My Lords, this has been an interesting debate; I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for bringing it forward. I also thank the licensing committee and its members for their considerable work on this. Listening to the debate, one thing that comes over very clearly is that it is time to review the status and look at the current situation. As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, we now have the change of use from office to residential space in town centres, and my noble friend talked about the many empty town centre premises. There will be a lot of change in ways that we have not seen before and new challenges, especially for the night-time economy, as has been discussed.
As I said, the agent of change principle has been with us for some years now, which, again, is why it is time to look at this. We know that it is in the National Planning Policy Framework, but what strikes me from the debate is the question of whether it is fit for purpose. I have a number of questions for the Minister following on from this. Is the agent of change principle having a meaningful impact at the moment? Does the licensing guidance reflect the principles in the NPPF itself? We need to ensure that the NPPF is fit for purpose, as well as the agent of change principle within it. The question on my mind is: will the NPPF, when we get to see it, reflect the likely focus of future planning decisions? How will it all fit together?
As my noble friend Lady Henig said, this is an opportunity to enshrine this principle in legislation. We need to make sure that we get this right—that it is fit for purpose and does what it is supposed to do: work to protect both sides. It is important that the Minister is able to assure us on that matter.
My noble friend Lady Henig also asked about the current status of the consultation that took place in 2017 on the housing White Paper in relation to this issue. Not to have heard back from that consultation in 2017, six years ago, is a bit concerning. Since then, as my noble friend Lord Brooke mentioned, we have had the pandemic and so much has changed, so is that consultation even still relevant? Perhaps the Government need to revisit that completely. I would appreciate the Minister taking that back to her department.