Amendment 29

Business and Planning Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 20th July 2020.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford:

Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford

29: Clause 11, page 8, line 33, after “a” insert “pre-cut off”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment, and the Minister’s other amendments the explanatory statements for which refer to this amendment, provide for certain new permissions regarding off-sales to end at 11pm.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, in moving Amendment 29, I will also speak to the other government amendments grouped with it and to which it relates. I thank noble Lords who have scrutinised the alcohol licensing measures in this Bill and, in particular, those who have made points regarding late opening hours. The Government have listened to and understood the concerns around the possibility of associated noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour occurring when a late licence is in existence.

Taken together, Amendments 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38 and 44 introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm to operators trading under the new off-sales permissions. They also limit the ability of those premises which are licensed after midnight to resume off-sales at that time, restricting their ability to do so until they open for business the following day. With these amendments, new permissions will apply only until 11 pm or until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier.

We have also tabled Amendment 45, which addresses those premises that may have restrictions on their licences that do not permit the use of a beer garden or other outdoor space beyond a certain hour. Amendment 45 will limit the ability of a premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. This amendment is a further safeguard to help to ensure that this measure works for local communities and not against them.

I thank again the noble Lords with whom I have engaged inside and outside of this Chamber, who have helped to bring forward these constructive amendments that the Government have tabled today. I look forward to further debate. I beg to move Amendment 29 and look forward to responding to the other amendments in this group.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 40, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Pinnock, and to the other amendments in this group. For the benefit of those who may have just joined us, let me summarise. The Government have got themselves into a right two and eight. Amendments 29 to 41 deal with bars, pubs and restaurants that have licences to sell alcohol on their premises and which will temporarily be allowed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises as result of this Bill.

The Bill does not redefine the area covered by pavement licences as being part of the licensed premises. As a consequence, drinks served within the area covered by pavement licences will be off-sales. To enable alcohol, such as glasses of wine and beer, to be served at tables within pavement-licensed areas, the Government have had to lift the current restriction on alcohol off-sales being only in sealed containers. The unintended consequence of lifting this restriction is to allow the unrestricted sale of alcohol from these premises in wine and beer glasses, for example, to people who can then walk down the street, drinking where and when they want.

Local residents do not want people drinking outside their homes, away from licensed premises, with the potential for disorder, violence and urinating in the street, particularly late at night. In addition, broken straight beer glasses can cause horrifying injuries, whether when deliberately broken and used as a weapon or when people fall on to broken glass.

This brings me to the amendments. The Liberal Democrats’ Committee amendment, which sought to restrict off-sales to no later than 11 pm, has been given effect by government Amendments 29, 31 to 34 and 36 in this group, which obviously we support. I thank the Minister for securing this—albeit limited—concession. However, these amendments do not prevent street drinking away from pavement-licensed areas and neither does Labour’s Amendment 39 in this group, albeit that it restricts it to street drinking from plastic cups.

Our Amendment 40 restricts off-sales in open containers to pavement-licensed areas, beer gardens and the like, but also supports businesses by allowing alcohol to be taken away from restaurants, pubs and bars in sealed containers. If the restaurant or pub is too full when you get there—because of social distancing, for example—it allows you to take alcohol home from those premises in an unopened bottle, can or other sealed container, as currently applies to existing off- licences, supporting hard-pressed businesses as a result. Amendment 41, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, does not allow alcohol to be taken away from the premises under any circumstances, which would hinder trade.

In a meeting with Ministers last week, the Government agreed to discuss Amendment 40 with us before Report but they have failed to do so. I explained in Committee why existing provisions and the provisions in the Bill are inadequate to deal with street drinking and disorder. As a consequence, I give notice that I intend to divide the House on Amendment 40.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Mann.

Photo of Lord Mann Lord Mann Non-affiliated

My Lords, I thank the Government for the way in which they have listened on the amendments that have been tabled, particularly in relation to late licensing and the problem that occurs in many communities of police forces being overstretched by over-late licensing for tiny numbers. That seems to be a bit of a tradition going back three or four Governments. It was not just the disruption to local residents that was a problem, it was the huge distortion—in areas such as the one I live in—in how the police budget was used.

