendment No. 174 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, it will be apparent that essentially we are barking up the same tree. It was a tree that we visited in Committee.
When I withdrew certain amendments to this same effect in Committee, I expressed concern that we might find ourselves ruing a great tragedy at one such event because we did not have tighter regulation. I gave the Minister the benefit of the doubt on that occasion. He was eloquent in expressing his desire to secure deregulation, but I continue to have the concerns reflected by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke. Therefore, I am happy to support him.
My Lords, anyone who sat through Second Reading—the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is saying that he did not—would be somewhat surprised by the amendments. The whole thrust of criticism was that under the guise of deregulation the Bill in fact imposed new regulations. A number of examples were given of bodies which in the past had not been regulated. There were of course extreme examples, such as bell ringers, carol singers and so on. Specific examples used were those of village fetes and garden parties. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, was particularly eloquent in that area.
The Government's answer was that instead of the full premises licensing procedure we have temporary events notices. We explained that temporary events notices were available only for a maximum of five occasions in any one premises during the year, or for a maximum of 12 applications from any one person; that the events could not continue for more than three days, so that they could last for a weekend but for no longer; and that there was a maximum number of persons who could attend such a temporary event. We explained that the temporary event notice procedure was as simple and unbureaucratic as possible in order to meet the concerns of the large number of speakers at Second Reading who thought that the Bill was regulatory rather than deregulatory.
Now we have amendments that would bring the temporary notice procedure into a premises licensing procedure. Amendment No. 163A would extend the period of notice required and all the amendments would extend the number of people needing to be consulted and the basis on which objections could be raised. I do not say that this is the full premises licensing procedure, but it is different from the deregulatory procedures we set out in the Bill.
Amendment No. 163A is slightly different from the other amendments. It proposes that the period of notice should be extended to 28 days. I was never sure in which parts of my noble friend Lord Clarke's speech he was quoting me or when he was speaking for himself. He did not change his tone of voice when he was quoting me. So I am not sure which pearls of wisdom were from him and which came from me.
We made it clear that 10 days is the minimum period of notice. We would encourage people to give more notice. A large number of temporary events are known about in advance and there is no reason why notice should not be given in advance. However, there are occasions when a voluntary or charitable group might want to make arrangements at the last minute and 10 days has been agreed with the police as being a reasonable minimum period in order for them to look at an application from the point of view of crime prevention. Therefore, we are unwilling to increase the burden on charitable and voluntary groups and those putting together temporary event notices and extend the period.
I think that I inadvertently gave a wrong figure. I said that an individual could give 12 notices in a year. An individual can give five notices a year if he is not a personal licence holder. A personal licence holder can give 50 notices.
I turn to the other amendments in the group.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for giving way. I wondered about his figure of 12 instead of 50. He may recall that in Committee we had a short dialogue as to how a record would be kept in relation to the figure of 50 during which he was not relieved with a note from those in the Box. He very kindly said that if he received an answer at a later stage he would write to me. I am not in any way remonstrating with him over the subsequent silence, but since the point about the figure of 50 has arisen, I remind him of that exchange.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, is entitled to remonstrate with me and he will receive a letter; I am sorry that he has not yet received one.
I turn to the other amendments in the group. Clauses 102, 103 and 104 set out the arrangements for giving temporary event notices to allow a licensable activity to be a permitted temporary activity carried on without a premises licence, or a personal licence holder, where alcohol is sold, following a simple notification to the licensing authority, acknowledgement from the licensing authority and compliance with the requirement to copy the event notice to the police. The premises user must also give a copy to the chief officer of police, who is the only authority with the power to object, if he is satisfied that allowing the premises to be used for the temporary event would undermine the crime prevention objective.
The amendments have several effects that would only make life difficult for the large number of individuals who may be running ad hoc events for charities, hospitals or voluntary organisations—in other words, amateurs, not the licensed trade. They would bring into play all the licensing objectives when deciding whether to issue an event notice, not just the crime prevention objective. They would allow the fire and licensing authorities to issue objection notices. In later amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, wants us to go further than that. They would allow a licensing authority to issue counter-notices following consideration of all the licensing objectives—not just the crime prevention objective.
