Violent Crime Reduction Bill

– in the House of Lords at 4:13 pm on 17 May 2006.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 4:13, 17 May 2006

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scotland of Asthal, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Thomas of Walliswood) in the Chair.]

Clause 13 [Designation of alcohol disorder zones]:

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 12, line 4, at end insert—

"(2A) The Secretary of State must issue guidance about the contents of any proposals to be made under subsection (2)."

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

In moving Amendment No. 80, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 81, 83 and 90 standing in my name. I note that Amendment No. 88 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is also in the group; it looks as though the noble Lord, Lord Addington, may speak to it. I will not comment at this stage on Amendment No. 88; at first blush it looks as though it may be a matter that I had intended to cover by Amendment No. 89, which is separate. I will wait with bated breath to hear what issue the noble Lord, Lord Addington, may propose.

We ended our debates on the first day in Committee some three weeks ago by launching into the part of the Bill that sets out how alcohol disorder zones will be set up. Local authorities are being given a new power to designate a locality as an alcohol disorder zone where there is a perceived problem of alcohol-related disorder or a nuisance. Local authorities will have power to impose extra charges on those who hold licences to sell alcohol by retail and on those who hold a club premises licence where alcohol is sold to members and their guests. Charges would be imposed if licensed premises and clubs did not implement an action plan designed to address the problem.

In our previous debates, we heard that there is considerable concern among those who hold licences that they may be unfairly penalised. So much is left to regulation that it is uncertain which retailers will be subject to charges. Clause 13 gives a local authority the power to designate a locality within its area as an alcohol disorder zone, if the conditions set out in Clause 3(1) are met. If the local authority decides that it will designate an area, Clause 13(2) states that it must publish a notice setting out its proposals and invite representations to be made within 28 days about both the proposal itself and what might be included in the action plan to tackle the perceived problem.

Amendment No. 80 would impose an obligation on the Secretary of State to issue guidance about the contents of any proposals to designate a locality. Amendment No. 90 is the stick that goes with that, because it would ensure that Clause 13 could not come into force unless and until guidance and regulations had been published. We would expect such guidance or regulations to include a requirement that those businesses that would have to pay any charges imposed by an alcohol disorder zone be notified individually.

Last October, the Government indicated in another place that such guidance would indeed be forthcoming. We have still not had sight of it. Will the Minister today tell the Committee when the regulations and guidance will be produced? In particular, can he assure us that the House will be able to consider a draft of the guidance before Report?

Amendment No. 83 would require the Secretary of State to specify a maximum number of days within which a draft action plan should be published. The purpose of that amendment is to ensure that all parties are aware of the timeframe within which an action plan should be produced. It would also ensure that local authorities do not delay the drafting of any action plan. It would thus be a more efficient way to approach the designation process.

Although I recognise that this is a relatively minor point of detail, it seems reasonable to suggest a timeframe to the local authority, as that will ensure that things do not drift. If there is an alcohol disorder problem that needs to be addressed, it is surely preferable that those who are responsible know what they have to do about it sooner rather than later. As we shall discuss under a later amendment, they should then be allowed proper time to put that action plan into effect. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip

I shall briefly make a few comments on Amendment No. 88. The basic idea behind it is to have an implementation period for any remedial action—an eight-week period. Either you let the whole thing happen and allow people to see if it works, or you do not. That is the thinking behind the amendment. Either you have a chance to implement it, or you do not; it works or it does not. That is a brief outline of the thinking behind the amendment.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for setting out the rationale behind her amendments. I will explain how we see Clause 13 working and, in the briefest possible terms, why we must resist the amendments.

Clause 13 sets out the criteria for triggering a proposal for an ADZ. As the noble Baroness acknowledges, it specifies the steps that local authorities and the police must take before a zone can be designated. The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness and by the Liberal Democrats relate to those steps.

Amendment No. 80 would insert in the Bill a specific requirement that guidance be issued on Clause 13(2). That provides for local authorities' proposals for alcohol disorder zones, including the invitation to make representations and what might be included in the action plan. Clause 16 already requires the Secretary of State to issue guidance on ADZs; I assure the Committee that guidance on ADZs will be comprehensive and will include the contents of local authorities' proposals for them. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will agree that the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendments Nos. 81 and 83 would prescribe a precise timetable from the proposal of an alcohol disorder zone until the publication of the action plan. They would do so by removing from Clause 13(4) the requirement that the action plan is delivered,

"As soon as reasonably practicable", following the consultation period, and then by requiring the Secretary of State to prescribe a timetable through regulations. The amendments would also then give the local authority and the police the option of further consultation on the action plan for up to 28 days. I can well understand why the amendment has been proposed, but we want to ensure that the ADZ process is undertaken as quickly as possible so that additional interventions can be deployed to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder effectively. It is certainly not in the interests of local authorities and the police to procrastinate.

Clause 13 already sets what we would describe as a brisk timetable. There are 28 days for the consultation period, and steps must be taken to implement the action plan within eight weeks. So I do not think it would add value for the Secretary of State to specify in regulations a timetable for publication of the action plan following a proposal for an ADZ. We would not want to tie local authorities down to a specific timetable on this. The timing may vary from one area to another for very good reasons. For example, the consultation period may identify in one area a number of key issues that have implications for the action plan and that need to be fully considered. Elsewhere, this may not be required. The opportunity for further consultation on the action plan should be provided if that is required. The guidance will of course reinforce the need for the ADZ process to be undertaken as speedily as possible.

Amendment No. 88, to which the noble Lord, Lord Addington spoke, would remove Clause 13(8)(b) and narrow the circumstances where the local authority could make an order designating an area an alcohol disorder zone—that is, move to the compulsory charge. Clause 13(8) sets out the criteria for a designation. There are two possible circumstances for designation: if, after eight weeks, the action plan is not in the process of being implemented; and if, before or after eight weeks, the local authority is satisfied that the plan will not be implemented or the steps in the plan are no longer being taken.

The amendment would remove the second limb of the criteria. The effect of this would be twofold. First, local authorities would have to wait until eight weeks had elapsed after the publication of the action plan before designation, regardless of whether there was any will to implement the plan. Secondly, if the plan collapsed suddenly after the eight weeks had elapsed, the local authority would in effect have to re-run the whole consultation process. It is crucial with alcohol disorder zones that the action plan is implemented as soon as possible once the consultation process has been completed. To do this, it is key that important incentives are built into the process. Subsection (8)(b) allows local authorities to move to designation if it is clear that there is no will to implement the action plan. We think that that is critical. It is also critical that there is a firm understanding that there is a need to implement the action plan and that it is totally unacceptable if, after the eight weeks has passed, the commitment to introduce the plan disappears. Subsection (8)(b) provides important incentives which we do not think it would be right to lose. The amendment helpfully provides pointers to further areas that we will need to cover in the guidance on how local authorities exercise these powers. I assure the Committee that those issues will be covered in the guidance.

Finally, Amendment No. 90, tabled by the noble Baroness, would require that guidance and regulations be issued before the powers in the Bill come into force. The regulations are essential for the policy to operate, and I cannot see how local authorities and the police could possibly operate an ADZ without them. The same obviously applies to the guidance. Clause 16 provides for the guidance and places a duty on the police and local authorities to have regard to it. So although the Act may come into force, the fact of the matter is that ADZs cannot operate without the regulations and the guidance. The fact that we have now agreed that the regulations should be subject to affirmative resolution should give some further reassurance. For those reasons, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary.

The noble Baroness asked a specific question about the timing of the publication of the regulations and guidance, and whether it would be before Report stage. I cannot tell her that it will be, but what I set out in explaining our approach should give reassurance that we will not trigger these powers without the guidance and the regulations in place. Of course, we are fully committed to ensuring that we have a full and effective consultation on the framing of guidance and regulations. We want to get this right and make it work. We want to ensure that all the necessary stakeholders—to use the jargon—are formally and properly involved in helping us frame and shape regulations and guidance to give maximum effect to the legislation.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

As ever, I am grateful to the Minister. I know that he always intends to be helpful, but I still feel as though I am treading in treacle with regard to much of this Bill. I listened to the Minister's response to Amendment No. 88, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, but I am coming to the issue from a slightly different angle. Therefore, it is still relevant that I should move Amendment No. 89 when we reach that stage.

The amendments to which I have spoken were all intended to be probing. I accept of course what the Minister says. The Government expect that the system cannot operate if guidance is not in place before the police and the local authority go forward and start to designate an area and approve action plans. As I know from businesses that will be hit by the extra charges, there is a considerable degree of concern about the lack of knowledge on how local authorities will designate an alcohol disorder zone, which reflects back to our debates on Clause 12 on which businesses will be affected. That concern will continue when we come to other amendments about consultation.

Although I understand what the Minister says—of course, the Government do not expect this to work unless there is guidance—the trouble is that we need to be able to tease out what the Government anticipate will be the way that local authorities proceed to designate. Unless we do that, we cannot expect those businesses that are currently very concerned to have those concerns dealt with.

As I say, I am treading in treacle. I will try to pull my feet and the Minister's feet out when we get to Report. I am having meetings with the licensing trade as we complete the Committee stage. I will see how we can perhaps take away the very vague amendments in this group and provide something a bit more punchy. As ever, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 81 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 82:

Page 12, line 20, at end insert "; or

(d) set out the steps they intend to take to review the appropriateness of the action plan in consultation with all persons specified in paragraph (c), after four weeks beginning with the day after the publication of the action plan."

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Amendment No. 82 is another probing amendment, which was specifically recommended by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores. The amendment attempts to formalise the consultation process with the licence holders about the action plan once it has been published. After publication, it will still be necessary for the plan to be reviewed to ensure that it is working effectively.

We would argue that, if an action plan is implemented, it should be given every chance to succeed. If we ensure that it will be reviewed halfway through its operation period—I am trying to avoid the dreaded word that I used once the last time around: it is the Government's favourite word, which the Minister told me was invented by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf; it begins with an "s" and ends with an "s", and, to assist Hansard, it is not normally considered to be a rude word, but it is odd—those who have an interest will be given the opportunity to be consulted on how to make it more effective in addressing the problems that have given rise to the need for the action plan in the first place.

That seems a sensible way to proceed. The amendment would ensure that the action plan received as much input from those who are expected to adhere to it as possible. If the action plan is seen as a collaborative process rather than as a precursor to an inevitable designation of an alcohol disorder zone by people who do not know what is going on, it is far more likely to succeed and achieve its aims. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 4:30, 17 May 2006

I understand the concerns that have prompted the amendment, and I must say that I rather liked the way the noble Baroness introduced it, saying that it is an "amendment sponsored by". But I would argue that we do not think it necessary to include this provision. The amendment would require the local authority to review the appropriateness of the action plan in consultation with concerned parties four weeks after the publication of the plan. The Bill provides that if the action plan is not implemented within eight weeks or it is evident that it will not be implemented before the eight-week point, the local authority can designate the locality as an alcohol disorder zone. If that is the case, in our view there would be no need to review the appropriateness of the action plan, as it would simply not have been put into effect. If the action plan has been implemented and is not having any effect on the level of crime and disorder in the locality, the local authority and the police would be absolutely right to review the plan and not proceed to designation.

The noble Baroness has put her finger on the issue in noting that this process must be collaborative. These plans need to be carefully spelt out and there must be proper timeframes within which matters can be considered; it is in that spirit that we want to see ADZs operate. Further, as I explained during our first day in Committee, we see ADZs as a solution of last resort. We hope that all the other measures taken before reaching the ADZ process will have dealt with many of the problems collaboratively, because that is the best way of sorting out these difficulties when they arise in our towns and cities. With that response, I hope that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Obviously I am speaking rather too quickly because I hope that I said that the amendment had been "suggested" by the wine trade rather than sponsored by it. I do not belong to a trade union, although of course I recognise the valuable work that many of them do, so I do not accept amendments that are sponsored by any particular group.

As I said, this is a probing amendment. In recounting how the process is intended to develop, the Minister said that there would be no need for a review because, if nothing is happening and does not need to happen, so that designation is not necessary, why go through all the work of undertaking a review? I have no problem with that. If the Government are saying that one does not have to go straight to designation at some stage when there has been a void in between, that is not the difficulty. My concern, from a different point of view, is that the licensed trade could be undertaking a lot of constructive activity to resolve problems and to meet the action plan but that activity might not be recognised. So I was interested in the response of the noble Lord and I shall look at it again carefully because he has in fact made an important point that I have not discussed with outside organisations; I shall certainly do so now. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 83 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 84:

Page 12, line 20, at end insert—

"(4B) The local authority must have regard to any representations received when preparing the action plan referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (4)."

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

In moving Amendment No. 85, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 95. These amendments probe the extent to which information about alcohol disorder zones—I beg the pardon of the Committee. In trying to be quick, I have missed out the amendments grouped with Amendment No. 84. I am grateful to the Deputy Chairman for guiding me back to the right amendment. Perhaps the Committee would have been grateful if I had missed out a grouping, that of Amendment No. 84; certainly the Bill team look as if they might have been.