I recall an example where a late licence was given to one premises until 5 am. Tiny numbers would be drinking there but the danger of some form of anti-social behaviour between, say, the hours of 1 and 5 am was disproportionately high. Therefore, police rosters for an entire area had to be altered. It took a good two years of argument and pressing to begin to work that backwards. The consequential impact on other policing, when police numbers were very low, was great. I commend the Government on their approach and commend noble Lords who have proposed amendments that would have a similar impact on timing. The foreseeable consequence in relation to police resources, particularly in smaller communities, is huge. That displacement at the moment would be critical.

On the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I propose to the Minister that the question of miners’ welfares always needs to be borne in mind. Whenever there is licensing, I always think miners’ welfares are a good litmus test of whether the law is any good. The miners’ welfares that I know very well are in a range of locations. Some have licences that fall comfortably within the concept of gardens and that kind of space. Some have at great expense designed spaces to capitalise on that. Others do not have that opportunity but have a similar kind of clientele—a highly responsible clientele who have been better in the responsibleness of their behaviour over the last three or four months and are able to drink sensibly and rationally.

What the Government propose seems far more sensible than the amendment. If there were to be an amendment, the one proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seems the more rational option. It seems to me that, for some businesses that are on the cusp at the moment, simply restricting in would have unforeseen consequences for their business planning. I encourage those miners’ welfares to survive by providing an additional service. Despite the fact that I had great fears about potential late-night drinking, I have no fears about that in communities such as the one I live in. I think the Government have listened and commend their approach on this. I would be interested to hear the debate on what the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has to say. He seems to have struck a middle ground but does not appear to be pushing his amendment to a vote.

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

I have one question for the Minister and one point to make. In the city I live in, there are a number of licensed premises near the centre of town for which the local authority has made the licence to sell alcohol cease at 10 pm. Will that still be permissible under the provisions here? I confess that I cannot work it out. It did it to stop people coming out of local pubs and doing what is known as preloading—in other words, getting alcohol from nearby off-licence premises and either trying to take it back into the pub or drinking outside the pub. Will licences earlier than 11 pm still be able to be imposed?

The second point is that the banning of glasses is really quite important. Anyone who has been to the accident and emergency department of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge will know that scarcely a Saturday night goes by without some sort of incident that has involved alcohol and broken glass—a bottle, a mug or a glass. I am concerned about this and would like the Government to rehearse why they feel they cannot agree to what seems to be a quite reasonable amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend the Minister for accommodating the concerns expressed, both at Second Reading and especially in Committee, with regard to the noise and nuisance associated with late-night drinking. I welcome the fact that the cut-off will be fixed at 11 pm. This allows bars and restaurants to adapt to these new temporary measures, given the challenge they face and the loss of trade they have suffered, but also recognises the rights of residents, who obviously want to have a good night’s rest and peace and quiet after 11 pm.

I have one question for my noble friend about Amendment 40 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. I have some sympathy with what he is proposing, but currently if you walk home on a sunny evening you see the general spillover on to the pavement of regular bars. I assume these are glasses carried out from the bar on to the pavement, so I am not quite sure why we will have two rules—one that will apply to this temporary piece of legislation, while the permanent situation will carry on as normal. Perhaps we should look at what other countries do and learn from them. I have great difficulty in seeing how this would apply in practice.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat 6:15 pm, 20th July 2020

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 40 and support the case for it made so clearly by my noble friend Lord Paddick. I have had two concerns about off-sales during the passage of this Bill: first, off-sales being permitted after 11 pm and, secondly, the use in off-sales at any time of open glass or other containers that could easily be used to cause injury to another person.

The Government have agreed to restrict off-sales to before 11 pm and that is right, but the issue of the containers allowed for off-sales has not been agreed. My noble friend Lord Paddick has made a very persuasive case about the unintended consequences of the Government’s position. The Government so far seem to have failed to put forward a logical case that would prevent an unnecessary extension to street drinking. My noble friend Lord Paddick’s amendment has the advantage of allowing the use of appropriate containers for off-sales but reducing the risk of injury through the use of open glass or other potentially dangerous containers. I think all parts of the House could agree on that compromise. The Government have got themselves into a very difficult position and my noble friend Lord Paddick has proposed a way out of it.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative

My Lords, I was due to speak on Amendment 27, which restricted the times of alcohol sales off the premises, and after the timely intervention of my noble friend Lady Williams the matter was dropped. I therefore support Amendment 44 and agree with restricting off-sales to 11 pm.