Garden fetes, charitable fund-raisers and dances in local village halls should not be subjected to the additional hoops that many of the amendments would require. There is no need to expand the number of bodies needed to scrutinise them. As long as the police are satisfied with the proposals for the event and it meets the appropriate conditions—the permitted limit on numbers—there is no reason to impose any additional bureaucracy. If we were to accept the amendments, we should be giving the lie to many of the assurances that we have given on other aspects of the Bill. The system, and the Bill, allows those who do not ordinarily engage in such activities—amateurs, as I said—to carry on licensable activities on a temporary, strictly limited basis without having to fulfil the more rigorous requirements of a premises licence. I hope that the amendments will not be pressed.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his reply, but I express my surprise that he is surprised by the amendments. I should have thought that, given his long experience of local government and the time that he has spent in the House, he would not be surprised at anyone, on issues of public safety, trying hard to get a provision added to the Bill if he considers the Bill inadequate. I apologise to my noble friend for my tone of voice.
My Lords, I was not criticising my noble friend.
Well, my Lords, I had the impression that my noble friend was. He referred again in his reply to the point that I cited—he said that people would have to jump through hoops. The Minister said so again this evening. I was referring to that. In Committee, I thought that that was overdoing it a bit.
My noble friend refers to five cases a year. One tragedy in five years would be one tragedy too many. Police are professional in their job; so is the fire service. There is a role for both to play.
It is impossible for me to press my amendment, but I hope that even at this stage, the Government will consider that people's safety must be paramount at all times. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I heard the rumble from the Minister about my producing even more strenuous amendments than those that the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, and I tabled in Committee, to which he responded. As the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, moved the original amendment, he spoke after the Minister.
The Minister, in caricaturing what we were about, mildly misrepresented our position by emphasising a certain kind of event. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, moved amendments on the subject of garden parties and fetes, which the Minister used to characterise those events.
The Civic Trust's view was that events such as raves and small pop concerts were treated within the same purview. Local residents' concern about such events is necessarily much more vivid and occasioned the anxiety that prompted these amendments. Amendment No. 165 would provide the police with a longer period to object to temporary event notices. I beg to move.
My Lords, most of the arguments are as they were on the previous group of amendments. This is a system with a light touch. It provides only that a person giving notice to the licensing authority must give a copy of it to the police, and that that must be done at least 10 working days before the day on which the event period starts. We provide that the chief officer has 48 hours to give an objection notice. The noble Lord's amendment would provide 96 hours—four days—in which to respond. I have no objection to the police having longer to respond, but that would leave less time for the local authority to hold a hearing, unless we extended the temporary notice period beyond 12 days. I have given my reasons for opposing that. It would be re-regulatory and contrary to the thrust of the temporary events notice procedures.
My Lords, when I have addressed noble Lords on the Bill I have been more preoccupied about inner cities than rural areas. But it would surprise me if the issue did not arise in another place, where there may be greater rural representation. For the time being, I am content to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 167:
After Clause 102, insert the following new clause—
(1) Where an interested party or responsible authority wish to object to a temporary event notice, they may give a notice ("an interested party notice") which must state the reasons why they object and be given to—
(a) the relevant licensing authority, and
(b) the premises user.
(2) The interested party notice must be given no later than 14 days after the temporary event notice was given."
My Lords, I shall speak initially to Amendment No. 167 but also to Amendments Nos. 168, 169, 171, 172, 175, 177, 180, 181 and 183. I shall make an additional comment at the end on Amendments Nos. 246 and 247. I move these human rights amendments on Report because we did not deal with them at length in Committee.
On Amendment No. 167, the convention requires that those whose rights are affected by a decision of a licensing authority should be heard in connection with such a decision. Temporary events in the Bill are likely to engage rights of individuals and non-governmental organisations by virtue of Article 2, which relates to positive obligations on local authorities to take measures to protect safety; Article 8 on nuisance; Article 14 on non-discrimination, and Article 1 of Protocol 1. The amendment ensures that such affected parties have rights to make representations.