We have already looked at the issue of when the action plan is to be published, but I turn now to the purpose of the consultation phase. I have teased out separate groups to address the issue of consultation because the amendments refer to different questions and different groups of people as they are affected.

Clause 13(3) states that the notice setting out the proposal to designate a locality must require representations to be made within 28 days after the publication of the notice. The problem is that nothing in Clause 13 states that those representations must then be taken into account. It is a case of, "Tell us what you want, but we will not bother to do anything about it". I am sure the Minister will say, "Gosh, we would not dream of that happening; that could not possibly be the outcome"—but it seems an odd way of drafting the legislation.

I recall that some while back, when we were dealing with the Courts Act 2003, we made points on the same basis. The Government looked favourably on us and found a form of words to reassure those who were going to be consulted that their representations would be taken into account. I am not saying that my amendment is beautifully drafted but I hope that it proposes a way forward.

The amendment would make it a requirement that a local authority must listen to and take account of the views of those who may have to pay these extra charges after an alcohol disorder zone is designated. It is not a particularly onerous duty but it could give some comfort to the licensed trade that whatever representations it makes will not be in vain. It would not, of course, require the local authority to act upon any representations so made. The representations could relate to the size of the alcohol disorder zone or they could suggest improvements or alterations to any draft action plan. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

The amendment would add to Clause 13(2) a specific duty on local authorities and chief officers to have regard to representations received during the 28-day consultation period on a proposal to designate an area as an alcohol disorder zone. It is obviously important that there is meaningful consultation and that the local authority and police make proper and full use of this. It is an opportunity to test their proposal to designate, including the proposed content of the action plan and the steps proposed to be taken under the compulsory charging regime. I certainly support the intention of the amendment but my question is this: do we need the specific duty outlined in the amendment on the face of the Bill? We do not think that we do.

I heard what the noble Baroness said about the Courts Act 2003 and I certainly recall some of those debates. It is obviously in everyone's interest that consultations are meaningful—whatever that means in itself—but the real prize here, in our view, is that we need an effective action plan that seeks to reduce the risk of crime and disorder occurring, not the compulsory charge. The action plan can be delivered only on the back of effective consultation and if the people involved feel that they own the action proposed and can see the purpose of it. No doubt many of the propositions within the action plans will come from those who were consulted. Of course, as I have explained on a number of occasions, regulations and guidance will offer a template to ensure that the consultation process can best achieve this.

As we have pointed out, we will be setting out the arrangements in both guidance and regulations. It is likely that these will reinforce the existing public law duty on the police and local authorities to consider representations. So it will be contained within the regulations and the guidance. This is what happens in relation to proposals to make designated public place orders, which I think we can fairly argue have worked well—certainly within my knowledge. The noble Baroness may have some experience of designated public place orders as well.

I remind Members of the Committee that if the government amendments on process are accepted, the regulations to be made on alcohol disorder zones will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and will therefore have to receive the more considered scrutiny of both Houses of Parliament. I hope that with that reassurance and my clear steer that we are expecting the process to be not completely dissimilar to the designated public places orders, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

The helpful steer was with regard to the procedure being similar to that for public places orders; I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that matter clear. He is right that it is important that those who are involved in the consultation feel that they have an ownership—an interest—in how the plan will go forward. If they feel they are being unfairly treated, the new action plan could effectively not be implemented and one would end up with designation unnecessarily which could affect all licensed premises. In addition, if people in highly respectable licensed premises, who are already doing so much towards preventing alcohol disorder, feel that those initiatives are not being properly taken account of in the consultation results, they may simply say, "Why should we spend money on all that if we are going to be clobbered with an action plan that requires us to do something different when we have been working so hard?". It is extremely important that the interests of very hard-working licensed traders are taken into account. I accept that the noble Lord has tried to make a bit of an advance on what was previously in place—not a lot, but enough to satisfy me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 12, line 20, at end insert—

"(4C) When considering the manner in which they consider it appropriate to publish the action plan, the local authority shall have regard to the needs of those with disabilities."

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

It really is Amendment No. 85 this time. I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 95. I have tabled these separately because they deal with accessibility, to which I referred briefly in another context at our first Committee sitting.

The amendments probe the extent to which information about alcohol disorder zones will be made accessible to those with disabilities. Amendment No. 85 refers to the publication of the action plan that is intended to tackle a problem of alcohol disorder. Amendment No. 95 refers to the regulations that will require local authorities to publicise the making and effect of orders designating places as alcohol disorder zones.

What measures do the Government expect to be taken to publicise information to those whose disability means that they need to make use of accessible formats such as large print, audiotape, Braille or Easyread? I am grateful to the Royal National Institute of the Blind for its advice on this matter. I understand that the disability equality duty within the Disability Discrimination Act went live in December 2005 and that that should have a positive impact on this matter. I took the opportunity last week to alert the Minister's office that I would be raising this issue today. Can he confirm that the disability equality duty is live and will have an impact, and can he explain what that impact will be on this part of the Bill? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip

I support the noble Baroness. It will be interesting to see if we can get some assurances that all those bits of legislation that I, for one, have spent so much time trying to get in place deal with issues such as this. Disabled people may be disrupted, but it is also quite possible that they are part of the problem. Just because you are disabled does not make you a saint or a sinner, and maybe they have been out drinking too much as well.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 4:45, 17 May 2006

We certainly agree with the principle of this amendment, but I am sure that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that we do not think that it is essential to have it on the face of the Bill. Local government, like central government, already recognises the need to ensure that information is published in a way that recognises the needs of those members of the community with disabilities. The noble Baroness is right to make the connection with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 because, from December this year, it will amend the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to place a general duty on all public sector authorities to promote disability equality. That will, among other things, build on measures already taken by placing a general duty on public authorities to mainstream disability equality into the way in which they carry out their functions.

Our guidance will of course need to take account of this and advise local authorities positively to consider the needs of all stakeholders—to use the dreaded word—when publishing any of the materials associated with the ADZ process. The noble Baroness gave some examples of different formats. We would expect that those would be exactly the sorts of formats to be used.

It is vital that all of the information is communicated in such a way that all interested parties have access to the information. We are of the same mind on that.

Amendment No. 95 is much the same. Providing information in an accessible format is crucial. We know that public bodies already provide accessibility sections on their websites. For example, even the Home Office's website, like other organisations', provides options for viewing pages in different typefaces. Again, our guidance will need to take account of accessibility, particularly in the light of the new statutory duties, which we expect to have a real effect. I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

It was a probing amendment and I am grateful to the noble Lord for his assurances. I am intrigued that he says that the guidance that will be published will make specific recommendations as to accessibility. I say in the kindest way that that is belt and braces, because if the disability equality duty is live, one would hope that local authorities ought to be directing themselves to have regard to that in each and every thing that they do. However, if the Government are minded to ensure that the directions with regard to that are included in regulations, I could not object to such a matter; it could only be helpful.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

It is not in my brief to say this, but I would expect that the guidance would help promote best practice. There is a lot of common knowledge here and we want to make sure that the expertise is put in the right place so that there is an understanding. It is important that all groups in our society have access to that information.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I agree entirely and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 87:

Page 12, line 31, leave out "such a scheme" and insert "a scheme established under an action plan"

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

This is a technical amendment to the existing clause. It does not change policy, aims or the ways of achieving those aims. It is merely, as I understand it, a drafting measure proposed by parliamentary counsel. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 88 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 89:

Page 12, line 43, at end insert—

"( ) A local authority may not make an order designating a locality as an alcohol disorder zone if the whole action plan, or the majority of the actions contained therein, is being put into effect."

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

This is another amendment suggested, although not sponsored, by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores. We had a canter around the edges of this with Amendment No. 88 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. As the Bill currently stands, under subsection (8) of Clause 13, the local authority can make an order designating a locality even if the eight-week period following the publication of the action plan has not expired.

My amendment would ensure that a local authority cannot act in a pre-emptive way. We would argue that an action plan should be allowed time to work and for its effectiveness to be monitored and assessed. I am not looking at the situation, as the Minister did earlier, in which nothing is happening; I understand that it is not getting worse. I am looking at a situation in which local businesses have signed up to the action plan and are working with good will to deliver it. I do not want us to be in a position in which the local authority can then simply ignore all the work that is being done and say that it will go ahead and jack in the period of waiting and designate the area.

The Government have emphasised that they hope that the action plan would itself be the means to solve the problem of alcohol disorder and that the action plan should be allowed to work its course. That underpinned the arguments made by the Ministers in the other place. That would give local businesses involved in putting the plan into effect the chance to ensure that they can co-operate with each other and with the local authority to contribute to reducing the problems, and give them the chance that they want to avoid having the extra charges placed on them at the end. My amendment means that, if they are making a real effort but have not got as far as finishing the work that is supposed to be done in that period, do not clobber them by going straight into designation. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

This is another debate about process, but an important one. Amendment No. 89 covers implementation of the action plan and would provide that a local authority could not designate an alcohol disorder zone if the whole action plan is, or the majority of its steps are, being implemented. As we have made fairly plain from the start, the action plan is the real prize here and the core of what we are trying to achieve. I cannot see that there would be a case in which a local authority would wish to move to designate an ADZ when all the steps in the action plan were in the process of being carried out.

What about when the majority of steps in the action plan were being put into effect? I can see that there may be some cases in which the local authority may decide that, if this was the case, designation was unnecessary. On the other hand, what if the remaining steps were absolutely critical? In such circumstances, the local authority might well decide, perhaps reluctantly, to move to designation.

We believe that the Bill is drafted to provide a robust and flexible framework within which those affected can work. When it is clear that designation is not appropriate, when steps are being taken to implement the action plan, and there is sufficient flexibility to manage situations where the action plan falls short on some of the steps, I do not think that we want to tie local authorities' hands in these cases. So the spirit of what the noble Baroness proposes is already there in the Bill's drafting, and the flexibility is there to proceed as she suggests. Like her, we do not want to see businesses being overburdened with unnecessary costs, because things are moving along as we want them to. That goes back to a point that I have made on several occasions before that ADZs are a last resort and that we hope that before we get to that point local authorities can work with the police and those businesses involved to secure the outcome that they all want to mitigate or deal with the problem.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I am grateful to the Minister for the way he has tried to set out the answer to show that the Government expect local authorities to behave in the way I want. The trouble is that that is not what the Bill allows local authorities to do.

The amendment is all about process—he is quite correct about that—but it is important. He says that he cannot see that there would be a case where the local authority would go ahead if all the action plan was being put into effect. I agree that it would be extraordinary—I am trying to use parliamentary language—if it did go ahead with the plan in those circumstances. He also says that the Bill allows the authority to do it. It can just finish and say "Right, that's it. We'll designate".

The Minister then asks: what if most of the action plan is being implemented, but the parts that are not are the essential parts—that is, those that would sign, seal and deliver the whole action plan? I rather suspect that this is exactly what will have to happen. If one has a period of eight weeks during which an action plan is to be put into effect, it will take some time to hit the ground running to be able to get the initial stages set up. I suspect a lot of the essential work will be crammed into the latter part of the period of the action plan. If, therefore, a local authority decided at any time, say halfway through, that it really wanted to go ahead and designate, it might in fact be pre-empting the ability of traders to put into effect the essential steps. They would not have had the chance to do so in the first part.

I know the Minister says that the spirit is there in the Bill. I agree with him 100 per cent when he says that designation of alcohol disorder zones is the last resort, but that is not what this specific part of the Bill says. It does not have that rigour. What he has said is right, but that is not what the Bill says. The licensed trade feels strongly about this, so I do not think the Minister will be too surprised if on this particular issue I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 89) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 135; Not-Contents, 131.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Violent Crime Reduction Bill

Aye: 133 Members of the House of Lords

No: 129 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [Procedure for designation of zones]:

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 5:08, 17 May 2006

moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 12, line 46, leave out "either by name or, if appropriate,"

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

This is another amendment about process. It is a minor probing amendment, which will be a relief to the Minister. Clause 14 (1) states:

"An order designating an alcohol disorder zone must identify the locality . . . either by name or . . . by describing its boundaries".

In default of there being guidance or regulations on all the matters before us, I have tabled the amendment to seek guidance from the Government as to how they expect that description to be made.

The Minister will be aware that there is great concern in some areas. If an ADZ were designated by a geographical name—for example, if my area was designated as "Goldsworth Park"—would that not give all the people who lived and worked in that area a bad reputation? If the local authority seeks to be transparent about describing an area, and if businesses in that area qualify to pay the extra charge, it will be clear to everyone that the area is an alcohol disorder zone. My concern is that, in ensuring that the local authority has that clarity and transparency, one might also have a bad effect on property prices and businesses in the area. If one wanted to invite someone out for a pleasant evening—perhaps an alcohol-free evening—on a Saturday, one might phone up one's friend and say, "How about coming with me to the latest alcohol disorder zone?", and the respondent might well tell you where to go—but not to the alcohol disorder zone. People have a real concern that there could be a depression in property prices due to the way in which these places are described.

