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My Lords, I want to deal briefly with the argument that the amendment is not necessary because it simply duplicates what is already in the law. Licensed premises, including entertainment venues such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, are obliged under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers. It is intended to be an anticipatory duty; it falls on service providers to make the reasonable adjustments and take the appropriate action ahead of any disabled person coming along and asking to be allowed to avail themselves of the service. However, the Equality Act duty is widely disregarded, placing the onus on the individual to enforce the duty, when enforcement is extremely difficult for the individual on account of its cost and complexity.
Adding “securing accessibility for disabled persons” to the list of licensing objectives under the Licensing Act 2003 would enable the Equality Act to be proactively enforced without the whole burden of enforcement falling on the individual. It is said that the amendment simply duplicates current law and does not add anything, so it is not needed, but that is not true. There is a reasonable adjustment duty, but it is difficult for the individual to enforce it, so some such mechanism as the amendment proposes is necessary to give the Equality Act teeth—and with great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I prefer “teeth” to “mindset” on this occasion.
It is also said that the amendment adds nothing to the powers that licensing authorities already have, but that is also not true. The current objectives of licensing authorities are the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm. There is nothing about securing accessibility for disabled persons. Amendment 173 is necessary if licensing authorities are to have the power to take accessibility for disabled persons into account.
The Equality Act’s reasonable adjustment duty is intended to be anticipatory but, because of the problems for individuals in enforcing the duty, things do not tend to work out that way. That is why we need the power that the amendment proposes to give to licensing authorities to enable the enforcement of the duty, if not in an anticipatory way, at least proactively.