From the tenor of the Minister's response to the previous two groups of amendments, I am conscious that he would regard these as diminishing the climate with which the Government wish to surround such events. The other amendments in the group as far as Amendment No. 177 are consequential on the amendment introduced after Clause 102.
The amendment also brings the full scope of the convention into the decision by placing an obligation on the licensing authority to have regard to licensing objectives which, if the amendment to Clause 4 were accepted—it was not—will include the protection of human rights.
Finally, the provisions in Amendments Nos. 246 and 247 allow interested parties to appeal against decisions to grant permissions for temporary events. I suspect that in Committee in another place Members will return to some of the implications of the proposal. I beg to move.
My Lords, nearly all the arguments which I need to deploy, I deployed in respect of the previous amendments. This is a light-touch regime and is designed to meet the legitimate concerns of those who thought that things which are not now regulated should not be brought into the premises licence and person licence regime. I think they are right.
The system of permitted temporary activities is designed to be easy and simple, reflecting the temporary nature of the event, the use of the premises for a temporary period and the range of organisations and individuals who might make use of them. These amendments would make that more difficult. It seems to us that provided that the police are satisfied with the proposals for the event, and it meets the appropriate conditions in terms of permitted limits, numbers of persons and events, there should be no reason to impose any additional bureaucracy.
As these are by definition temporary events, there is no need to provide for objections by interested parties. I used the example of the school playing field opposite my house in London. Not more than five times a year, the former pupils of the school have a very loud party on a Saturday night which goes on until 4 a.m. As it is a wooden building, the recorded noise is very loud and unpleasant. But I do not want to set up a regime under which I can object to an activity which is legitimate and enjoyable for them just because it is inconvenient for me a few times a year. If there were to be a major nuisance, it would come to the attention of the police and they would have an opportunity to object. But to extend the process of objections to interested parties, as the amendment would, is over the top.
My Lords, it is not my responsibility that the amendments were grouped in this way and that the Minister was obliged to give the same answer three times in response to three groups of amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, and I had cause to table.
However, perhaps because fatigue is setting in late in the day, and the Minister has had to give the answer three times, I thought I heard him say in the final part of his last answer that the police would object if they thought there was something to object to. He implied that that would be the level of nuisance and noise. I understand that the only ground on which the police can object is that of crime prevention. Anything else does not fall within their purview. The Minister is anxious to ensure that I have understood correctly, so I will give way.
My Lords, I am happy to confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is right and that that was what I meant. If there were any risk of crime—a matter to which I would want to object, too—the police would know about it.
I am now in the fortunate position of the bellman in The Hunting of the Snark. By dint of having three groups of amendments, what I tell you three times is true.
My Lords, I am appreciative of the Minister having borrowed a phrase which I used the other day. Imitation is an extremely sincere form of flattery and I give the Minister a guarantee—as indeed I would have given to the bellman—that I was perfectly prepared to believe him the first time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, Clause 105 contains restrictions on the number of events that can be held by any one person or in respect of any one premises. If the person holding the event has a personal licence, he or she can hold 50 events in a year. If the person holding the event does not hold a personal licence, the number of events is restricted to five a year. In the case of a particular premises, there is a similar restriction to five events a year. The restriction on premises will create problems with village halls.
We can live with the first two restrictions. If anything, the first restriction is generous. It is difficult to envisage someone holding a personal licence and wanting to hold an event every week without having any premises on which to hold the event regularly. The second restriction is slightly more difficult. It restricts people without a personal licence to only five events. Institutions such as the Women's Institute can probably get around it by having different members hosting events throughout the year. The same cannot be said of the last restriction as regards village halls.