There is also the problem of how one makes the zone clear by description. Do there have to be grid references on the Ordnance Survey map? Does one describe a zone by defining the boundary roads around that area? So I have tabled a probing amendment to ask how the Government are going to give advice on that and also how the local authority would be expected to give a clear indication, as you approached an alcohol disorder zone, that you were entering it. Or will there be no notices? After all, we have notices around Greater London from that personage, the Mayor of London, saying that you are about to enter the congestion charge zone. Instead of having "CCs" around, are we going to have "ADZs"? How will people know, or is that fanciful? Will it simply be the case that businesses in the area will be clearly told, "This is the area covered by an ADZ. You're going to have to pay up", and no one else will be told specifically how the area is defined? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I understand the thinking behind the amendment. The noble Baroness is right to raise the issue in the way that she has and we have to give careful thought to how an area is described. As she said, ADZs might give a place a bad tag and we do not want that. We want them to be specific and refined and to do what they say they do.

Our view is that ADZs will be very tightly drawn areas. We understand the spirit behind the amendment and it is vital that the designated area of the locality has strict boundaries so that those who may be affected are informed of their responsibilities. I do not think that it is necessary for us to follow the course down which the amendment leads us. The noble Baroness has already explained that it is a probing amendment, but its effect would be to remove the power of the local authority to identify the designated area by name and to require it to identify the area by its boundaries.

I do not think that the sort of problem that the noble Baroness envisages will occur. It has not happened with designated public places orders and it is unlikely that it will happen with ADZs. We want to see an ADZ drawn very tightly around the area where it is reasonable to assume that the licensed premises within that designated area have a definite and proven link to the levels of crime and disorder within the locality.

I do not want to pre-empt what will be in the guidance but clearly the streets will need to be clearly identified. It is unlikely, for example, that an ADZ will be widely described as covering a ward area, which could have the effect that the noble Baroness fears. I do not think that that check is required to qualify the actions of a local authority and the police. However, it will be important that full and proper consultation takes place so that the ADZ does not capture what it does not need to capture and so that those who are involved in helping the local authority and the police with the action plan and so on understand its full extent. That issue will have to form part of the thinking behind what is included in the guidance. I hope the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 5:15, 17 May 2006

That is helpful. The difficulty is that we are stuck as we are waiting for guidance, but it is helpful that the Minister has put on record the rigour with which the Government will approach this matter. As he said, it is absolutely vital that zones do not capture areas that do not need to be within them, not simply because of the extra charges that will be faced, but because of the effect on other businesses that will find themselves in ADZs. Some premises, although not licensed premises, may find a downturn in their businesses, particularly in late-night shopping areas. The interest goes beyond licensed premises.

I am grateful to the Minister for saying so clearly—I shall see how this comes out in Hansard, but he appeared to say it clearly—that ADZs would be tightly drawn around areas where licensed premises have proven links with disorder. Of course, he will recall from our first day in Committee that one of the greatest concerns of the licensed trade is that licensees could be subject to a charge when there is no proven link. I think that what the Minister has said is helpful, not only in regard to this very minor amendment, but also in regard to the way in which we may want to bring back amendments on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

The amendments in this group deal with the variation of the locality and with the termination of an alcohol disorder zone. The purpose of Amendment No. 92 is to prevent a local authority being able to vary the extent of the locality to which an ADZ is attached by making a replacement order without proper consultation. A local authority should not be able to designate, for example, all the licensed premises within a town or within a ward—to use the area referred to by the Minister—without going through the full procedure. This is where the matter ties in with Amendment No. 94. When the clause refers in subsection (6) to new procedures being brought in by regulations it suggests that there would be a fast-track way of extending a locality or of varying a locality without the necessary consultation. If an authority does that, it should go through the full procedure of preparing an action plan again and giving the newly affected licensees an opportunity to eradicate any nuisance in the newly defined area by the measures that are agreed. The full scale of charges should not be implemented until those procedures have been carried out.

The first part of Amendment No. 93—new subsection (5A)—puts what is in effect a sunset clause on ADZs so that they should not be allowed to roll on indefinitely but should have a set lifespan. The problem envisaged with alcohol disorder zones is that to a local authority they could appear to be a very nice way of raising money without ever interfering with the designation; a local authority could continue to collect money from the licensed premises for the policing of the town and so on. We believe that that is undesirable and that a term should be put into the legislation.

New subsection (5B) ensures that if a local authority wants the alcohol disorder zone to continue, it should go through the procedures of publication, consideration of representations and preparation of a fresh action plan again. After all, if there has been an action plan, and it has been partly implemented—I refer to the debate we had a moment ago—then the local authority should take a fresh look at the situation and put forward proper proposals. That is the reason for these probing amendments. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

These are very useful probing amendments, particularly on the importance of consultation of the new businesses brought into an area because of re-designation that were not part of the original consultation. I appreciate that in the real business world it is likely that all businesses will have taken an interest through the local chambers of commerce during the initial consultation for the original designated area. However, they may not have done so; particularly—as we will come to on an amendment of mine—as those with particular backgrounds may not necessarily see the chamber of commerce as their first port of call. These are useful amendments to explore consultation further.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for their comments on these amendments. I will run through them in turn.

Amendment No. 92 seeks to remove from local authorities the power to propose a variation to the geographical area covered by an ADZ, and to remove the power to make a new designation order to this effect, revoking the previous one. We want local authorities and the police to be obliged to think carefully before setting up an ADZ. I am sure that we all agree that that must be a first principle. That thorough consideration must include what the key geographical area should be. Noble Lords will have noted that I was careful to say that we expected the ADZs to be tightly drawn. That is obviously to be the case, but there is no point in setting up an ADZ simply to shift the problem half a mile down the road.

We would expect most ADZs to stay focused on the same area from beginning to end. However, we must allow for the circumstance of some unforeseen displacement. One must be realistic about that. Some other factor, perhaps as simple as a change in the management of several pubs in the same street just outside the zone, could mean that those pubs end up being just as much of a problem as their neighbours, perhaps as little as 100 or 200 yards away.

The question of where to draw the boundary is always going to be difficult. Obviously, consultation will be important, but we must retain the power to vary ADZs because to do otherwise would have a serious limiting effect on local authorities and their ability to use ADZs effectively as part of a broader package of weapons for reducing alcohol-fuelled disorder. The factors are the need for flexibility, perhaps taking account of changes in management and, perhaps, some spin-off effect from displacement—which one can fairly accept might be an outcome.

Amendment No. 93, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, clearly explained, would terminate an ADZ a year after compulsory charging began. It would require the local authority and the police—not, I noted, the local chief officer of police—to go back to square one if they believed that the ADZ should continue. I can understand why the noble Lord has tabled the amendment, and agree that a year is quite a long time. In many cases, ADZs may well be lifted in a shorter timeframe. The problem may well abate; the action may well have been effective; it may have done the job it was supposed to, and it would be right to bring it to a close. It would be surprising if more than a handful of ADZs lasted longer than a year, because that would suggest a somewhat larger, more persistent, problem.

There may, however, be some intractable areas where that is the case, where businesses are recalcitrant and even the stimulation of an ADZ is not having the desired impact. I would have thought that, if the scheme works as we see it working, that should not be a frequent occurrence, but there will be occasions when it is. For that reason I want to resist including a sunset clause of a year, which obliges going back to square one.

Amendment No. 94 would remove the power for the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out additional procedures to be followed relating to designating an area as an ADZ or revoking that order, presumably to give local authorities and the police less room for manoeuvre. We are as confident as we can be in advance of implementation that the procedures for designating an area as an ADZ and for revoking that designation are right. We will supplement those provisions with guidance on a range of the more detailed points. But however well prepared we are now, designations are bound to raise new issues over time. Some of them will be suitable for addressing in the guidance, but others should no doubt have the force of statute behind them. It is for those reasons that I resist the amendments, though I understand why the noble Lord wants to put a full stop on the operation of an ADZ, and why he wants to ensure that variations to ADZs are constrained. I hope that, having heard my remarks, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Of course we accept there should be flexibility. The question is: how should that flexibility be exercised? If there are particular recalcitrant areas, my point is that they should be dealt with by taking a fresh look at the problem. That is why we want to go back to the original procedures. That is why we want to give room for the local authority to make its case, for there to be representations and discussion, and for the chief officer of police and the local authority to get together and think, "Well, it didn't work last time, how can we make it work this time?" I am opposing the rollover, which would be very expensive for licensees and a great temptation for local authorities as a revenue-raising order. Between now and Report we might consider how we can best guard against that sort of problem. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 93 to 95 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 96 to 100 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Guidance about the designation of zones]:

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

moved Amendment No. 101:

Page 14, line 22, after "certificates;" insert—

"( ) business associations that he considers represent the particular interests of ethnic minorities;"

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I shall speak also to Amendment No. 102. We return to the consultation process. Clause 16 deals with guidance about how local authorities and the police should exercise their powers and duties in relation to the alcohol disorder zones. It is an important clause, because the guidance issued by the Secretary of State under the duties set out in subsection (1) can relate to any part of Chapter 2 of the Bill. Subsection (3) lists those whom the Secretary of State must consult. It is rather a vague list because it does not state the name of an organisation. It says that there are persons whom the Secretary of State considers to represent the interests of various groups. So paragraphs (a) to (e) cover various groups, but we do not know who will be approached, and then paragraph (f) is the catch-all for anybody else the Secretary of State thinks is the right person to approach. That kind of flexibility can be extremely useful, but we need to ensure that those with a relevant interest will be consulted. The list covers representatives from local authorities, the police, the licensed trade and holders of club premises certificates.

The amendments I have tabled make it mandatory for the Secretary of State to consult business associations that represent ethnic minorities. The reason for my amendments is that it has been brought to my attention that certain ethnic minority communities within the United Kingdom contain a higher number of licensed businesses per capita than the national average. Therefore, any measures that affect licensed businesses may have a greater effect on those communities than they would on British society as a whole. I am told that those who run such businesses might have further problems, perhaps in understanding new legislation, simply because they do not go to every government website and look up the relevant legislation—which of us really does? So how does one find out?

The particular example I have been given is of the Chinese community. This will not come as a surprise to the Minister because he took part in our debates earlier this year on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill. He will recall that a very powerful speech at Second Reading by Lord Chan made noble Lords from across the House more aware of the emerging participation in democracy by the Chinese community, particularly in north London, as it worked together with other communities, including the Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities.

I am told that there is concern that the powers contained in Chapter 2 could impose an unnecessary and disproportionate burden on restaurants and takeaways with no history of problems with customers who drink too much alcohol. There is a perception that the Government need to take extra steps to consult representatives of this community and other ethnic minorities who might feel more at risk of not having their views taken into account in any consultation.

I am aware that in a Written Answer in another place the Government sought to give an assurance that restaurants would not necessarily be covered. Clause 12 contains powers to ensure that certain businesses are excluded from the extra charge. It is the vagueness of that which has alarmed some communities. I seek an assurance from the Minister that the guidance issued to local authorities and the police will include suggestions on how they should go about the consultation process to ensure they reach the views of those ethnic communities.

The other groups that it has been suggested to me should be consulted include representatives of residents, victims of crime and club members. Those are not covered in paragraphs (a) to (e) although I realise that the Minister may say that they fall under the catch-all paragraph (f). I would find it very helpful if he could give that assurance. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 5:30, 17 May 2006

Clause 16 provides for the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the relevant parties on the exercise of their powers in relation to alcohol disorder zones.

The Bill specifies those interested parties whom the Secretary of State must consult before issuing or revising this guidance. There is always a bit of a problem with lists. Lists, particularly this one, cannot always be exhaustive. However, it includes the main players and provides for others to be consulted as is seen fit. So there is a "core" list, if you like, and the added bonus of being flexible about who is included.

The noble Baroness's amendment, as she has explained very carefully, would specify additional interested persons to be consulted. She has spelt out who they are. They would represent ethnic minority businesses, victims of crime, local residents, consumers and club members.

We have no difficulties with that list. We welcome the intention behind the amendments. It is important that we consult as widely as possible with those who might have an interest in the policy and how it is administered. I agree that the interests highlighted are very important, for the reasons that the noble Baroness explained and for one about which we agreed earlier: that groups could feel excluded by how issues are communicated. It is very important that people are included and feel involved in the process. We want to ensure that the consultation takes positive account of them.

The question is: do we need to amend the Bill to ensure that that happens? I think not. As I said, the list of interest groups in Clause 16(3) is not intended to be exhaustive. We provide for the Secretary of State to consult other persons, with the degree of flexibility for which I have argued. We do not think that it is necessary to add to the interest groups already listed, simply because the list could become endless.

