Moved by Lord Paddick
26: Clause 11, page 8, line 33, leave out from “must” to end of line 35 and insert—“(a) be made at a time when the licensed premises are open for the purposes of selling alcohol for consumption on the premises; and(b) be made at a time no later than 11.00pm.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would mean that off-sales could not take place after 11pm, regardless of whether the premises can sell alcohol on the premises after 11pm.
Do not worry, my Lords, this is not going to be a long statement. I thought it might assist noble Lords to know that I intend to table an amendment on Report to introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her promise of an amendment but, regrettably, we have a series of amendments in this group: Amendments 26, 30, 32, 34 and 35. I will briefly put on the record what they are, although they are set out in the Marshalled List.
In addition to the amendment promised, the Government need to think about amendments that aim to prevent street drinking and disorder, particularly late at night, where late-night licences are in operation for on-licence premises in the vicinity of residential premises, as the Minister has suggested she will do. If revellers who have already consumed a lot of alcohol are allowed to purchase alcohol to take away just before premises close, sometimes just before 3 am, there is a danger that they will simply party in nearby streets, to the detriment of local residents. The Minister’s suggested, albeit completely last-minute, promise of an amendment is welcome to that extent, but, whatever the hour, if alcohol is sold in open containers such as pint beer glasses, there is every incentive to consume it in surrounding streets rather than take it home or to the office. If alcohol is sold without restriction as to the kind of container—such as pint beer glasses—in which it can be supplied, as allowed under the Bill, there is a danger of injury either by assault or by accident; for example, were someone to fall while carrying a beer glass. The potential for both assault and accident increases with consumption of alcohol.
At Second Reading, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, tried to allay these concerns by pointing to the provisions in the Bill to review and revoke off-sales if premises were causing problems, and the power under Section 76 of Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to close down premises. Those provisions are largely unworkable as they require the particular premises responsible for the problem of street drinking, violence and disorder to be identified. In central London, for example, there are hundreds of on-licence premises within short distances of one another, and it would be practically impossible to identify from which premises the revellers causing the problems had bought their alcohol. There are more than 100 premises with post-1 am licences in Soho alone.
Some of those most likely to be affected, represented by the West End Community Network, will support what the Minister has promised because they support an 11 pm end time for off-sales and have not asked for a restriction on when off-sales can begin. Can the Minister explain why the Government have left it until tonight to give even the slightest indication that they are prepared to bring forward their own amendment? Will she agree to meet me and other interested Peers between now and Report to discuss both the Government’s proposed amendments and the other amendments in my name in this group? In the meantime, despite what the Minister has said, I move Amendment 26 in order for her to respond at the end of the debate.
Several speakers have withdrawn from this part of the proceedings: the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Haringey, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, Lord Naseby and Lord Hayward.
I am glad to take part in this, I am sure, brief debate. I am delighted with the statement made by my noble friend at the beginning but I want to hear more about it.
I was persuaded to table my Amendment 28— incidentally, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has signed it; I am grateful to him—for three reasons. One was a speech made by Meg Hillier, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in another place, in which she talked about the terrible squalor created by binge drinkers in her constituency. The second was the speech made at Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which was equally graphic and very persuasive. Thirdly, when I was in London last week, I talked to two taxi drivers who had been first-hand witnesses to some appalling scenes.
Selling in open containers is really rather silly. The timing should be restricted. Personally, I would not sell before noon or after 10 pm—the times that I have put in my amendment—but I accept completely that any times are arbitrary, to a degree. It is important that we protect people living in areas where binge drinking at night is a real social evil and menace. I therefore look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister says when she winds up. I thank her in anticipation but hope that she will fill in a few details.
My Lords, I am sure that the Committee will be pleased to know that I will be extremely brief, not least because—I should declare this—the Chief Whip has asked me to be. I should also declare that I have not a financial but a family interest, in that my wife is the leader of Westminster City Council, which has been exercised on behalf of its residents about the idea that people might be able to buy off-sales until six o’clock in the morning.
The other people who are exercised are the traders, as well as the residents, of Soho and elsewhere. They and I welcome the commitment from the Minister, for which I thank her. I will not move my amendment.
