Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill: Further Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 21st June 2021.

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Debate resumed on amendment No 1, which amendment was:

In clause 9, page 10, line 6, leave out “for a film exhibition” and insert “as a cinema”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 2: In page 10, leave out lines 8 to 10 and insert -



“'cinema’ means any place which is used primarily and ordinarily for a film exhibition within the meaning of Article 2 of the Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and the use of which for such exhibitions is licensed under Article 3 of that Order;’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 3: In page 10, line 11, leave out from “after” to end of line 12 and insert “before ‘a theatre’ insert ‘a cinema,’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 4: In clause 10, page 10, line 29, after “premises” insert


 


“, except in so far as that is permitted by Articles 52E and 52F”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 5: In clause 11, page 16, line 34, at end insert -



“(1A) In Article 30 of the Licensing Order (occasional licences), after paragraph (1) insert—


‘(1A) An occasional licence may not be granted for any part of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) to which an order under Article 52E applies.’” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 6: In clause 11, page 16, line 38, leave out from second “(3)” to “(4)” in line 39 and insert -



“(5) (inserted by section 8(2)) insert—


‘(6)”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 7: In clause 11, page 17, line 7, at end insert -



“(5A) In Article 56 of the Licensing Order (penalty for permitting consumption of intoxicating liquor in unlicensed part of premises), after paragraph (1) insert—


‘(1A) The exception in paragraph (1) for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) does not apply to premises of that kind to which an order under Article 52E applies during the period for which an authorisation under Article 52F has effect.’


(5B) In Article 58 of the Licensing Order (young persons prohibited from certain premises), in paragraph (5), before ‘if’ insert ‘, or who is in licensed premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) to which an order under Article 52E applies at a time when an authorisation under Article 52F has effect,’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 8: In clause 11, page 17, line 8, leave out subsections (6) and (7) and insert -



“(6) In Schedule 9 to the Licensing Order (procedure on certain applications)—


(a) in the title, after ‘48’ insert ‘, 52E’,


(b) in paragraph 1, after ‘48’ insert ‘, 52E’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after paragraph (c) insert—


‘(ca) in the case of an application under Article 52E, on the ground mentioned in Article 52E(2);’.


(7) In Schedule 10 to the Licensing Order (applications for extension licences)—


(a) after paragraph 1 insert—


‘1A. In this Schedule ‘authorisation’ means an authorisation under Article 52F.’,


(b) in paragraph 2, after ‘the grant of a licence’ insert ‘or authorisation’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after ‘the granting of the licence’ insert ‘or authorisation’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 9: In clause 12, page 17, leave out clause 12. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 10: In clause 15, page 21, line 38, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert -



“(4) In Schedule 9 to the Licensing Order (applications to court)—


(a) in the title, after ‘52E’ (inserted by section 11(6)(a)) insert ‘or 58A’,


(b) in paragraph 1, after ‘52E’ (inserted by section 11(6)(b)) insert ‘or 58A’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after paragraph (ca) (inserted by section 11(6)(c)) insert—


‘(cb) in the case of an application under Article 58A, on any ground mentioned in Article 58A(3);’.


(5) In Schedule 10 to the Licensing Order (applications for extensions and authorisations), in paragraph 1A (inserted by section 11(7)(a)), after ‘52F’ insert ‘or 58B’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 11: In clause 20, page 25, line 20, leave out “licensed”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 13: In clause 23, page 26, line 36, leave out “as the court thinks fit”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 17: In clause 26, page 29, line 18, leave out “insert” and insert “(but before the following ‘or’) insert ‘or’”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 18: clause 34, page 35, line 13, at end insert -



“(1A) After paragraph (2) of that Article insert—


‘(2A) Regulations may modify paragraph (2) so as to substitute a different number of authorisations for the number for the time being specified there.