However, I undertake to ensure that the draft guidance is placed on the Home Office website, thereby allowing persons representing the interests listed in the amendments to comment on the guidance. Although websites are not always accessible to all, it is a fact of life that they are becoming increasingly popular. The number of hits, even on Home Office websites, runs into millions.

I hope that the noble Baroness will be happy with that undertaking. I leave as a thought that we need to ensure that we are proactive rather than passive in our consultation, so that we go out to seek views. I am sure that when it comes to drafting the guidance, proactivity on our part will reap a dividend in including the comments, views and thoughts of those groups, especially ethnic minority businesses, which do not always feel that they have a fair say or a fair crack when they are consulted on matters of importance to them.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

That was very helpful and took us further forward. Of course, the Government do not like to have lists because, as the Minister says, they can go on for ever. Oppositions always like to use amendments such as this to tease out what the Government really mean. The undertaking that the Minister has given certainly satisfies me. His description of the importance of consultation being proactive is the most important part of his answer. I undertake to ensure that his response is made available to the north London Chinese community. I hope that it will give them as much assurance as it has given me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Supplemental provisions for Chapter 2]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 103:

Page 15, line 4, leave out from "instrument" to end of line 5.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Following the report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee suggesting that we use the affirmative resolution procedure for the adoption of regulations under the Bill, we are more than happy to do that. I am sure that noble Lords will welcome the opportunity to debate the regulations. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has proposed an amendment with the same effect as that of the government amendment. I hope that, having seen our amendment, he will feel able not to move his. Our amendment effectively implements the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 105:

Page 15, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) The Secretary of State must not make regulations containing (with or without other provision) any provision that he is authorised to make by this Chapter unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour

moved Amendment No. 106:

Before Clause 18, insert the following new clause—

"SPORTS GROUNDS: EXEMPTION FROM PRIVATE SECURITY INDUSTRY REGULATION

In Schedule 2 to the Private Security Industry Act 2001 (c. 12) (door supervisors etc for public houses, clubs and comparable venues) after paragraph 8(3)(d) insert—

"( ) on any occasion on which a licence is in force in respect of the premises under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and where they are being used wholly or mainly for purposes for which such a licence is required, other than at a football match designated as such for the purposes of Part 1 of the Football Spectators Act 1989"."

Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour

Amendment No. 106, which stands in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran, Lord Addington and Lord Hoyle, seeks to address an anomaly inadvertently created by the Private Security Industry Act 2001, which has led to the unnecessary and burdensome regulation of stewards at sports grounds by the Security Industry Authority. Before I cover much of this in detail, I declare an interest by reminding the Chamber that I am chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Sports Group as well as president of the Football Foundation, having served as chairman of that body and its predecessor, the Football Trust.

The Minister will recall that I expressed these concerns briefly on Second Reading, as did other noble Lords—particularly the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Addington. But it is worth reminding the Chamber that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 was intended to raise security standards on licensed premises and to reduce criminality in the security sector. In effect, it was intended to deal with bouncers and wheel-clampers. It is worth noting that the Government have intended to regulate the private security industry since March 1999, and at no stage since then—the White Paper, the passing of the Bill and the establishment of the Security Industry Authority—has there been any consultation on matters with any English sporting authority.

Under the 2001 Act, the SIA is required to communicate with and to consult key stakeholders. I could go through a whole list of those who were consulted, but I will not. In all, 51 organisations were consulted. Yet again, however, not one organisation that represents any sporting body was consulted. So it is unsurprising that sporting bodies are amazed that the Act was drafted in such a way that it inadvertently caught sports stewards within its remit. Indeed, it is clear that not only sport was surprised by the sudden appearance of the SIA on its territory. By happy chance of fate, the Minister who took the original Act through this House is now once again at the Dispatch Box for this Bill. He will recall that he told this House during the passage of that Bill that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 would not apply to in-house sports stewards. More recently, Paul Goggins, the then Home Office Minister in charge of this legislation in the other place, told a sporting audience at the CCPR last October that it was not envisaged that the Act would apply to sport. We now know that it does. He said that we needed to find a way of dealing with it. At the same meeting he promised to consider the possibility of amending primary legislation to correct this anomaly. Today, this Chamber has that chance.

Proportionality is key to the debate. There is no evidence of criminality or poor standards in the stewarding of security at sporting events. Yet the cost of licensing them under the SIA is prohibitively high. For many stewards involved in quite standard activity, the requisite qualifications would cost several hundred pounds and require hours to be devoted to training time. The Better Regulation Task Force has reviewed the matter and concluded that sport should not be regulated in this way. Clearly, the financial and administrative costs of licensing enough stewards to work at events held at venues such as Twickenham, Lord's and Wimbledon championships would be huge. And we are not talking simply about the loss of financial revenue. As well as threatening to increase costs for sports events, it also threatens to divert resources away from investing in effective stewarding to licensing costs and training procedures that are not appropriate. It would reduce the levels of protection at our sports grounds, where those who run them are deservedly proud of their worldwide claim on safety standards.

This amendment, which I am pleased has received widespread support across all sides of the Chamber, is intended to establish a point of principle; namely, that sports grounds already regulated through a safety certificate mechanism overseen by local authorities and the police should be exempt from the SIA licensing. That would give sport the same exclusion already applied to other sectors, such as cinemas and theatres. There is no reduction in standards of public safety as those safety licensing requirements would still apply.

It was perhaps no coincidence that on the same day that I raised the issue at Second Reading, the Home Office published a consultation document on the subject. Since then there have been meetings between the Home Office, the SIA and some of the major sporting governing bodies, including those of Rugby Union, Rugby League, tennis and cricket. I am very encouraged to have received feedback, as no doubt have many of my colleagues, from these meetings. I am told that they have been very constructive. The Home Office is now actively looking at bringing forward measures that would have exactly the same effect as the spirit of this amendment. This would include making sure that all sports stadia covered not only by the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 but also by the 1987 fire safety certificates will be excluded from the SIA licensing.

I look forward to the Minister's reply. It is important that the Minister makes a clear indication of the timetable he proposes in order to address this issue. I am told that the consultation is due to end on 15 June. It would reassure me, and my noble friends who support this amendment, if this Chamber is given assurance from him that Report stage will be scheduled after that date, so that we have time to consider the best way forward. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Shadow Minister (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland 5:45, 17 May 2006

I support the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, on this amendment. I thank the Minister and his colleagues for the consultations and time that we have spent debating this outside your Lordships' House. We have had meetings with not only the Home Office but also the Minister of Sport and others. I am comfortable that the Government are moving to correct what I am sure was an unintended error leading to unintended consequences, which has brought us to where we are.

My major concerns are twofold. First, there are a lot of sporting events being stewarded without licences, which are therefore technically in breach of the law. I understand that private agreements have been reached between police forces, or whichever are the necessary authorities, and these organisations. But that is not a satisfactory state of affairs.

The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, has made most of the key points. But the second point that I would like to enforce is that it is clearly a case of over-regulation, which I know was unintended—at least I believe that it was unintended. I hope that at Report stage, the Minister will reassure us of that by bringing forward his own amendment. If the Government do not see their way to doing that, life will be very difficult in the sporting world. In part, that will be because of the bureaucracy that this brings, but much more so because of the cost that it will bring. There is not nearly enough money in British sport to do the things that we want for training athletes, footballers and cricketers at the lower echelons. Sure, there is tons of money in professional football—far too much in my opinion. If this law stands unchanged, it will put an unnecessary drain on both the human and financial resources of sports clubs and sports men and women right across the kingdom. I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip

Perhaps I may briefly add my voice to those who support this amendment. I believe that this is a case of the cock-up school of history being proven correct. We have seen it: let us do something about it. I am afraid that I was unable to get to most of the meetings due to other duties. However, I thank the Minister for his invitation. The feedback I got was that basically everyone has accepted that it was a straightforward cock-up. They got it wrong in the original legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, said, it was designed to deal with another problem and it has brought in others by accident. We now have an opportunity to correct it.

If the Minister can give us an assurance today that the problem will be dealt with by a government amendment or, better still, by helping the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, to draft a correct amendment—that would be appropriate considering the amount of work he has put into this—we would be much happier. We have all identified a real problem caused by a mistake. Let us just correct it and move on.

Photo of Lord Hoyle Lord Hoyle Labour

I rise only briefly because most of the points have been made. I declare an interest as chairman of the Warrington Wolves Rugby League Club, but it is not only rugby league clubs that have approached me about this. I have also heard from rugby union representatives, the Lawn Tennis Association and the ECB. It is the cost of the provision that has set alarm bells ringing in all of these sports bodies if it goes ahead. As has been explained, it is absolutely unnecessary. Surely what applies to security guards and nightclub bouncers does not need to apply to well regulated sports and sports clubs. You need only look at what has been happening in all the sports I have mentioned. There is no violence and no crowd trouble because these events are well stewarded. It is therefore ridiculous that we find ourselves in this position. I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Pendry has explained in his usual way what Ministers will have to do to try and get themselves out of the mess they have created, because this is an anomaly which should not be in the Bill.

The timetable is important since we are in Committee. Whatever the outcome of the deliberations—I hope they will be positive and that we will be given a suitable amendment to get rid of this provision—we want the opportunity, in not pressing the amendment today, to take a different attitude if the proposal is not satisfactory. I am quite certain and hopeful that it will be satisfactory, but our fate lies in the hands of the Minister and his colleagues.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour

I, too, rise briefly to support my noble friend and to apologise to him for missing the opening sentences of his speech. I was at another meeting elsewhere in the building. This is clearly an unsatisfactory situation that has come about largely by accident. If an amendment like this one were to be drafted and incorporated into the Bill at a later stage, it would not lead in any sense to a diminution of safety standards at our major stadiums. At this point I should declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. We certainly would not even contemplate using an amendment to the Private Security Industry Act 2001 as an excuse for reducing our stewarding and safety precautions at the stadium. The same goes for the Warrington rugby league club and, indeed, for all football clubs covered by the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.

What we are talking about is a large number of voluntary sports organisations that will find themselves bearing a financial burden which it was never intended should be placed on them. I hope very much that, when he replies, my noble friend is able to give us some comfort by saying that the Government are aware of this and intend to do something about it at a later stage of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, and my noble friend Lord Glentoran for raising this issue, and I know that very constructive talks have been going on with the Government. We all agree that this is an unintentional outcome, and I agree in particular with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester: the change we seek to achieve will not reduce public safety. That, I am sure, underpins everything that I hope will be agreed between the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, my noble friend and the Government.

It has been said that there have been private agreements between police forces and sports authorities. At the moment people are operating, in a sense, in contravention of the law by not having to pay the extra sum but still trying to ensure appropriate levels of safety. That is something which cannot continue; the position has to be regularised. Indeed, I was interested to note that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, specifically asked for assurances that stadia would be excluded, that they would not have to be caught within these provisions.

I do not think I have yet heard a noble Lord refer to the position being faced by the golfing organisations. I will do so because I have a personal interest in golf and I have had contact with those who steward the major events of the European tour and the PGA in this country. I know that they have been in negotiations with the SIA with regard to how they should proceed. They have been taking every responsible step they can to ensure that there is no physical contact between the stewards who generally marshal the various holes in a golf competition and the public. They have been training their stewards more than normally is the case. They say, for example, "Never use physical force when dealing with the crowd", but, of course, anyone like me who has attended golf tournaments and observed how golf should be played—unlike how I play it—realises that there are times when stewards have to be in physical contact because of the way one is marshalling the crowd.

At the moment, responsible sports organisations which are trying not to have a financial burden imposed on them are properly training their staff and maintaining public safety—but they cannot be expected to continue in contravention of a law that was not intended to cover them. So, while supporting everything that has been said, perhaps I may make a special plea to the Minister to assure me that golfing competitions will likewise be covered by any agreement that may be achieved as a result of the ongoing negotiations.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who, as we all know, has served the world of sport with great distinction, as have the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Addington. I shall try to be as helpful as I possibly can.

This issue has followed me around for the past five or six years and, like everyone else, I shall be delighted if we can finally put it to bed and find a resolution to some of the difficulties that have arisen as a product of the unintended consequences of legislation which I thought at the time was extremely useful—although I was warned by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that one should be very careful in legislating that one does not create more of a problem than one is solving. This situation reminds me of that occasion. His words have turned out to be rather wiser than I thought at the time, although I always listen very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has to say.

I also thank all noble Lords who have taken part in discussions outside of your Lordships' House because they have been very helpful indeed. No one is seeking to make a cheap, low-blow political point. I know that everyone is trying to be helpful and I am grateful to all those involved for working in a very constructive way. I want to restate that I am equally committed to working with the representatives of the organisations which have raised this issue in the way they have to find an agreeable way forward.