I will also be brief. The Minister has successfully taken the wind out of our sails on this one. I look forward to what she will say at the end of the debate. This is strictly about off-sales. It is not an anti-pub move; it is a way of avoiding the kind of disorder that the police have experienced and many of us have seen on our screens. It is solely to do with off-sales beyond 11 pm; obviously the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, goes to bed slightly earlier than the rest of us. If the Minister comes up with an 11 pm cut-off, I will listen to the details, but I certainly do not want to detain the Committee any longer.
I, too, have been asked to be brief. It is worth saying that obviously there are serious concerns about the cumulative impact of these issues where premises are gathered together. Certainly, from my experience of running a local authority with, at times, too lively and vibrant a nightlife, saturation must be looked at.
I am grateful that we had a good response on the timing but the overriding principle for me is that, in collaboration with operatives—often through good Pubwatch schemes and the local police—local authorities have come up with conditions to put on these licences. The Bill suspends those and throws them out the window, when they have been put on for good reason and through good collaboration. In principle, I feel that this is an unwelcome move.
My daughter was glassed in the face as a 27 year-old when out with her friends on a normal Saturday night. It can, and does, happen. If only that glass had been plastic. I still think that we have to have that debate on Report.
Amendment 45 in the name of my noble friend Lord Shipley is about the late night levy, which is a curious anomaly that he will expand on. I totally support any change that will allow a local authority to refund pubs for services that they have not received during lockdown while they have been obliged to pay this additional tax. I call my much-shortened remarks to a close.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s statement and the Government’s decision to table an amendment on Report. I have one question to ask the Minister: would it be possible for any premises that wanted to introduce an earlier finish time for off-sales to do so? It is very hard to see from reading the Bill whether there is any flexibility in that regard.
My Lords, I touched on this very briefly in the limited time available at Second Reading, so I will not keep the House long tonight, but I will try to put this into some sort of perspective. I cannot for the life of me see what this has to do with recovery and regeneration. I do not get at all what this proposal is supposed to achieve. I get what it will do. I understand entirely, as all those who spoke this evening and at Second Reading did, that whatever the cut-off time for every outlet to be an off-licence—I welcome the proposal of restricting it to 11 pm—the drinking will continue afterwards with drink that has been purchased and therefore is to be consumed. No one should get the idea that this will be fine after 11 pm, because it will not be. That is why, if I was in favour of the measure at all, I would err on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.
I rest my principal case on the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, at the beginning of this brief debate. Frankly, until the December general election the police did not at all have the capacity to deal with this. They are still trying to recruit. Local authorities’ environmental health functions have been totally decimated over the past 10 years because of the deep cuts and austerity measures, which local authorities have suffered from most. But there is also the absurdity of not leaving this to local discretion, where people know exactly what would and would not work, even if this measure had any justification in terms of deregulation on the grounds of stimulus and recovery.
Are we really saying that, to provide local stimulus and recovery and to help those in the sector who have been devastated, people should have the ability to buy from any licensed outlet, treat it as an off-licence and go on drinking? I am the first to enjoy a drink, but I know from bitter experience, including having been a local authority leader for seven years, just what devastation this can cause. It is not possible for it to be policed, in the widest sense, and age authentication will be more difficult.
However, I rest my case on a very simple fact. When we are faced, as we are now, with withdrawing from the third-largest trading bloc in the world, about to accelerate a trade and economic war against the second-largest trading bloc in the world, and at the mercy, for the time being, of the President of the United States and his attitudes as the leading trade bloc in the world, is deregulating off-licence drinking late into the night anything whatever to do with the recovery of our economy?
My Lords, I want to speak to Amendment 45. I referred to the same issues raised by this amendment on the late night levy at Second Reading. On
I suspect the problem may have arisen unintentionally at the time that the Bill was passed. This is not about the level of alcohol consumption, nor about how alcohol is served. It is about a charge being levied for a service that is not being provided. Maybe there has been some movement on this matter between government and local authorities. There are three principles at stake: we need clarity on the level of fees levied when pubs are required to close, and the rules for remission of those fees ought to be clear to them; we need clarity on the powers that local authorities have, and will have, on this levy; and we need a full review of licensing legislation to re-examine which powers should be held centrally and which locally. I hope very much that the Minister will understand this problem and will agree with my suggestions.