(2B) Regulations may not be made under paragraph (2A) unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.’” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 19: In clause 37, page 39, line 23, leave out “that Order” and insert “the Registration of Clubs Order 1996”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 23: In clause 48, page 45, line 2, leave out “7(1) and (3), 11” and insert “1, 7(1) and (3), 11, 14”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 24: In schedule 1, page 46, line 22, leave out paragraph 3 and insert -



“3. In Article 5 (premises for which a licence may be granted), in paragraph (3)—


(a) for ‘Article 51(1)(b)’ substitute ‘Articles 48B(2) to (6), 51(1)(b) and 52C(1)’,


(b) for ‘(l)’ substitute ‘(m)’, and


(c) in sub-paragraph (b), at the beginning insert ‘except in the case of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m),’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

If you will allow me to open my speaking notes, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will do so very quickly. I will begin, as I have done throughout the Bill's progress, by declaring an interest. I worked in the hospitality sector for 17 years and, most recently, up to March last year, in a pub in my constituency.

As has already been said, the Bill has been a long time coming. The amendments in this group, as was outlined by the Minister, are largely technical and amend the wording of a number of amendments that were made at Consideration Stage. I have no real issues in relation to most of them, but I would like clarification from the Minister as to the impact of amendment No 13 in removing the words "as the court thinks fit" on the issuing of terms and conditions for occasional licences. Will the terms and conditions be set out elsewhere and are they OK under the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 as it stands?

Amendment No 8 adds further clarity on applications under articles 52E and 52F of the 1996 order and, as a technical amendment, it is welcome.

On occasional licences, Kellie Armstrong mentioned her intention to vote against amendment No 5, and I am minded to do so in the same vein. I would certainly be happy to take an intervention for clarification from the Minister on the effect of amendment No 5 on occasional licences — already in the Bill — which amends article 30 of the Licensing Order on the local producer's licence. I will raise similar issues to those that I raised at Consideration Stage about why this article is being amended. Does amendment No 5 mean that those with local producer's licences under article 5(1)(m) cannot get an occasional licence via another licensed premises, namely a pub, or does it mean that local producers who do not have a taproom licence can still avail themselves of occasional licences via another licensed premises, as occurs today?

For example, I can attend a taproom event under an occasional licence, and if the local producer who runs the taproom did not apply for a taproom licence under article 5(1)(m), under the on-sale licence in article 52E, could a friendly pub still go to the courts and apply for an occasional licence on their behalf after this Bill is enacted? Furthermore, on Kellie Armstrong's point, does it mean that if a local producer gets a taproom licence, which, I remind Members, despite attempts to say otherwise at Consideration Stage, is for very limited circumstances on hours and days, occasional licences cannot be sought on their behalf under this clause?

I do not think that we have all taken into consideration — some of us have — the effects of the practical outworkings of the Bill on viability, despite having discussed them at some length at Consideration Stage. The Committee spent a number of hours talking about the viability of the local producer's licence.

A further query for the Minister is on amendment No 13, which, as I said, changes policy by leaving out "as the court sees fit". Will the courts still issue terms and conditions under the 1996 Order?

I welcome amendment No 24 from the Minister. I thank the Department and Claire McCanny in the Bill Office for their time and support over the past week or so to help me discuss the issues that I raised at Consideration Stage on the practical outworking of and much-needed clarity on the new local producer's licence in relation to its status in the Bill and in the 1996 Order that would be amended on the basis of the "ancillary" label, which was mentioned previously.

In summary, the issues are the rating process and the potential impact on industrial derating as manufacturers; the requirement for further planning permission, either in part or in whole, depending on whether the taproom is ancillary and temporary; restrictions on opening hours, which we have already attempted to amend; where the red lines can and should go on applications for taprooms, off-licences and the toured areas; the removal of access to occasional licences and how this licence will be interpreted in the courts in the context of building regulations and by authorities, PSNI and councils, for example; and the fact that the impact of the licences might mean that it is not worthwhile for small, independent businesses to apply for them. We need to make sure that the Bill does not end up being unworkable in practice.