To recap, noble Lords will recall from the Second Reading debate of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 that a measure was introduced to protect the public by reducing criminality and raising standards within the security industry, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, rightly made reference. There was a concern at that point about the activities of security staff on premises licensed to sell alcohol. Coming from Brighton, where we have a great many clubs, I had been frequently pressed over the preceding 20-odd years to get some effective government action because of some particular incidents of concern. This was a national issue.

There is a need to protect the public, but that need has to be balanced against the need to avoid over-regulation in the industry. It is important that both effective and appropriate security measures are in place whenever they are needed and that the legislation is effective where it adds value. There have been some differences of opinion on whether or not the 2001 Act was intended to cover sports stewards.

When I took the Private Security Industry Bill through the House, I said that it would not cover in-house football stewards and would cover those provided under contract. I also said I thought it was appropriate that one-off events such as pop concerts should be covered. It was also clear that in-house staff needed to be licensed when they were working on licensed premises. That latter point brings in security staff at sports grounds, which include licensed premises, and is the point, in essence, of the amendment.

I want to move on from history and focus on where we are and where we want to end up. Not everyone who works as a sports or events steward needs to be licensed—far from it. Those who do not need to be licensed include volunteers, ticket collectors and all safety stewards who do not undertake any guarding responsibilities. Broadly speaking, in-house security staff do not need to be licensed unless they work in licensed premises or as wheel-clampers, or also provide security services under contract to someone else. Only those who undertake security activities or hold certain responsibilities within the company need licensing. At sports events where the risk of disorder or other relevant crime is low, I expect that there would be need for few security staff, with the great majority being safety stewards. Some events might not need any, but where they do, there is much to be said for common standards.

The licensing of sports and events staff has, I readily acknowledge, been a contentious issue. Some of those from the sports and events industry who are directly involved have made clear their views that their stewards should not be required to be licensed. However, other groups have made equally clear their views that all people undertaking licensable activity should be licensed, and that to remove sports and events stewards from the remit of the Act would not be justifiable.

For that reason, the Home Office has—conveniently, in a sense—recently issued a consultation document on how the Private Security Industry Act 2001 is applied to security staff at sports and other events. The deadline for responses, as has been astutely observed, is 16 June. The amendment goes to the heart of that consultation paper, and accepting it now would be premature. But it will, I hope, be helpful if I set out some considerations we will be likely to take into account once the consultation period is over.

The Act allows for exclusion of premises from additional controls—that is, from the control that in licensed premises, in-house stewards must also be licensed. I am happy to confirm that exclusions can be achieved through secondary legislation. The Act does not set a framework within which applications for exclusion could be considered. There is an obvious need for such a framework to ensure clarity for those who may wish to apply and consistency in the Government's decision making. The establishment of such a framework might be one outcome of the consultation process, along with guidance on the sorts of evidence that would need to be provided by applicants. That evidence might include, for example, the benefits brought by a sports safety certificate. Other outcomes might include decisions on whether anything within the current licensing regime, as described in the Act or as operated in practice, needs clarifying or amending. Some stakeholders may have a variety of concerns, while others may find that greater understanding of what is required, or the provision of guidance or worked examples, will be sufficient to remove whatever concerns they have.

I am hoping that we will get some valuable responses to the consultation paper, and today's debate suggests that we will. Other points will be raised that are not covered in the debate. The better the quality of the responses, the more likely we are to be able to reach speedy decisions that result in proper and professional security arrangements for the public, and regulation which bites where it needs to add value.

My colleagues at the Home Office and the DCMS have had helpful meetings with my noble friend, and officials have had constructive discussions with a variety of sports bodies, including those covered by the amendment. These discussions will feed into the consultation process. The purpose behind the amendment is much better addressed in that context than in isolation, which would leave a lot of stakeholders' concerns unmet and make the licensing of security less coherent. However, I take the concerns behind it very seriously.

Members of the Committee were pressing me for a timetable. I hope it will be possible for those responsible for ordering the business of this House to ensure that Report is not reached until after 16 June, when the consultation period closes. That would result in a debate on much clearer ground next time round. I hope that we will be able to look afresh at this at Report stage, taking carefully into account the comments that have been made. We will have the benefit of the consultation period behind us and the comments made by the organisations consulted to ensure that we achieve, in broad terms, the objective that noble Lords have raised in the debate.

The noble Baroness asked a specific question about golf. I had not thought that golf stewarding would be a major issue when I came to this debate but, having watched a little golf myself, I can see that there could be problems. We will obviously consider the position of golf as we reconsider the other issues through the consultation process. The noble Baroness's comments were very helpful.

This has been a very helpful and constructive debate. I am grateful for the spirit in which the amendment has been tabled. I hope that we can continue the process of consultation and that it is as constructive as it has been to date. I hope that we can reach an outcome that satisfies those in the various sports involved so that we can finally put this issue to rest and that the regulation of security at sports stadiums and venues is proportionate and effective and not as burdensome as some noble Lords have described or as has been made plain to us through representations. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will feel confident in withdrawing his amendment.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 6:00, 17 May 2006

Before the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, withdraws his amendment, as I anticipate he will, I should like to make two points. I welcome the Minister's comments about golf tournaments. As far as I am aware, there have never been such problems but there are substantial crowds at tournaments, often in confined spaces—I know that sounds odd, but the walkways are fairly confined. The stewards are fantastically well trained, which is why things go so well, but obviously responsible bodies do not want to contravene the law. The Open will be taking place towards the end of July, as it always does, and significant numbers of people will be involved.

From the point of view of the Front Bench, I welcome the Minister's constructive comments. We all appreciate that the solution may be found in a context other than this amendment. We certainly give our support to the work that is being done towards that. It is unheard of for a Minister to indicate that Report will be delayed for the right reasons. Normally Ministers hide behind the format of saying, "It's all up to the usual channels; it's nothing to do with us, guv". I am glad that this is to do with this "guv"—the Minister—and I look forward to productive negotiations.

Photo of Lord Pendry Lord Pendry Labour

I listened carefully to my noble friend's response. I understand, as I am sure my colleagues do, that he cannot pre-judge what will emerge from the consultation, but I would be amazed if, at the conclusion of that exercise, he was not convinced of the logic that lies behind this amendment. If that is not the case, then we can return to this issue at Report. I assure my noble friend that we will be looking very carefully at what emerges from the consultation. I thank him for his thoughtful approach and those who have contributed to the debate. In anticipation of a successful conclusion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Offence of persistently selling alcohol to children]:

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 21, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) In section 197 of that Act (regulations and orders)—

(a) in subsection (3), after paragraph (c) insert—

"(ca) an order under section 147A(9) (increase of maximum fine for offence of persistently selling alcohol to children) to which subsection (4A) applies;";

(b) in subsection (4), after "(c)," insert "(ca),";

(c) after subsection (4) insert—

"(4A) This subsection applies to an order under section 147A(9) if it appears to the Secretary of State that the power to make the order is being exercised for purposes that are not confined to the increase of the maximum fine to take account of changes in the value of money.""

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

In moving this amendment I will speak also to Amendment No. 108. Amendment No. 107 would insert the order-making power set out in new Section 147A(9) into the list which currently exists in Section 197(3) of the Licensing Act 2003. This is a list of the order-making and regulation-making powers in the 2003 Act that require approval under the affirmative resolution procedure. In other words, any order seeking to increase the maximum fine of £10,000 on conviction for the offence of persistently selling alcohol to children would require the explicit approval of both Houses of Parliament.

However, the insertion is limited by the application of new Section 197(4A) so that an order would not require affirmative approval by each House if any increase related only to inflation. I think this is simply sensible. It would be wrong to trouble the House with a matter as routine as solely inflationary increases. The House would rightly be concerned if any increase related to matters of policy and both Houses would need to give their explicit consent if that were the case.

We are proposing this change in accordance with the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The committee was of the opinion that such a power should be exercised only with the explicit approval of the House on each occasion. We are happy to accept the committee's recommendation, subject to the limitation that I have mentioned. We are grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its advice and I am sure that the Committee would want to support it by accepting this amendment.

Amendment No. 108 would insert into Clause 20 a requirement for the Secretary of State to keep under review the effectiveness of the measures in new Sections 147A and 147B and issue an annual report including numbers of convictions, numbers of court orders on convictions suspending premises licences and the Secretary of State's opinion as to the effectiveness of the measures in reducing sales of alcohol to children.

I know that my noble friend has not already spoken to his amendment, but, before he does—

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I find it a rather odd procedure. The Minister and I are not responsible for the bracketing together of these two amendments, but it is odd that he should reply before I have said anything on the subject.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

If I may help the Committee, I agree that the way this has worked out is strange. I am happy to stop there, having moved my amendment, and will listen with great care to what the noble Lord has to say. I have some nice things to say about his amendment even though I cannot, ultimately, endorse it. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I speak in lieu of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe who is not able to be here. I added my name to the amendment because, at Second Reading, a number of noble Lords seemed anxious to ensure that any powers adopted in the Bill would be enforced. The powers that we are talking about here are important ones concerned with persistently selling alcohol to those under 18. Some noble Lords were concerned that many existing laws are not enforced and some were especially concerned that little action was taken against those who persistently sell alcohol to children—although in fairness to the Government and to the police more attempts have been made recently to stop this, particularly with the supermarkets.

The amendment would keep the focus on pursuing those who persistently sell alcohol to under-age drinkers by requiring the Secretary of State to produce a report on an annual basis on the lines set out in this amendment so that he, us and everybody can test whether these forms of enforcement are working.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 6:15, 17 May 2006

I can understand the confusion since the noble Lord was speaking to rather than moving the particular amendment. I have to be facetious and start by saying how much I welcome the fact that one of the Minister's own noble friends has sought fit to bring forward an annual report amendment, which is usually the function of the Opposition. I note that the Minister has already given notice that he will resist his noble friend.

In a less facetious mode, the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, was absolutely right to reflect the concern expressed by several noble Lords at Second Reading about those traders who persistently sell alcohol to children. We all know that it is often difficult for traders to determine the age of a customer, particularly if my local area is anything to go by. One notices that young people gather around and nominate one person who happens to be just over 18 to go and buy the booze. They then bring it out and drink it outside, so they get round it that way.

Throughout the debates on the Bill we have worried whether the legislation that the Government have brought forward would have any impact. Are there better ways of achieving what they have set out to achieve than these new and sometimes bureaucratic measures? On that basis, this is a helpful amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Borrie.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

As I said earlier, we entirely respect the spirit behind the amendment because, like all noble Lords, we regard the issue of the protection of children from harm as one of the highest priority.

However, we would want to reflect on what the amendment fails to recognise, which is that new Sections 147A and 147B add to a raft of measures that the Government have already established and which aim to reduce sales of alcohol to children. As such, the enforcement of these new provisions could not sensibly be assessed in isolation from the other measures. I will quickly spell out what those measures are.

The Licensing Act 2003 came fully into force on 24 November last year. Since then, the law on such sales has changed. For the first time, sales of alcohol to children under 18 anywhere—not just on licensed premises—were made unlawful. For the first time, sales made in private clubs and on pleasure boats became unlawful. Penalties for offences of selling to children have been toughened with fines increased from a maximum of £1,000 to £5,000. Personal licences may now be declared forfeit by the court on conviction for the first offence and not only after a second conviction as it used to be.

For the first time, children under 16 may not be present anywhere on premises which are used primarily or exclusively for sales of alcohol for consumption there unless accompanied by an adult. Premises licences and club premises certificates may be reviewed by the local licensing authority at the request of the police or trading standards officers where evidence of persistent illegality exists. That can lead to revocation and suspension of the licence. Just yesterday, I was talking to a licensee who happens to be an old friend of mine. He said that he thought we had valuably tightened up and strengthened legislation and licensees are now taking it much more seriously than they did before. That is an important element of this.

In 2004, to promote easier enforcement, the Government also expanded the use of fixed penalty notices for offences relating to sales of alcohol to children. We have also restricted the defence of due diligence so that it is more difficult to evade conviction for selling to children unless proper proof of age has been requested and seen.

The alcohol harm reduction strategy has also prompted the introduction of a new standards and principles document, which was launched by the alcohol retail industry last year. This presses all retailers to adopt stricter challenges for young people to produce proof of age when attempting to buy alcohol. Schemes include "No ID, No Sale", "Challenge 21" and the PASS accreditation scheme for proof of age cards.

Clause 21, which we shall discuss shortly, also introduces the concept of closure notices which have effect when the offences of persistently selling alcohol to children are dictated. The Committee will perhaps appreciate that new Sections 147A and 147B must be seen in this wider context. The new sections contribute to our attempts to combat unlawful sales to children, but they would not be isolated measures. It would therefore be difficult to unpick the impact of these sections on levels of unlawful sales, as it would be difficult to assess the other elements individually.