My Lords, I welcomed the Minister’s statement at the beginning. I am glad that she made it then; it has saved a lot of argument, has it not? I have two major points. The first follows up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell. In Cambridge, where I live and from where I cite things, the local authority has multiple problems with alcohol. One of the ways it has tackled this is that there has been a tendency in the case of stores near the centre of town—in other words, those situated on the way in to the clubs where drinking takes place—to say that they can sell alcohol on an off-licence basis only until 10 rather than 11 pm. Although the store can stay open until 11 pm, the alcohol licence permits it to sell only until 10. Can the Minister tell us whether this power will remain with a local authority so that, in certain areas and in certain circumstances, the alcohol licence has to cease before 11 pm, with the decision made obviously on a case-by-case basis?
My second point is in support of the amendments about open containers and beer glasses, which really are—or can be—pretty lethal weapons. I hope that the Minister will agree either to accept the principles of these amendments or to bring forward a government amendment. The potential for open containers or beer glasses to cause damage is, I am afraid, quite considerable; there is a very strong case for saying that closed containers should be used for the sale of alcohol. I invite the Minister to say either that she will accept an amendment at the next stage, or that the Government will bring forward an amendment to cover these points.
My Lords, I was going to speak in favour of Amendment 27 but, in the light of what my noble friend the Minister said earlier, I will speak in favour of Amendments 30, 32 and 35. The issue that worries me is how alcohol is sold to be taken away. It should be sold in sealed containers. If it is sold in glasses, these should be plastic, not beer or wine glasses. I am worried that glass can be used to cause injury to others.
We have seen how people behaved in the streets on Friday and Saturday nights before the lockdown. There were fights at night which police, ambulance staff and hospitals had to deal with. It is not only men; women also misbehave when they have too much to drink. I used to go to the City of London, as I had an office there. I used to see business and professional people who were sober and well-behaved during the day but who behaved badly after consuming alcohol. I therefore support the amendments which I referred to.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, has given the Committee an assurance that the Government will bring forward an amendment about restricting the time at which off-sales can be made to a limit of 11 pm. This is most welcome and deals with some, but not all, the issues raised in the amendments in this group. However, we need to see the detail of such an amendment, including the start time of off-sales under the Bill.
Noble Lords have heard the wise words of an experienced professional. My noble friend Lord Paddick knows what he is talking about. He knows at first hand the horrible injuries that can come from mixing too much drink with broken glass. He knows that this has to be curtailed. The arguments are powerful. All noble Lords who have previous or current experience in local government know how vitally important it is that these concerns are dealt with. I added my name to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Paddick and look forward to them having a positive response from the Government.
My noble friend Lord Shipley asked about reducing the late-night levy for businesses whose premises were closed under the coronavirus restrictions. This is eminently sensible, and I hope that the Government can agree to the content of the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the announcement she made to the Committee at the start of this debate. I appreciate this and look forward to seeing the amendment which the Government will bring forward. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Penn. When we met online they were very kind and listened to the issues raised, as they did at Second Reading when there was genuine concern around the House about the consequences of this additional permission. I am pleased that the Government have listened and look forward to seeing the amendment.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Whitty, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, for supporting the amendments I have put forward. There was also a formidable team in the leaders of the London Boroughs of Southwark, Camden and the City of Westminster, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea—four boroughs with the vast majority of these licences, all saying that this would cause huge problems for them—who all came together to write a joint letter. It is good that the Government have listened to the points they made. I also have to thank the Covent Garden Community Association which was rightly vociferous about the problems this would cause—they accept that they live in a very lively area, but this would be a step too far. We began to receive support over the last few days from other local authorities and community groups, and we thank them all.
We all want to see the hospitality sector get back on its feet, and we fully understand the Government’s intent here. But of course we were all concerned at what we saw in Soho and also in Shoreditch. In the other place, my friend Meg Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, raised in the debates there the huge problems they already have in London Fields without these amendments. They have problems with people drinking, and urinating in the bushes—and doing worse in the bushes—and it is just not fair that residents have to put up with that. Again, I am pleased that the Government have listened. We need to ensure that, as my noble friend Lord Blunkett said, while we want to support the local economy, we have to recognise the role of residents. The case for these amendments was reasonable, sensible and proportionate.
I will also make a few comments on Amendment 45, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, which would add a new clause to the Bill to deal with the very separate issue of reducing the late night levy for premises shut during the coronavirus pandemic. That seems a good idea to me, and local authorities should have a say in determining the levies and applying a reduction. The Government should clarify how they are engaging with councils in the process of determining these levies. It seems only reasonable that you get some reduction in the levy you pay, if you have been shut during the pandemic and unable to actually trade. I will leave my comments there, I thank the Government again and I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness.