Amendment No 24 seeks to make it clear in the legislation that the taproom aspect of the licence is ancillary to the main functions of the area. Using the example that I gave at Consideration Stage, if the taproom element of the licence, namely the red line, is around 5% of the manufacturing or production building, that is treated as ancillary to the main purposes of the premises.

Can the Minister confirm that that will mean that planning permission will still be required for the licences to be issued and whether she has discussed or will discuss that with the Minister for Infrastructure and the local planning authorities to assess any impact on their business? I echo those comments in asking the Minister to engage with the Minister of Finance on the rating issues, to establish whether regulations or guidelines are needed to progress them, as the extent of the relief through industrial derating is determined by statute. Derating is apportioned according to the occupation for other purposes. We still need to work out those fine details.

A lot of the Bill is complex in nature, alongside the maze that is the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 — I do not claim to know anything about it at all, but fair play to anybody who does. Much of this Bill seeks to amend the Order. I welcome the clarification in amendment No 24, and I hope that it does just that. The need for information is a key issue that has been brought to me by sector bodies and local producers in the last few weeks.

I will draw my remarks to a close on this group, as I will pick up on the complex nature of the legislation and the need for clear guidance on its practical implementation in the group 2 debate under the amendment tabled in my name.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Agus anois iarraim ar Aire na bPobal ceann a chur ar na leasuithe. I call the Minister for Communities to wind up on the amendments.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

I thank everyone who has spoken. Again, I thank the Chair and the Committee for their approach to the amendments. I was glad to work with the Committee to adopt some of the amendments. Many of the amendments are technical and consequential, and, as has been touched on by many members, moving to Further Consideration Stage is a huge step forward. Hopefully, the debate will not be as long as the Consideration Stage debate.

Amendment no 5 has been mentioned. The policy for the use of occasional licences at the premises of a local producer was agreed at Consideration Stage. From my point of view, voting against amendment No 5 will not reverse the decision that was made by the House. To reiterate, amendment No 13 is about improvements to the drafting of clause 23. It is about permitting a court to determine an application for an occasional licence and to impose the terms and conditions of that licence as it sees fit. I commend the amendments to the House.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Minister.

Amendment No 1 agreed to.

Amendment No 2 made:

In page 10, leave out lines 8 to 10 and insert -

<BR/>

“&#x0027;cinema’ means any place which is used primarily and ordinarily for a film exhibition within the meaning of Article 2 of the Cinemas (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 and the use of which for such exhibitions is licensed under Article 3 of that Order;’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Amendment No 3 made:

In page 10, line 11, leave out from “after” to end of line 12 and insert “before ‘a theatre’ insert ‘a cinema,’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 10 (Licence for off-sales)

Amendment No 4 made:

In page 10, line 29, after “premises” insert


 


“, except in so far as that is permitted by Articles 52E and 52F”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 11 (Sales and consumption of intoxicating liquor in local producer’s premises)

Amendment No 5 made:

In page 16, line 34, at end insert -



“(1A) In Article 30 of the Licensing Order (occasional licences), after paragraph (1) insert—


‘(1A) An occasional licence may not be granted for any part of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) to which an order under Article 52E applies.’” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Amendment No 6 made:

In page 16, line 38, leave out from second “(3)” to “(4)” in line 39 and insert -



“(5) (inserted by section 8(2)) insert—


‘(6)”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Amendment No 7 made:

In page 17, line 7, at end insert -



“(5A) In Article 56 of the Licensing Order (penalty for permitting consumption of intoxicating liquor in unlicensed part of premises), after paragraph (1) insert—


‘(1A) The exception in paragraph (1) for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) does not apply to premises of that kind to which an order under Article 52E applies during the period for which an authorisation under Article 52F has effect.’