We are adding to this already significant list of measures. First, the Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign last summer revealed that, in almost 50 per cent of test purchasing operations against premises thought to be selling alcohol to children, sales to a child took place. This included not just small shops and pubs but major supermarket chains. The campaign conducted between last November and the new year showed a marked improvement, with successful test purchasing operations falling below 20 per cent. However, that remains a wholly unacceptable level of illegal trading and it cannot be tolerated.

I think that the noble Lord's main concern is that we should review the impact of these measures. I certainly agree with the sense of that, and it is exactly what we shall do. We are already committed to monitoring and evaluating the impact of the Licensing Act 2003, of which the new sections will form a part, but those reviews must look across the board and not at isolated elements of the package. The Department of Health annually produces statistics that show the number of children aged 11 to 15 who are consuming alcohol, how much they are consuming and where they are obtaining that alcohol. The Home Office produces regular and up-to-date statistics showing the number of convictions for selling alcohol to children and the number of fixed penalty notices issued.

The amendment is worth while in stimulating a debate, but it proposes a narrower assessment of the overall drive to curb underage sales. I give the assurance that we are watching this issue carefully and reviewing it as part of our evaluation process. I do not think that an annual report on the issue would be of benefit, and the noble Baroness would not expect me to say anything else, although some annual reports are of value. Frequently, we need a timeframe within which to look at how legislation operates, but on this occasion it would be inappropriate and too narrow in its remit. Having said all that, I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment that was originally tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I am most grateful to the Minister for setting out at some length additional laws that have come into operation and for explaining his attitude to the amendment. I was a little confused about whether his main argument was that the amendment was unnecessary or that it was too narrow because it dealt only with the matter of persistently selling alcohol to children. My noble friend Lord Brooke and I will look at Hansard and see whether there is anything further that we ought to do, but I am most grateful to the Minister for his explanation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 108 not moved.]

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 [Closure notices for persistently selling alcohol to children]:

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

On many occasions, I look at government amendments and think to myself, "What on earth are they going on about?" When I look at Amendment No. 108A, I wonder "What on earth am I going on about?" I apologise to your Lordships because the amendment is defective as it is set down; if the Minister and those advising him could not grasp its purpose, that is because the second part of the amendment, which would have replaced the words on lines 16 to 18 on page 22, was not set down as well—I only noticed that this evening.

The purpose of seeking to amend the closure notices provision is to change the way in which the matter is processed. The idea of the closure notice is that it is a sort of plea bargain before any proceedings are brought; a prohibition notice is a proposal to have a period not exceeding 48 hours during which a premises should be prohibited from selling alcohol, with any previous offences subsumed by the person concerned accepting the prohibition. That is a very interesting device, and it will be very interesting to see whether it works. But the relevant officers who issue the notices are defined as either,

"a police officer of the rank of superintendent or . . . an inspector of weights and measures appointed under section 72(1) of the Weights and Measures Act 1985", sometimes known as a trading standards officer.

The objection made to that by the Local Government Association is that pinning the power to the trading standards officer is a considerable limitation, for a number of reasons. First, local authorities have a problem in recruiting and retaining trading standards officers. Secondly, trading standards officers are employed only by unitary and upper-tier authorities, so the 238 district councils will not be able to contribute. When district councils, which have a great knowledge of the locality, feel that a closure notice might be a very good device to use in respect of a particular premises, they will not be able to act save through the police.

The issue that I am raising, although I know it has been done in a defective way in the amendment, is to allow the definition of the relevant officer to be expanded from the trading standards officer to a person who is designated as the appropriate local authority officer by a local authority. In other words, a local authority would be able to say, whether or not it has a trading standards officer, that X is the person to consider the issue of closure notices.

If that takes the Minister by surprise, I shall not be surprised myself. It may be a matter that I should discuss a little more fully on Report. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

The noble Lord is, as ever, forthright and honest in his approach to these matters. I would not say that he had entirely taken me by surprise, but what I would have intended to say does not really address the range of issues that he wants to address. He seems most keen to address the issue of district level authorities and whether they should be involved in a particular way, but I do not want to address that issue this evening. We shall give careful consideration to what the noble Lord has said, without giving any commitment to accepting necessarily what he proposes. We shall certainly look at what he has said in the Official Report and see whether it makes sense in relation to what we are attempting to achieve through the legislation. If he withdraws his amendment on those terms, I shall take it outside the Chamber to see what we can do with the issue at the heart of the amendment, as he intended it to read.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

I am most grateful to the Minister for his response and for his generous promise to consider what I said. No doubt we can return to the matter at a later stage. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Directions to individuals who represent a risk of disorder]:

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

In the immortal words of President Reagan, here you go again. This is the clause that introduces directions to individuals who represent a risk of disorder. Just like ASBOs, it is an administrative device, a breach of which leads to the commission of a criminal offence. In this case the proposed direction is to be administered simply by a constable in uniform. He is entitled under Clause 22 to give a direction to an individual requiring him to leave the locality and not to return to it,

"for such period (not exceeding a period of 48 hours) from the giving of the direction as the constable may specify".

If he comes back, he commits an offence.

When you have a criminal offence that is formulated in this way, it is necessary to look at the power of the police officer to give the direction. What is the test? It is set out in subsection (2):

"that the presence of the individual in that locality is likely . . . to cause or to contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-related crime or disorder in that locality".

I pause there. The clause does not mean to say that there has been alcohol-related disorder, nor that the individual to whom the direction is given has been or is likely to be responsible for the occurrence of such disorder. If his presence contributes to it, although he may have done nothing himself—if he is with a crowd of people celebrating a stag night, for example—the constable may give him this direction to remove himself from the area and not come back, and threaten him with a criminal charge if he disobeys.

So far as I can see, there is absolutely no way anyone can challenge the giving of that direction. A person who appears in a magistrates' court—because this is a summary conviction matter under Clause 6—is not entitled under this clause to say, "I wasn't contributing to alcohol-related crime or disorder, nor was I likely to". He is not allowed to challenge at any stage the giving of the direction by the constable. We cannot start talking about judicial review of a constable's decision taken in the street. The measure gives a huge discretion to a police officer to clear the streets in any way he desires.

My first amendment replaces the words "is likely" with something a little more positive: the clause would say that the presence of the individual in that locality "will" cause or contribute to the occurrence of alcohol-related crime or disorder. In other words, the police officer has to be satisfied with a bit more than a probability; he has to be satisfied with an actuality that this crime or disorder is likely to happen. To my mind, that is the very minimum.

Of course I oppose the whole of Clause 22 as just another way of adding a further criminal offence. It almost certainly breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. If the convention is to stay in this country for more than a month or two—despite the threats of the Prime Minister and others—and the convention rights mean anything, notably Article 11 and Article 2 of Protocol 4 protecting freedom of movement, the whole of Clause 22 is inimical to it. This is a matter of considerable principle. Awaiting the Minister's reply, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

The overall effects of Amendments Nos. 109 to 113 would be to recast the direction-making power so a direction to leave could only be given if an individual "will" contribute to alcohol-related crime or disorder. In effect, the crime or disorder would have to be imminent before a direction could be given.

I give an example of where a direction to leave might be appropriate. I am sure that we have all seen factual television programmes on alcohol-related crime, or perhaps been unfortunate enough when out late at night to witness the sort of problems on our streets that this measure attempts to deal with. In some situations, it simply starts where an individual or individuals in a group in a public place start to use threatening language and abusive behaviour against each other. Noble Lords will be aware of the form of behaviour that tends to be exhibited, and of the risk that such behaviour can contribute to crime and disorder. While it may be the case that no criminal activity has necessarily taken place between the individuals or groups, the likelihood is that this behaviour will cause or contribute to the occurrence or continuance of alcohol-related crime or disorder.

That is a clear example of where a direction to leave for the individual or individuals may be necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of any crime or disorder that might develop. The aim of a direction to leave is therefore to minimise the likelihood of alcohol-related crime and disorder arising or taking place. We have already included an explicit necessity test so that a direction to leave should be given only if it is necessary to prevent crime and disorder. The power to give a direction to leave is therefore about prevention and early intervention to help to prevent more serious problems from arising as the situation unfolds.

The direction will enable the police to deal immediately with a situation rather than have to apply to the court to sanction them to give a direction, which would cause unnecessary delay and might mean that the situation developed in a way that was unfortunate and damaging, perhaps leading to violence and disorder in the streets. I am sure that noble Lords will know from the feedback from the alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns that early intervention can help to reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related crime and disorder taking place.

The direction to leave must be given in writing by the police and may require the individual to leave the locality either immediately or by such time as the police may specify. We have set out provisions in the Bill to ensure that such directions may not be given where they would prevent an individual from accessing places where there is a genuine need for that individual to be. A direction to leave can also be withdrawn or varied by any constable.

The amendment would not enable this power to be used effectively, as it would in effect end the early intervention that a direction to leave would give rise to. The noble Lord said that there was no right of appeal against a direction to leave. It is right that there is no route of appeal, but if someone is prosecuted as a result of returning to a locality having been directed to leave it and not return within a particular period, that individual will have the opportunity in his defence to challenge whether the direction was properly made. As I have explained, a direction can be varied or withdrawn by any constable. I suppose that it would be possible for a judicial review of the proceedings to be mounted, but what we are trying to do with directions to leave is to provide the police with a practical tool that ensures that effective action can be taken on the streets to nip in the bud and close down any potential for disorder related to alcohol.

I heard what the noble Lord had to say on the issue. I plainly disagree with the thrust of his amendment, which we have to reject. If it were to be passed, it would seriously hamper the effectiveness of a piece of legislation that we believe has practical value and merit.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

The Minister will not be surprised to hear that I am profoundly disappointed by his response. There are, of course, powers under the Public Order Act for police officers to intervene if they feel that a breach of the peace is likely to happen. They can arrest a person for conduct that is likely to cause a breach of the peace and take him before the magistrates' court. Under the Bill, instead of arresting the person, the policeman gives him a piece of paper and arrests him only if he comes back into the area. The Minister said that there is a power in the magistrates' court to challenge the giving of the piece of paper. However, nothing in the Bill says that. I do not see how you can read it in, unless there is some profound legal argument about the standing of the police constable or something of that nature. The offence is failing to obey a direction given to the individual by the policeman. If the person fails to do that, that is it. It is a matter of going for judicial review if the person feels aggrieved on the ground that he has done nothing.

Here we have another example of authoritarian legislation limiting the rights of the citizen and enabling the police to push people around and to move them on. We do not accept that. For the moment I shall withdraw the amendment, but I shall come back to it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 110 to 114 not moved.]

Clause 22 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

moved Amendment No. 115:

After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—

"ARREST REFERRAL SCHEMES

(1) An arrest referral scheme is a partnership between a police force, an alcohol treatment service, and any of the following that lie within the geographical boundaries of that police force—

(a) a health authority established under section 8 of the National Health Service Act 1977 (c. 49) (Health Authorities and Strategic Health Authorities);

(b) a special health authority established under section 11 of that Act (Special Health Authorities);

(c) a primary care trust established under section 16A of that Act (exercise of functions by Primary Care Trusts); or

(d) a National Health Service trust established under section 5 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 (c. 19) (NHS Trusts), that exists with the objective of issuing alcohol treatment referrals.

(2) An alcohol treatment referral is a referral of an individual to alcohol treatment by a police officer.

(3) Such a referral shall be made by a police officer upon arrest of an individual if he was under the influence of alcohol either—

(a) at the time he was arrested; or

(b) at the time the alleged offence for which he was arrested took place.

(4) At the time of arrest, a police officer shall make an assessment as to whether the individual—

(a) is under the influence of alcohol; or

(b) was under the influence of alcohol at the time the alleged offence took place, and this assessment shall be recorded in writing.

(5) If a police officer assesses an individual to have been under the influence of alcohol under the conditions of subsection (3)(a) or (b), he may present the individual with an alcohol treatment referral, at the time the individual is—

(a) charged with an offence; or

(b) cautioned in respect of an offence.

(6) An alcohol treatment referral shall involve the police officer issuing the individual with information regarding alcohol treatment, including the time and place that such treatment is available, and treatment will be made available to the individual if he is held on remand.

(7) The arrest referral scheme will provide voluntary alcohol treatment for an individual referred to treatment through the scheme, and appropriate treatment will consist of sessions totalling no less than two hours during which—

(a) his use of alcohol is assessed;

(b) he develops an action-plan designed to reduce the likelihood of re-offending due to alcohol; and

(c) he is referred for further alcohol treatment where appropriate.

(8) If an individual has been charged with an offence and is awaiting trial, a copy of the action-plan produced by an individual according to subsection (7)(b) shall be submitted to the court.

(9) The Secretary of State shall keep under review the effectiveness of measures under this section and shall issue an annual report to Parliament specifying—

(a) the number of alcohol treatment referrals made under this section;

(b) the number of individuals receiving alcohol treatment referrals who volunteer to attend treatment under the referral; and

(c) the re-offending rates of those individuals who volunteer to attend treatment under an alcohol treatment referral."