I thank all noble Lords for their comments, and their discipline in not repeating the same remarks over and over again.
The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, made a very good point about how local areas and local partners will cope with all this and their capacity to cope if things go wrong. We have been very clear from the outset that, if things do go wrong, if licensees do not enforce their obligations and the public start to behave in a reckless manner, these places will be closed. The licensing authorities are quite clear about that and have already started to close premises when things have gotten out of hand. Over lockdown, I have spent a lot of time talking to the police on their operational calls. They are very clear that this is a multi-stakeholder approach and that everyone—not only the police, not only the local authorities, but the public and the licensees themselves—has a responsibility to make this work well.
On how this will help the economy, the night-time economy is a very vibrant one, and footfall in town centres can only enhance it. The Government have, however, listened to and sympathised with the concerns around the possibility of associated noise, nuisance, and anti-social behaviour that might occur when a late licence is in existence.
The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, asked about off-sales. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, tells me that in the olden days off-sales were a common occurrence at pubs and are nothing new, but with the advent of off-licences and supermarkets selling alcohol they are not so common anymore.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, asked about cumulative impact areas. I covered that in my earlier comments.
To recap, the alcohol licensing provisions will allow all licensed premises with an on-sales licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, provided they have not previously been refused permission for off-sales. In the draft of the Bill before the House, licensed premises which are eligible will be bound by a temporary licence condition which limits the hours of trade to the existing hours of operation as the premises’ on-sales licence permits, which can include late licences beyond 11 pm.
However, we recognise the concerns of noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments, and obviously local authorities have had concerns too. That is why we intend to a table an amendment on Report to introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under new off-sales permissions.
Both my noble friends Lord Balfe and Lady Stowell of Beeston asked about earlier finish times. If that is the wish then those earlier finish times will certainly be permitted.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me why tonight and why at the last minute. I say to the noble Lord that I have worked really hard to make this statement tonight, so to have had it done ahead of Report is an achievement.
The new provisions defined in the amendment that the Government will bring forward will not affect the underlying licences of premises or their conditions. It will provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of only on-sales licences, as well as to holders of more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales for a more restrictive period. The effect of the amendment will be that new permissions will apply only up to 11 pm or when the current licensing hours for that premises end. I reiterate for the benefit of my noble friend Lord Cormack that if it is wished that that will finish earlier—say, 10 pm—that is up to the individual premises concerned.
Crucially, the forthcoming amendment will build on the current set of safeguards previously heard by the House, which can be used to address concerns about crime, disorder and disruption caused by premises operating irresponsibly—to go to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. That includes the new expedited review process that I have talked about previously, which allows a local authority to suspend or modify the new off-sales permission within 48 hours and then hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke, suspend or modify the permission within 28 days.
In addition, the police are already empowered under Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to issue immediate closure notices to premises if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the use of a particular premises has resulted or is likely to result in nuisance to members of the public or that there has been or is likely to be disorder near the premises which is associated with the use of those premises. I spoke to the Metropolitan Police the other day and they stand ready to use Section 34 and 35 dispersal notices if necessary.
We also intend to publish guidance alongside the Bill that will set out the details of how the new provisions, including the details of the amendment, will apply to premises and local authorities. I hope that addresses the concerns raised by the noble Lords who tabled the amendments and that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will be content to withdraw his amendment.
I turn to Amendments 32 and 35, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. They relate to the sale of alcohol for consumption in open and glass containers. The Government agree that premises must be responsible for the manner in which they serve alcohol in all circumstances, and that includes minimising the risk of any associated disorder. We will therefore be including recommendations to address issues regarding glassware in the guidance for local authorities and premises that will accompany these provisions. The guidance will encourage the use of closed or non-glass containers such as reusable plastic cups. However, we also recognise that restaurants in particular will benefit from being able to serve alcohol in open containers in outdoor areas that they may use under the provisions in the Bill relating to pavement licences. Premises may have different serving equipment and preferences, and the provisions need to remain flexible to meet business and customer needs. Requiring that alcohol sold in these circumstances must be in a closed container could hinder premises that might want to take advantage of the aims of the Bill. I therefore determine that it would be too prescriptive to specify in the Bill restrictions on the type of containers that can be used for the off-trade permission, and I hope the noble Lord will be content not to move his amendment.