Although we are allowing off-sales, they must be controlled to avoid crime, disorder and disruption. I realise that under Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the police can issue an immediate closure notice to any premises if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe

“that the use of particular premises has resulted, or … is likely … to result” in problems of crime, disorder or disruption.

Having said this, we must take into account areas with clusters of licensed premises in certain parts of London and elsewhere. Four local authorities have over 37% of all licensed premises in London, and there are similar situations in other cities and towns. The point to emphasise is that crime, disorder and nuisance cannot be associated with any particular premises, and therefore the powers to issue closure notices would be difficult to exercise in view of the cluster of licensed premises. I am therefore sure that the police and local authorities will welcome the restrictions set out in Amendment 44.

If we do not restrict the hours of alcohol sales, as proposed by Amendment 44, it will allow people who have already had a lot to drink to take alcohol away with them, drink in the streets and cause problems in the neighbourhood at night. It will also enable people to have late parties in their home or garden, causing nuisance and disturbances to their neighbours.

In regard to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, although I supported his similar amendment in Committee, I am unable to support Amendment 40 because I do not see that it will do anything. I cannot see there being a problem.

Photo of Lord Bhatia Lord Bhatia Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. It will be dangerous to allow the sale of alcohol in beer glasses, as they could be used as a weapon. The police regularly have to intervene when fights break out once a consumer has drunk a few glasses of beer or spirits. A glass container is a dangerous weapon, often used by those under the influence of alcohol. Innocent people walking near these premises can get hurt and could be hospitalised, thereby putting pressure on the NHS during this difficult time. The amendment would prevent the premises selling to customers in beer glasses. I hope that the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will be carried.

Photo of Baroness Pinnock Baroness Pinnock Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

There are two related but separate amendments in this group concerning off-sales. The first, to limit the time for off-sales, was the subject of extensive debate in Committee and a commitment from the Minister to bring forward a government amendment on Report. The government amendments achieve that by limiting to 11 pm the latest time by which off-sales can be made. As this exactly replicates the proposal from these Benches in Committee, obviously we support these amendments and thank the Minister for responding so positively to the arguments made.

The second element is that of off-sales in open containers. My noble friend Lord Paddick has made another powerful case for limiting off-sales to closed containers, be it in cans or bottles. The reason is to prevent unruly scenes that may follow drinking from beer glasses in the street. Broken glass in the hands of those worse for wear is a nasty weapon. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seeks to limit such off-sales to non-glass containers, but that misses one of the critical arguments entirely, which is that off-sales in open containers, whether glass or plastic, can lead to anti-social behaviour. There have been plenty of such incidents before sporting events that resulted in drinking limits being made. My noble friend Lord Paddick’s amendment seeks the same protections for local communities and, indeed, other sensible drinkers. We do not wish to see a Bill designed to help businesses becoming one which, as a side-effect, encourages irresponsible and unsafe drinking. My noble friend’s amendment is important for individuals, communities and policing, and it clearly has the full support of these Benches.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for tabling the government amendments. As other noble Lords said, a convincing case was made for the ending off-sales at 11 pm under these new licences. This was first raised in the other place by my honourable friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier. She raised the problem she is having in her constituency even before these powers will come into play. There were huge problems in London Fields, and she raised the concern that if the Bill as it was then had been passed, it would have exacerbated the problem. I thank the Government for listening to that. I also thank the Covent Garden Community Association and the Soho Society. Weymouth Town Council was also concerned about this, as was everybody else who got in touch with me. It was also pleasing to see that we had the leaders of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, Camden and Southwark, two Conservative and two Labour boroughs, coming together because they had a number of premises that would be affected by these proposals. It is good that the Government listened and I thank them very much for that.

On the question of containers, I see the point that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is making, but there is also the issue of buying beer to drink outside, which the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, touched on. I sometimes go to the Shipwrights Arms in Tooley Street, and if you go in there and ask for two pints of bitter, they will ask, “Inside or outside?” If you say “Outside”, you will get it in two plastic containers—you do not get glasses outside. You will meet a big, burly security guard, and you will not get past him if you are carrying glasses. I take the point that glasses are dangerous and can be used as weapons, and we need to be mindful of that. However, in many cases we have those plastic containers, which you often see at sporting venues. However, I see the point the noble Lord is making.