 


(5B) In Article 58 of the Licensing Order (young persons prohibited from certain premises), in paragraph (5), before ‘if’ insert ‘, or who is in licensed premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m) to which an order under Article 52E applies at a time when an authorisation under Article 52F has effect,’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Amendment No 8 made:

In page 17, line 8, leave out subsections (6) and (7) and insert -



“(6) In Schedule 9 to the Licensing Order (procedure on certain applications)—


(a) in the title, after ‘48’ insert ‘, 52E’,


(b) in paragraph 1, after ‘48’ insert ‘, 52E’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after paragraph (c) insert—


‘(ca) in the case of an application under Article 52E, on the ground mentioned in Article 52E(2);’.


 


(7) In Schedule 10 to the Licensing Order (applications for extension licences)—


(a) after paragraph 1 insert—


‘1A. In this Schedule ‘authorisation’ means an authorisation under Article 52F.’,


(b) in paragraph 2, after ‘the grant of a licence’ insert ‘or authorisation’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after ‘the granting of the licence’ insert ‘or authorisation’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 12 (Restrictions on occasional licences)

Amendment No 9 made:

In page 17, leave out clause 12. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 15 (Underage functions)

Amendment No 10 made:

In page 21, line 38, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert -



“(4) In Schedule 9 to the Licensing Order (applications to court)—


(a) in the title, after ‘52E’ (inserted by section 11(6)(a)) insert ‘or 58A’,


(b) in paragraph 1, after ‘52E’ (inserted by section 11(6)(b)) insert ‘or 58A’, and


(c) in paragraph 4, after paragraph (ca) (inserted by section 11(6)(c)) insert—


‘(cb) in the case of an application under Article 58A, on any ground mentioned in Article 58A(3);’.


 


(5) In Schedule 10 to the Licensing Order (applications for extensions and authorisations), in paragraph 1A (inserted by section 11(7)(a)), after ‘52F’ insert ‘or 58B’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 20 (Restrictions on off-sales drinks promotions in supermarkets etc.)

Amendment No 11 made:

In page 25, line 20, leave out “licensed”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 22 (Minimum unit pricing)

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

We now come to the second group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 12, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 14 to 16 and amendment Nos 20 to 22. In the group, amendment Nos 14 and 15 are mutually exclusive, and amendment No 22 is consequential to amendment No 21.

Anois, iarraim ar Dheirdre Hargey, Aire na bPobal, leasú 12 a mholadh agus labhairt ar na leasuithe eile sa ghrúpa. I now call Deirdre Hargey to move amendment No 12 and address the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

I beg to move amendment No 12:

Leave out clause 22 and insert -

<BR/>

Minimum price for alcohol


 


22.—(1) The Department of Health must, before the third anniversary of the whole of this Act coming into operation—


(a) bring forward to the Assembly legislation to set a minimum price for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor in Northern Ireland and to prohibit its sale or supply in Northern Ireland below that price, or


(b) if it is not reasonably practicable for the Department to comply with paragraph (a), make a statement to the Assembly on why it is not reasonably practicable to do so.


 


(2) In this section, ‘intoxicating liquor’ has the same meaning as in the Licensing Order.”

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 14: Leave out clause 24 and insert -



Independent review of licensing system including surrender principle


 


24.—(1) The Department for Communities must, before the first anniversary of this Act receiving Royal Assent, appoint an independent person (‘the reviewer’) to conduct a review of the system in Northern Ireland for authorising the sale by retail of intoxicating liquor (‘the licensing system’).


 


(2) The review must include the following—


(a) an assessment of the operation of the surrender principle, an examination of options for reforming it and an assessment of the implications of those options for licence holders;


(b) an analysis of the geographical distribution of licensed premises in Northern Ireland;


(c) an analysis of the economic and social impact of the licensing system and the impact of the licensing system on personal and public health;


(d) an assessment of the extent to which the licensing system meets consumer demand and local community needs, when set alongside the impact it has on personal and public health and on public order;


(e) whatever recommendations for improving the licensing system that the reviewer considers appropriate.