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I sympathise with the negative feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, about Clause 22. The purpose of my amendment is to give a positive element to that clause.

In Committee on 26 April many of your Lordships welcomed government amendments that will offer some form of training or treatment for individuals who are subject to drinking banning orders. Your Lordships felt that it was a wise move to offer treatment—a wise move in the right direction. This probing amendment attempts to take the Government further in the same direction.

At Second Reading on 29 March my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe referred to an alcohol referral scheme piloted in Dudley in the West Midlands between the metropolitan borough of Dudley and the Dudley Community Safety Partnership, with the support of the Dudley health authority, the West Midlands police and the Aquarius alcohol and drugs service. The aim of that scheme, which exists at the moment, is to reduce alcohol-related reoffending. In brief, it sets out a procedure by which individuals who commit alcohol-related offences are offered voluntary treatment or awareness-raising of their own problems. That can lead to further treatment, which should help the offender to recover from alcohol addiction and related problems.

The amendment sets out the process in full. It appears to be working well in Dudley. I would like the Government to consider whether that experiment in that part of the country provides a model which has merits and which could be tried out over a wider area. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 6:45, 17 May 2006

I support this probing amendment. It suggests a very practical way of assisting people not to reoffend. As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, on the first day of Committee, we welcomed new government clauses which tried to encapsulate recommendations made in another place by my honourable friend Humfrey Malins. Welcome though they were, the scope of those attempts to persuade people to change their behaviour so that they would not reoffend as a result of their alcohol use or abuse had to be limited. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, is trying to widen the availability of such help. The experience in Dudley shows that it is a very practical procedure that has good results. I hope that the Minister will give a positive response to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

We on the Liberal Democrat Benches also welcome the amendment. The proposed new clause is a very positive move. It suggests that if a police officer makes an alcohol treatment referral, he is giving someone information regarding alcohol treatment, giving him an appointment and telling him that treatment is available. It is a voluntary scheme. The measure would move the whole thing on in a very positive way. We support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I congratulate the noble Lord on tabling the amendment. We support it in general terms. There is a profound need to address the underlying problem of alcohol misuse, as many lobbies in this policy field, in particular Alcohol Concern, have rightly argued. It is an issue which the Government take very seriously.

As we said when the Bill was introduced, it needs to be seen as part of our package of health and education measures to try to change cultural attitudes towards excessive drinking. Time will be needed to measure the success of that approach. As has been said, the Government, the Department of Health and industry representatives are convening specifically to address labelling and the sensible drinking message. The Home Office is also involved in alcohol referral schemes in a number of ways, both voluntary referral schemes and the more stringent approach developed as part of the conditional caution. Under the conditional caution approach, where someone has admitted an offence at the lower end of the scale and agrees to address their offending, the prosecutor can refer the offender to undertake rehabilitative or reparative action, for example attending alcohol counselling as a formal condition in alcohol-related offences. The offender can be prosecuted for the original offence if he or she accepts the condition but then fails to comply.

Two conditional caution alcohol referral schemes are being trialled in Lancashire and the West Midlands. The noble Lord referred to the Dudley scheme. As we roll out conditional cautions across England and Wales, we intend to work with providers to expand the opportunities for such referrals as well as working with them to expand the existing voluntary schemes where they are found to be effective. For example, my honourable friend Paul Goggins, formerly the Minister with responsibility for alcohol matters in the Home Office, met representatives of the Aquarius scheme in Dudley, and officials are exploring what can be learnt from those approaches, with a view to increasing the opportunities for such referrals. That is also why we are introducing new clauses in this Bill to help individuals who are subject to drinking banning orders take a course to address their alcohol misuse and behaviour. We discussed that at an earlier stage.

We are keen to take the opportunity in the criminal justice system to identify those whose offending is linked to alcohol misuse and to take steps to help them. However, we need to be sure that we are using public funds wisely. Not every offender who does something stupid while drunk will need alcohol counselling, and we need to test how effective the voluntary referral schemes are, and for which offenders and in which circumstances they should be applied. I am not convinced that we need to make alcohol referral schemes statutory as the amendment describes before such analysis. However, I should add that we gave an undertaking to review our alcohol reduction strategy in 2007 and we will continue to consider opportunities for alcohol referral as we develop that strategy.

We want this matter to be evidence-based; we recognise the value of the work that has been conducted in the West Midlands and in Lancashire. We have seen the product of that work; there have been definite improvements in the recidivism level for those who have gone through the referral scheme and we are signed up to the fact that the scheme has great merit. We want to give it further time. We can return to it later, and there are measures in the Bill that will assist those who are subject to drinking banning orders to find their way on to appropriate courses to address their alcohol misuse and behavioural problems, to turn away from that and adopt a more sensible approach to drinking.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising the subject. It has given me the opportunity to set out our approach on these matters, and I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for their support. I am moderately grateful to the Minister for his encouraging words, and at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Shadow Minister (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland

moved Amendment No. 116:

Before Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

"OLYMPIC TARGET PISTOLS

After section 7 (firearms of historic interest) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (c. 5) insert—

"7A OLYMPIC TARGET PISTOLS

(1) The authority of the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers (by virtue of provision made under section 63 of the Scotland Act 1998) is not required by virtue of subsection (1)(aba) of section 5 of the 1968 Act for a person to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, or to sell or transfer, an authorised pistol if he is authorised by a firearms certificate to have the pistol in his possession, or to purchase or acquire it, subject to the following conditions—

(a) that it is only for use in connection with training for and competing in the Olympic sport of target pistol shooting,

(b) that it is only for use at regional shooting clubs designated by the Secretary of State as a place where such pistols can be used,

(c) that it is stored at such designated sites and can only be removed subject to the authorisation of the Secretary of State.

(2) For the purposes of this section an authorised pistol is a pistol whose specifications are determined by order made by statutory instrument by the Secretary of State.

(3) In determining such specifications, the Secretary of State must consult the International Shooting Sports Federation.

(4) This section shall not come into force before 1st January 2010.""

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Shadow Minister (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland

With this amendment, I am once again wearing a sportsman's hat—not as part of the Home Office team. It is time to reassess the ban on the possession and use of sport target-shooting pistols in this country. It is 10 years since legislation was introduced that resulted in the ban on target pistols. That was in the aftermath of the terrible events at Dunblane, which shocked the nation and led, perfectly understandably, to calls for a ban on handguns. I do not wish to call into question the intention of the Government at that time to ensure that such a tragedy was never repeated. But that was 10 years ago and, in hindsight, the ban went a step too far.

Two Acts dealing with firearms legislation received Royal Assent in 1997. The first, introduced by the Conservative government, banned larger calibres, and the second, under the new Labour Government, completed the process by banning smaller calibres, including .22 pistols. The combined effect of that legislation was practically to destroy the sport of target pistol shooting in this country. I have drawn attention to the fact that the legislation was passed by both Labour and Conservative governments because I want at the outset to acknowledge that this is not an exercise in apportioning blame for the 1997 ban. This issue affects sportsmen and sportswomen in this country, and I have tabled the amendment entirely in their interests. This is not a party-political issue.

The ban has had an entirely disproportionate effect on the ability of our pistol shooters to train for and compete in international events. Competitors have to travel abroad to train, rather than using their own pistols in the convenience of their own club ranges. That makes it effectively impossible for young aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen to train effectively and to fulfil their potential. As such, it is a self-imposed handicap on our medal-winning potential for the 2012 Olympics, to which your Lordships will know that I am very close.

Allowing Great Britain to compete on an even footing with other nations is the strongest reason for this ban to be removed and for other arrangements to be made. Another reason is our ability to host the 2012 Olympics in a way that will bring credit to this country. Three of the 17 shooting disciplines were affected by the ban. I understand that some local arrangements were put in place during the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester to ensure that the three affected disciplines could still take place. But those arrangements have been described by shooting organisations as administratively cumbersome, expensive and even insulting to the competitors of the nations who took part in the games—our guests. When it comes to hosting the 2012 Olympics, surely we can find a way to do better.

I understand that the Great Britain Target Shooting Federation and other interested parties have been discussing this issue with the Home Office. I have also discussed this matter with Ministers and I thank them for their time and our sensible and constructive talks. I also take heart from the Minister for Sport's comments in another place in response to calls to remove these restrictions. He stated:

"The strong representations that have been made are justified".—[Hansard, Commons, 24/4/06; col. 342.]

He added that the Home Secretary was considering whether he could come to some arrangement to give the three disciplines practice facilities in this country and that he would report back when he had made his decision. I appreciate that there is now a new incumbent in the Home Office, but perhaps the Minister could today indicate the proposed arrangement and when it will be formally announced.

UK Sport gives £4.8 million a year to shooting. Is it not right that that level of investment should be supported by allowing our competitors to train and compete effectively in their home country? Pistol shooting has a long history; indeed, it was one of the first Olympic events. It is also a sport in which Great Britain has, despite the odds, consistently excelled. This House should need no reminder of the magnificent achievement in Melbourne of Mick Gault, who by winning four medals claimed his 15th Commonwealth Games medal. He is currently Great Britain's most prolific medal winner in the Commonwealth Games, having overtaken Karen Pickering's record of 13 medals.

If we want others to follow in his footsteps, and if we wish to reach the top four of the Olympic gold medal winners' table in 2012, we must do something now to remedy the situation. This amendment would allow enthusiasts to train and to use their pistols at designated sites and under close control. These pistols could be used only at designated shooting clubs and could not be transported away from such sites without express authorisation. We have tried to draft the amendment in a way that affords the Home Secretary an opportunity to consult the International Shooting Sport Federation to ensure that the specification of the pistols is correct and that any relaxation in the ban achieves no more than is necessary to allow our Olympic hopefuls to train for the games in the way that they deserve. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip 7:00, 17 May 2006

I remember both the Acts to which the noble Lord referred going through this House—one just before and one just after the change of government. At that time, the initial decision taken by the then Conservative government was that single-shot pistols should not be included in the legislation because the threat that they posed to human life was far more limited than that of multi-shot, heavier, wider and basically man-killing, military-designed handguns of the type involved in the Dunblane tragedy. Later, it was decided to expand the type of guns covered by the legislation. I always felt that that was rather harsh on a group of people who did not have any record of causing deaths. When push comes to shove, a target pistol is a rather long-barrelled, unsightly and unmacho weapon. It is probably not the best thing with which to go out and damage people—indeed, a shotgun probably has a greater capacity in that department.

I support the amendment for the simple reason that our international sportsmen, who have avoided controversy, have played within the law and have achieved results under remarkable circumstances—I agree with the noble Lord on that—deserve some support. Allowing these people, who are representing their country, to receive the support of the state in order to function is probably the minimum requirement, or something close to it.

I do not think that the amendment, or something like it, would be a great threat to public order. I hope that the Government can at least give us some idea of what they propose to do about the Olympic Games, because this is a situation where, understandably, governments have slightly over-reacted. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

I strongly support the amendment. As the Committee is unusually thin at the moment, perhaps I may add that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, to whom I was speaking earlier this afternoon, also strongly supports it. Unfortunately, he has another engagement at the moment and is unable to be here to give his vocal support as he would like to have done.

I can think of one reason and one reason only why the Government might be hesitant about accepting the amendment—fear of imagined public opinion and the opinion of a segment of the tabloid press. Those fears might have been justified, or partly justified, five or more years ago but I submit that that is no longer the case—in particular, with the Olympics looming ever closer. On the contrary, I suggest that the Government would be overwhelmingly applauded by the majority of the public and the media if they accepted this extremely modest amendment.

Photo of Earl Peel Earl Peel Conservative

I identify myself with my noble friend's amendment. I apologise to the Committee for intervening at a rather late stage in the Bill as I have not participated until now, but I was closely involved in the passage of the 1997 Act and its predecessor. I declare an interest as an ex-president of the Gun Trade Association. It appeared to me and indeed to many other noble Lords at the time that both the 1997 Act and its predecessor were an infringement on the liberties of law-abiding citizens who had enjoyed the sport unencumbered up until that point. Our justification for those comments has in fact proved to be correct, as it is pretty clear that gun-related crime has continued to rise since that time. The evidence demonstrated that legal guns played a very small part in any of the crimes committed at that time.

We should also reflect—I say this with some reluctance but it is the truth—that if the police had utilised the powers that were available to them at that time, Hamilton would not have received a licence for such weapons. But, regrettably, political over-reaction from both parties—I entirely endorse the point that my noble friend made; this is not a party-political issue—took hold and the only people who really suffered were the law-abiding citizens and retailers whose sport and businesses were severely criticised. But that is in the past and I hope that lessons have been learnt.