My noble friend Lord Mann made a point about policing resources. I remember being a young councillor in Southwark in the 1980s. At that point, the council gave the music and dance licence, and the magistrates gave the alcohol licence—of course, that has all changed now. I remember that the police came along to us, exasperated, and said, “You’ve granted all these music and dance licences, then of course the pubs are getting all these licences. On the Old Kent Road on a Friday and Saturday night, we have to put in a huge amount of resources when we do the weekly rosters. Then at the same time you’re moaning at us that you want more officers on the beat. We can’t physically manage it all.” I remember how that was important at the time.

However, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the government amendments that she has spoken to, I am delighted that the Government have listened, and I look forward to her response to the debate.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken on this group of amendments and to those who have welcomed the government amendments. I take the opportunity to reiterate to the House that the government amendments in this group will introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions or—I reiterate to my noble friend Lord Balfe —until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier. If that is 10 pm in Cambridge, that is the time it will be. As has always been the case with this measure, the new provisions will not affect premises’ underlying licences. They provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of on-sales-only licences, and more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales under more restrictive conditions than are provided for under the new permission.

Amendment 45 will further help to ensure that the new permissions work for and not against local communities, as I said. It will do this by limiting the ability of premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. Where such restrictions apply, it is likely that a licensing authority has imposed the conditions to reduce the risk of noise nuisance or anti-social behaviour to local residents. These conditions should therefore remain in place. I hope that noble Lords will welcome these amendments, and again I thank those who led to their tabling today.

Amendments 30, 35 and 37 from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seek similarly to restrict the hours when the new off-sales permissions apply. I thank the noble Lord for his constructive engagement as the Bill has moved through the House and hope that, given my explanation of our amendments, he will feel that he does not need to move his amendments when they are called.

Briefly, I know that my noble friend Lady Stowell did not move her amendment, but I will relay some of the points that we have discussed. For the sale of alcohol for consumption in outside areas already part of the licensed premises, such as a beer garden, those sales are defined as on-sales and premises will therefore not require a new permission to carry out this function. However, if premises wish to sell alcohol for consumption in bordering outside areas that are not on the premises plan as part of the existing licensed premises, they will still require an off-sales permission in order to do so. That might include an area they seek to occupy following the successful application of a pavement licence.

However, not every business will be able to take advantage of the Bill’s provisions relating to pavement licences. Some businesses are located on streets that are simply too narrow or too busy to accommodate street furniture. These businesses may wish to carry out either deliveries of alcohol, or off-sales for consumption elsewhere; for example, by selling alcohol as part of a picnic. As a result, the legislation does not and should not prescribe the area within which alcohol should be consumed.

Amendments 39 and 40, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Paddick, relate to the type of vessel or “container” that may be used for off-sales under the new permissions. These amendments seek to prevent takeaway drinks in glasses and make provisions for drinks served in containers such as wine glasses or pint glasses to be served in areas that either are covered by pavement licences or the premises otherwise have some right over.

The Government recognise the noble Lords’ concerns. This is why container types will be addressed through the guidance that accompanies this measure. The guidance has been informed through government liaison with the LGA, the police and other alcohol licensing stake- holders. It is fit for purpose and does not need to be replaced by legislation in the Bill itself. Indeed, specifying restrictions on the types of containers that premises can use for the off-trade permission in legislation would be very prescriptive and potentially place burdens on businesses. I hope noble Lords agree that the guidance is the most appropriate place for these provisions and that they will choose not to move their amendments.

As my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said—the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also alluded to it—in practical terms, publicans are already minded to ensure that they serve alcohol in appropriate containers that are safely used and safely returned. The alcohol licensing measure in the Bill is being made in the context of an effective and long-standing regime that works to ensure that licence holders act responsibly, and in a way that considers their customers and local communities. The new measure will be implemented in the context of this regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, talked about police resources. He is absolutely right. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said, the police are already consulted in any consideration of a licence being granted. I have spoken to the police throughout the pandemic and while some of these measures have been brought in; they have made it very clear to me that there are many responsible stakeholders—licensees, the public and the police. This is a multi-effort arrangement, because if any one of these things goes amok, licences might well be revoked. I hope that the noble Lords will not press Amendments 39 and 40.

Amendment 29 agreed.

Amendment 30 not moved.