 


(3) The reviewer must complete the review within two years of the appointment being made.


 


(4) The reviewer, having completed the review, must provide a report to the Department; and the Department, having received the report, must—


(a) lay the report before the Assembly, and


(b) arrange for it to be published.


 


(5) The Department must, within six months of the publication of the report, publish a plan setting out how it proposes to respond to the report.


 


(6) The Minister for Communities must, within six months of the publication of the report, make an oral statement to the Assembly about the plan published under subsection (5).


 


(7) The Department for Communities may by regulations modify subsection (3), or modify subsection (6), so as to substitute a different period for the period for the time being specified there.


 


(8) Regulations may not be made under subsection (7) unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.


 


(9) In this section—


(a) the reference to an independent person includes a reference to a group of independent persons, an independent organisation or a group of independent organisations,


(b) the references to intoxicating liquor, licences and licensed premises are to be construed in accordance with the Licensing Order, and


(c) the reference to the surrender principle is a reference to the part of the procedure for granting a licence that is provided for in Article 7(4)(e) of the Licensing Order.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 15: In clause 24, page 27, line 33, at end insert -



“(e) the social value of public house diversification, including the current mixed trading regulations for licensed premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing Order.” — [Miss Woods.]

No 16: Leave out clause 25 and insert -


 


Annual publication of the number of licences


 


25.—(1) The Department for Communities must, as soon as reasonably practicable after the beginning of each year, publish a statement of each of the following as at 31st December in the previous year—


(a) the number of licences in force for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing Order;


(b) the number of licences in force for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(b) of the Licensing Order;


(c) the number of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing Order in each district electoral area or, if the Department considers that it is feasible to reckon the number of such premises by reference to smaller areas, in each of those areas;


(d) the trends which may be observed from the numbers referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).


 


(2) In subsection (1), ‘licences’ and ‘premises’ each have the same meaning as in the Licensing Order.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

No 20: In clause 43, page 43, line 18, after “effect” insert “and practical implementation”. — [Miss Woods.]

No 21: In clause 44, page 43, line 35, after “implementation” insert “and effectiveness”. — [Ms Armstrong.]

No 22: In clause 44, page 43, line 39, after “implementation” insert “and effectiveness”. — [Ms Armstrong.]

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

My amendments in group 2 would improve the drafting of the Bill and mainly address the potential practical difficulties in implementation. Amendment No 12 clarifies clause 22, ensuring that the Department of Health not only sets a minimum unit price for alcohol but prohibits the sale of alcohol below that price. The amendment also provides the Minister of Health with the opportunity to explain to the Assembly the reasons that it is not practical to do so within the timescale set, should that be the case. The amendment is in response to legal advice received by my Department that the statutory duty placed on the Department of Health to bring forward legislation takes no account of the role of the Executive Committee and could place the Minister in a position of being unable, because of his duty under the ministerial code, to comply with a legal obligation.

Amendment No 14 replaces and improves the drafting of clause 24, "Independent review of the licensing system and surrender principle", to ensure that there no issues with the practical implementation of the provisions. A number of definitions have also been added as they are stand-alone provisions that are not to be inserted in the Licensing Order. The amended clauses increase the time frame for appointing an independent person from six months to within one year of the Act receiving Royal Assent. The timescale from the completion of the review is increased from one year to two, with the inclusion of a regulation-making power to extend that if necessary. A regulatory power has also been included to allow for the time frame for publishing an action plan to be increased by the regulations if necessary. The remaining changes are to improve the drafting of the clause and ensure its practical implementation. They do not seek to reverse the agreed policy intent. I thank Matthew O'Toole for tabling the amendment at Consideration Stage and for working with my officials to ensure the practical implementation of the policy.