Village halls serve the community in various ways. In a typical small village in rural England, the Women's Institute, the Mothers' Union, the village horticultural society, the church, the scouts, the football and cricket teams and the village hall committee will hold many events in the course of a year in the village hall. Members of the public will often be invited to those events, and, often, alcohol will be sold. There will be no bar, and the alcohol will usually be a glass of red or white wine obtained with a ticket, with additional glasses thereafter being sold at a pound each. Outsiders may use the hall in a village. Again, alcohol may be served at such events, and the public might be invited.
In most villages, the village hall is the central point for the community. We have made that point all through the debate on the Bill. It is unacceptable for there to be a limit of only five events a year at which alcohol may be sold. When I raised the point in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, accepted that village halls were a different matter but said:
"They already require both licences to sell alcohol and public entertainment allowances".—[Official Report, 16/1/03; col. 386.]
That may be correct for village halls in larger villages where there is a bar and regular entertainment of one sort or another. However, it is not the case in smaller villages where there is no bar and whoever puts on the event provides the wine or whatever is drunk that evening. The organiser will apply for a temporary licence, which is what happens in villages throughout the countryside.
If the Bill is enacted in its present form, no more than five events at which alcohol is sold will be allowed. By the end of February, there will be no more events in the village hall, which will lose a substantial part of its income for the rest of the year and become unviable. I spoke about that at Second Reading with regard to my village of Goring-on-Thames. There are events every night in our village hall. We have no bar, but we have a strong community that holds itself together well through local events put on by volunteers taking up their time to get involved.
It is no use the Government suggesting that the village hall committee should apply for a premises licence. Everyone serving on a village hall committee in a small village will be a volunteer. They will have neither the time nor, necessarily, the expertise to apply for a premises licence. Village hall funds are already modest. The cost of preparing the application for a premises licence and the fees would consume a significant part of their income. As the Bill is currently drafted, village halls will have to stick to five events a year and that would be an absolute disaster. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have already been cited as the bellman and now I am in the role of Dr Doolittle with a pushmi-pullyu. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lord Clarke want to make the rules for temporary events tougher, while the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, wants them to be relaxed.
I love the idyllic picture both the noble Baroness and the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, have painted of village halls. However, I noted with interest that the noble Baroness's earlier amendment on village halls included in the list of venues community halls. Those are much more my experience. I represented Tottenham on the Greater London Council. That constituency contained a notorious council estate which was at the centre of serious riots during the 1980s. The estate had a community centre. Ultimately that centre was run by a relatively small clique of people who excluded many of those who wanted to come in. The hall had a premises licence and a bar, which to an extent was the basis of the hall. That centre was as far removed from the idyllic picture of the village hall painted this evening and throughout the passage of the Bill as anything that you could imagine. Today the centre is totally different. Everything has been cleaned up and the entire estate is a model of community action.
However, how can we distinguish in legislation between these types of premises? I suggest that it would be extremely difficult to do so and that the exemption now being sought would in fact make it difficult to put in place adequate control over the kind of community hall that I have just described. The amendment would allow an unlimited number of temporary events involving licensable activities to take place in village halls. In effect that would allow widespread circumvention of the licensing laws. Furthermore, it would undermine the balance we have sought to achieve between a light-touch regime and the protection of local residents.
I had thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, would oppose the amendment. It would have been logical and consistent for him to do so. We could be in danger of ending up with a system where alcohol could be sold from, or entertainment put on in, village halls all year round without the need of a licence and thus with no opportunity for local residents to object.
I understand the anxieties on both sides of the argument, but surely we ought not to be moving in this direction.
Quite on purpose we limited the amendment to cover only village halls because we are talking about what are essentially small village halls where there is no bar and people bring in any alcohol that is to be drunk that evening. It does sound idyllic, but I am proud to say that it is also real. That kind of activity and way of life, in spite of all the bullying and bureaucracy from central government, continues unabated at the local level. We should celebrate and encourage it for the years to come by ensuring that, in a Bill of this kind, we do not make life more difficult for local people working voluntarily and trying to do whatever they can to keep local communities together.
I hear what the Minister says. I do not accept it. I shall seriously consider bringing forward an amendment at Third Reading which includes community halls, if that is realistic. But, for the moment, with some sadness, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.