The amendment would, I believe, go some way to making amends for the great injustice that these two Acts have done towards those who wish to participate in target pistol shooting. As matters stand at the moment—this is another point raised by my noble friend—anyone within Great Britain who wishes to participate in such a sport must go abroad. I suggest that that is an absolute absurdity, and we now have an opportunity to make amends and address the problems. We are to be the hosts of the Olympic Games and the amendment gives us a chance to redress this difficulty. I really hope that the Government will look very carefully at my noble friend's amendment and come to some sensible agreement which will allow the shooters of this country to practise and participate in this country and, it is hoped, win medals in the way that they have done in the past and be a credit to Great Britain.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

Some of us other than those who have spoken realised when the previous legislation went through under both governments that great damage would be done to this sport, for which there was great enthusiasm in Scotland. Weapons legislation is a reserved matter under the Scotland Act and consequently Clauses 23 to 37 of the Bill apply to Scotland, absolutely correctly, although knives are not a reserved matter and legislation on them is therefore devolved. Clauses concerning knives do not apply in Scotland.

I want to ask a question of my noble friend, who moved this very important amendment. The way in which he has drafted the amendment indicates that he has discussed the matter with Scottish Ministers. I take it that he has; if he has not, and should the amendment be accepted, the Government would no doubt ensure that everyone was happy about it, but I imagine that they are. It is extremely important that something is done about this matter, particularly in relation to the Olympic Games. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to my noble friend's amendment. I know that it would cause great delight in Scotland if we could compete in the Olympics in this sport. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the sport in a number of clubs in my locality and people are still very keen on it, so I hope that the Government will be sympathetic.

I want to ask my noble friend one other question. I notice that, if the amendment were accepted, the provision would not come into force until 1 January 2010. I presume that his intention is that the measure would then continue so that it would apply for future Olympic Games. It seems to me important that it should not come to an end just because the Olympics to which it refers are in this country, but I expect that that is the case. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic and that they will not turn down the amendment now, as that would be terrible.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My name has been added to this amendment, which I strongly support. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Glentoran for taking this matter forward and for doing so in such a measured and constructive way. As he said, he was not seeking to apportion blame for the results of the 1997 ban. I came to this House in 1996 and listened to the debates at that time. I was aware of the very strong feelings around the House about the impact of a ban on the very responsible sportspeople and users of firearms, particularly in rural areas. I know that there was also a determination around the House to ensure that no further atrocities could prevail. There was a very constructive discussion at that time and I know that that will continue.

As my noble friend pointed out, the difficulty is that the legislation has had a disproportionate effect on the ability of our pistol shooters to compete in international events in the proper way and to fulfil their potential. It is to their credit that they have achieved as much as they have against a background of tremendously difficult circumstances. We thought it was right to consider this matter in the context of the United Kingdom hosting the 2012 Olympics.

Perhaps I may respond to the questions very properly put by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour. I confess immediately that at the initial stage I was responsible for trying to formulate an appropriate amendment. I say "appropriate" because this is a probing amendment and it is not one that we shall put to the test this evening. My noble friend asked about negotiations and consultation with Scottish Ministers. We sought advice from the Public Bill Office on the proper method of drafting this part of the amendment. It is our understanding that if the Government were prepared to take forward any measure, they would have to have discussions with Scottish Ministers. Whether it were an amendment to the Bill in this format or any other way in which they could bring forward a proper proposal to allow effective practice in this country, they would have to consult Scottish Ministers because, as my noble friend says, this is not a devolved matter. This was put in as a drafting matter and as signatories to the amendment we have not as yet carried out consultation with Scottish Ministers. However, I have had conversations with sports bodies that represent the interests of those from Scotland who compete and they support the amendment.

My noble friend also quite properly raised the issue of why 2010 is the starting point. That date was put forward as a starting point for negotiations to try to give our competitors an opportunity to take part in the lead up to the Olympics in London. As there is no sunset clause, my noble friend is absolutely right to ask what will happen after the London Olympics. Our argument is that, by 2010, we will need to have in place a system that is robust enough so that it can persist after that, ensuring that our competitors can continue to compete effectively at the highest level. She is right to spot that there is no sunset clause, but we need to consider what system should be put in place.

That brings me back to other points that have been made. I welcome the discussions that I understand have taken place between the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. I do not underestimate the difficulty that there always is in trying to achieve cross-departmental agreement. Both departments may want to ensure that our competitors take part effectively in pistol shooting competitions, but they may approach that from different positions. We are trying to provide the soothing oil to the rather dry and gristy mill of government and we are trying to achieve a result that pleases everyone. As we are being so compliant today, one should not underestimate our determination to assist the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in coming to the right decision.

I also welcome the words of the Minister, Mr Caborn. His responses in another place appeared to hold out the hope that there could be an agreement with the Home Office on a sensible way forward. This amendment kicks off that debate within the context of the Bill, giving an immediacy to finding a solution. Through this amendment, we hope that, before the Bill leaves this House, we can ensure that proposals are in place to enable our competitors to have an opportunity to achieve all that they deserve within that international competition.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

I thank my noble friend for putting me right. Of course, it was not appropriate at this stage to consult Scottish Ministers about what is only a probing amendment. The important point is that Scottish sporting interests want it, so there is no need for either my noble friend or the Government to comment on my remarks about that.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip 7:15, 17 May 2006

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for the way in which he has dealt with the amendment. As all speakers have acknowledged, almost with one voice, it is a very sensitive issue. Nearly all speakers have taken us back to the events of 1996 and the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 which followed. The issue was quite properly raised at Second Reading by a number of noble Lords. They pointed to the considerable success that our shooters achieved at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. We confirmed then, as we have done on many previous occasions, that pistol shooting events can, of course, go ahead at the 2012 London Olympics without the need for changes to legislation. Instead, we would use the Home Secretary's powers under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 to authorise competitors and officials to possess competition pistols for the duration of the games and for special warm-up events.

Those arrangements worked very well for the Manchester Commonwealth Games but, if there are any lessons to be learnt, we are happy to consider how we might fine tune what was done last time. My noble friend Lady Scotland made it clear that we would be discussing with colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport what arrangements should be made to allow squads to practise in Great Britain in advance of the games, and this we are doing.

I am happy to confirm all of this again today but I have to say that we are not persuaded that we need to change the legislation in the way in which the new clause before us proposes.

Photo of The Earl of Shrewsbury The Earl of Shrewsbury Conservative

I understand entirely what the Minister is saying, but these disciplines are so serious to those involved and they have to train very hard. One of the most important aspects of training for pistol shooting is to be able to possess these weapons at home or in a designated place where safety is paramount so that they are able to dry fire them. That has to happen years before they take part in an Olympic Games. The statistics and the facts are such that it is very seldom indeed that someone who tries Olympic shooting for the first time at the Olympics does any good at all. They do well a second time, but they need to have dry firing training as well as other types of training.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

I am well aware that the noble Earl is far more expert in these matters than I am. I am sure the point that he makes is a very proper one. Although I accept the points made by the noble Earl, I want to explain our position. As I have said, I am happy to confirm our approach, which has been set out before. At this point, we are not persuaded that we need a change to the legislation, as the new clause proposes.

I entirely accept that there is a debate to be had about the arrangements for the London Olympics but, ultimately, this can be resolved using the Secretary of State's powers under Section 5, which are sufficiently wide and allow for conditions to be attached both generally and to ensure that public safety and peace are not endangered.

The new clause before us does not address what would happen after the London games. The proposed starting date of 1 January 2010 was clearly selected with just the London Olympics and preparations for them in mind, but gives no indication as to when the special arrangements might end. Furthermore, far from being confined to those with a realistic chance of becoming Olympians, it would be open to any shooters to claim that they were training with this as their long-term aim.

While I recognise that only a limited relaxation of the handgun ban is being proposed, I would be concerned that this might be seen as a weakening of our gun controls. The ramifications of a total ban were very carefully considered by your Lordships' House, although in a different atmosphere, at the time of the original ban and it was recognised then that it would effectively end competitive pistol target shooting in this country. However, it was also recognised that special arrangements could be made to allow pistol shooting events to go ahead if, as is now the case, the Olympic, Commonwealth or Paralympics Games were to take place in Great Britain. We should continue to pursue that course, in consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the shooting organisations.

A number of noble Lords have mentioned that these consultations are currently being conducted. There are also new Ministers in post. This is clearly a matter of some delicacy, on which there will need to be careful consultation and consideration. We have had considerable success with our firearms strategy over recent years. There was a reduction in the number of firearms offences in 2004–05 of 5 per cent, and a beneficial decrease of 15 per cent in the use of handguns. However, gun crime must be tackled, and we must all take it seriously. Clearly, the legislation was originally drafted with that in mind; there was a carefully constructed political consensus at the time.

I pay tribute to those who have had success in the Commonwealth Games. I have the table of winners in the most recent competition, and it is indeed impressive. Those successes have been achieved under the current legislative framework. I hear and recognise what the noble Earl, Lord Peel, said.

I hope that we can continue the all-party consensus. I have seen a recent press statement from the Conservative Opposition on the issue, which concerns me a little, but it contains a commitment to continuing an all-party consensus wherever possible on the limiting exemption for handguns. I hope that we can pursue the issue in that light. I cannot give a commitment that we will bring back an amendment like the one we have today; that would be quite wrong. All I can say is that we are committed to further consultations to find a way through what is, as all have recognised, a difficult issue.

However, I am most grateful for the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has raised this matter, and to all speakers who have contributed from the opposition Benches for the constructive framework in which they have done so. Having said that, I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment this evening, so that those discussions and consultations can continue.

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Shadow Minister (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Shadow Minister, Northern Ireland

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive and comparatively wide-ranging response—so much so that I will certainly need to read it carefully before going any further. I assure the Minister and the Government that, from where I am standing, I would like to continue discussions. I hope that they are not negotiations and that we are searching for a way through this sensitive issue. I am very aware, as we all are, of those sensitivities. I sincerely believe that, if the Government decide that it is right to do it, then we can.

We should not just be thinking—I am not—about those who are going to compete in 2012. There may be those who did so well in Melbourne that that generation will still be at that level. However, we must think of the future of these sports in this nation. I shot competitively when I was in the Army, and know only too well how much training it takes in the many disciplines, including physical, which must be available if you are going to be a serious success at the top of your sport.

I finish by thanking the Minister and his colleagues in government with whom I have been discussing this issue over the last four months for listening and for their consideration. I hope that we may continue and come up with a solution for Report stage. Whether I or the Government move another amendment on Report, we shall see, but the issue will certainly stay alive. For the moment, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Using someone to mind a weapon]:

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Advisory Team On Legal Matters, Cross-Portfolio and Non-Portfolio Responsibilities

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 117A and 117B. We are moving to Part 2 and dangerous weapons. We on these Benches support the new offence of using someone to mind a weapon. There are many cases of which I am personally aware where weapons have been concealed in an attempt to evade the forces of law and order.

All I am seeking to do with these amendments is to inquire what the mens rea of this offence is to be, which is why we seek to introduce the word "intentionally". I also criticise the words in subsection 2(b),

"or be likely to involve or to lead to".

Those are very vague words for a criminal offence punishable either by four years in the case of a knife or 10 years for a firearm. We seek to tighten up the offence by including the words,

"or is intended by him to be used in the course of the commission of an offence".

These are probing amendments, and I await the Minister's response.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Amendment No. 116A introduces a specific requirement for intent to be demonstrated in using another person to look after a weapon. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support, in general terms, for our approach on this. The amendment does not add to the offence as drafted, as the word "uses" requires the offender to intend the other person to act in a particular way. It is not possible to "use" someone unintentionally. There is therefore already a mental element of intention as a central part of the offence.

Amendments Nos. 117A and 117B would make a successful prosecution of offenders who use other people to mind their weapons for them far more difficult. The clause requires that the minding of a weapon would facilitate its being available to the offender for "an unlawful purpose". In many cases, this could be simple possession of the weapon by the offender. Therefore, in any circumstances in which it would be unlawful for the offender to possess the weapon, it will also be an offence if he gives it to another person to mind.

The amendments would have the effect that, in cases where the unlawful purpose is not the mere possession but the future use of the weapon, the offence would not be committed if possession of a weapon by the offender would be likely to involve or lead to an offence, but instead would be committed only if the weapon were specifically intended to be used in an offence. Given the difficulty of proving intent, this would dilute the effectiveness of a provision that has been generally welcomed by members of the community, who see and suffer the terrible effect that gun and knife crime has on their lives and communities and who believe that passing weapons to others in an attempt to avoid prosecution is commonplace. In our fight against violent crime, we need to cover a broad range of situations to make sure that those offenders who use dangerous weapons, and use other people to look after them, do not escape the full effect of justice.

I welcome the noble Lord's general support, but his amendments would have a powerful undermining effect on a measure that is not just beneficial, but carries the broad support of many of the communities which have suffered the unpleasant impact of gun and knife crime.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that Committee stage begin again not before 8.30 pm.

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

House resumed.