I am extremely pleased to support the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, who introduced this amendment in, if I may say so, an extremely detailed speech, which means that I can be somewhat briefer. I think noble Lords will be pleased about that, because I have a dreadful cough which might manifest itself in the next five minutes. I apologise if it interrupts what I want to say.
I was a member of the committee that was so ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, to carry out the post-legislative scrutiny of the Licensing Act 2003. There was an extremely strong team on that committee, quite apart from the chair and the House of Lords back-up team; Sarah Clover was an extremely helpful special adviser. I am grateful to Sarah for sharing with me her vast legal expertise on this topic, and for guiding me through the more arcane elements of this particular legal element.
The agent of change principle was one of the issues that came up during our proceedings. The Government professed themselves to be sympathetic to the problems being faced by the night-time economy. Indeed, their response to our recommendation that the agent of change principle should be adopted in both planning and licensing guidance was that they were consulting to see whether the agent of change principle should be emphasised by changes to the National Planning Policy Framework. That was in 2017; perhaps the Minister could tell me what the outcome of that consultation was, since the trail seems to have gone a little cold and I have not heard whether there has been any follow-up. I would be most grateful if perhaps the Minister could bring us up to date on that particular matter.
Now, of course, since 2017, the landscape has changed considerably for the worse as far as the night-time economy is concerned, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, quite rightly pointed out. It was decimated by Covid and is only just recovering from the impact. Along with the rest of the economy, the night-time economy faces critical staff shortages and considerable inflationary increases. Frankly, it needs all the help it can get. It needs the Government not to just pay lip service to helping the economy in these difficult times but to actually do something to assist.
This is one obvious way that the Government can help. Here is the Government’s opportunity to enshrine in primary legislation the agent of change principle, so that the interests of the night-time economy, local residents, and possible new local developments are all taken into account equably in planning decisions. It seems to me that that is a very important principle. Furthermore, it seems to me absolutely right, and very important, that this happens right at the outset of new developments, so that all interests at local level can be fully taken into account, difficulties can be pinpointed and ways to mitigate these difficulties can be identified early on.
Really, this is a very straightforward amendment to try to assist in the current process, and to improve it. Therefore, I commend it to the Minister as one which could bring great benefits up and down the country at, as far as I can see, hardly any cost. I very much hope it will be taken on board by the Government.
I will just add that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and I have some form in putting forward amendments which are then taken on by the Government and presented subsequently as government amendments. I am therefore extremely hopeful that this might happen in relation to this very constructive and helpful amendment, and I commend it to the Minister.