Lastly, the Government are sympathetic to the concerns behind Amendment 45, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, regarding the late-night levy. That is why, in April, the Minister for Crime and Policing wrote to the chairs of the licensing committees to ask them to take a more flexible and pragmatic approach during the coronavirus outbreak, while ensuring that the licensing objectives are safeguarded. I am grateful to the licensing authorities for ensuring that the system has continued to operate during this trying time.
Local authorities of course have discretion when considering non-payment or late payment of an annual premises licence fee or a late-night levy charge. While the Licensing Act 2003 requires that the licence be suspended, it is possible to delay when that suspension takes effect. I hope and expect that businesses experiencing difficulties will make the licensing authority aware and that the licensing authority will treat such businesses sympathetically. In his letter, the Minister for Crime further advised authorities to consider delaying any suspension of the licence where the delay in payment or non-payment was related to Covid-19. I hope that that is a reasonable explanation and that the noble Lord will be content not to move his amendment.
My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for allowing me to intervene. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was very powerful and I welcome the Minister’s statement. I declare that I chair the Commission on Alcohol Harms.
The chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales recently said that it was “crystal clear” that drunk people were unable to socially distance. But let us not forget that the price of beer in the off trade has fallen by 40% relative to the price of other goods since 2000, and pubs have been unable to match the low price. Publicans see cheap supermarket alcohol as a grave danger both to their commercial interests and to the country’s health, and 83% of publicans believe that supermarket alcohol is too cheap. So what happens about off-sales from supermarkets? If these very cheap, highly promoted sales are not tackled, the plan to revive pubs as social meeting places and for the support they can provide in terms of integrating people and supporting our economy will just fail.
My Lords, the off-sale of cheap alcohol is not a novel concept in terms of the Bill. I totally concur with the noble Baroness’s concerns about the harms of alcohol and about the accessibility of cheap alcohol attracting people who might not have enough money to go to the pub. Ironically, that is why I support pubs: because drinking is done in a much more controlled way. Licensees have an obligation to chuck people out of the pub if they are behaving irresponsibly. Therefore, landlords are prohibited from selling off-sales as well as on-sales to someone who is clearly drunk. It is a good safeguard.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Sheikh, for supporting Amendments 30, 32 and 35. There appears to have been a mis-communication over the extent of the amendments that the Government were going to bring forward on Report, which took me slightly off guard—so, with the leave of the House, I will say something more.
I thank the West End Community Network, the Soho Society and the Covent Garden Community Association for their briefings on these issues. I am grateful for the Minister agreeing that new off-sales should be limited to 11 pm. But the Minister does not appear to have heard my reasoning as to why the measures she set out to vary off-sales licences and the power that the police have to close on-licence premises are not effective. I will not repeat them again; I will allow her to read them in Hansard.
Whatever the hour, however, if alcohol is sold in open containers such as pint beer glasses there is every incentive to consume the alcohol in surrounding streets, rather than taking it home or to the office. Serving alcohol under a pavement licence on the pavement is not, as the Minister suggested, about off-sales in open containers. It is an on-sale—therefore that argument is completely spurious.
It is not permitted to carry alcohol in open containers on many forms of public transport, such as TfL buses, tubes and trams. This would bring the provisions of the Bill into conflict with other laws. I do not want to distress noble Lords by describing in too much detail my own experience, as a police officer, of conveying to hospital a young man who had a broken beer glass pushed into his face. Suffice to say that his injuries were horrific and his blood loss considerable. The shock caused him to shake uncontrollably. Some experiences you never forget; the life-changing injuries that he received would have made it even worse.
Amendments 30 and 32 seek to prohibit off-sales in open containers and Amendment 35 seeks, albeit imperfectly, to ensure that off-sales are restricted to sales of alcohol in robust containers that are resistant to being deliberately broken and used as weapons, or accidentally being broken and causing injury; and, in particular, preventing off-sales in beer glasses. Nothing that the Minister has said this evening reassures me on any of those other amendments, but I look forward to discussing them with her between now and Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 26.
Amendment 26 withdrawn.
Amendments 27 to 39 not moved.
Clause 11 agreed.
Amendments 40 and 41 not moved.