Amendment No 15, tabled by Rachel Woods, proposes that the independent review provided for in clause 24 should, as part of its remit, consider the desirability of the social value of public houses carrying out other types of businesses on their licensed premises. I have been advised that an examination of the social benefits or otherwise of the diversity of trade on licensed premises is adequately covered by the terms set out for the review in new clause 24(2)(d) and (e) proposed by my amendment No 14. I, therefore, do not support the amendment.

Amendment No 16 to clause 25 clarifies that the information that is required to be published annually by the Department relates to the number of pubs and off-licences, not the operation of the entire licensing system. The amendment also sets the reporting level of the geographical spread of pubs to district electoral area and requires the Department to include a statement commenting on observable trends. Again, I thank Matthew O'Toole, whose amendment it was, for working with my officials to ensure that there are no practical difficulties in implementing the policy.

Amendment No 20, tabled by Rachel Woods, proposes that, under clause 43, the Department's guidance should include the detail of the practical implementation, as well as the effect of Part 1 and the resultant Act on the Licensing Order. The practical implementation of the Act is set out in the schedules and the various court rules that accompany it. I do not think that the amendment is necessary. Therefore, I do not support it.

Amendment Nos 21 and 22, tabled by Kellie Armstrong, propose that clause 44, which requires the Department to review and report on the implementation of each provision of Parts 1 and 2 of the resultant Act, should include the term "and effectiveness". I have been advised that any assessment of the implementation of a provision would necessarily include an objective assessment of its effectiveness. I do not support the amendment, as I believe that it is unnecessary.

Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP

At our meeting on 17 June, as I said in the debate on group 1, members considered a detailed paper from the Department that outlined all of the Minister's amendments and the need for them. The Committee was content with the Minister's proposed amendments in group 2. They do not reverse the decisions that the House agreed at Consideration Stage but refine the clauses that stand part of the Bill to ensure that they are legally effective and practically possible to implement, improve the drafting of clauses and ensure their enforceability.

The Committee supports amendment No 12, which leaves out clause 22, entitled 'Minimum unit pricing', in the version of the Bill as amended at Consideration Stage and inserts a new clause 22 entitled, 'Minimum price for alcohol'. The Department's paper to the Committee advised that new clause 22 takes account of a number of comments by the Attorney General that the Department of Health should not only set a minimum unit price for alcohol but prohibit the sale of alcohol below that price; that it should recognise the limited power of an individual Minister to introduce legislation; that it should take account of the role of the Executive Committee; and that, should it not be reasonably practicable to comply with clause 22(1)(a), it should provide the Minister of Health with an opportunity to explain to the Assembly the reasons that it is not practicable to do so within the timescale set.

With regard to clause 24, "Independent review of the licensing system and surrender principle", the Committee supports the Minister's amendment No 14, which leaves out clause 24 in the version of the Bill as amended at Consideration Stage and inserts a new clause 24, "Independent review of licensing system including surrender principle". The Committee understands that the amended clause has been proposed to ensure that there are no issues with its practical implementation, that it does not seek to reverse the agreed policy intent and that the Minister's amendments have Mr O'Toole's support. The Department advised the Committee that the amended clause increases the time frame for appointing an independent person from six months to within one year and increases the timescale for completion of the review from one year to two years, with the inclusion of a regulation-making power to extend that, if necessary. A regulatory power has also been included to allow the time frame for publishing an action plan to be increased by regulations, if necessary.

I understand that amendment No 15 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 14. Have I got that right? I will wait to hear what Miss Woods says further to that.

The Committee supports the Minister's amendment No 16, which provides improved drafting of the clause in the version of the Bill as amended at Consideration Stage.

Amendments Nos 20 to 22 to clauses 43 and 44 are proposed by Rachel Woods and Kellie Armstrong. It will be up to the House to decide whether those amendments should be included.

Photo of Sinéad Ennis Sinéad Ennis Sinn Féin

My comments on this group of amendments will be brief. I am glad that we are getting through the amendments more efficiently today, as I do not think that anybody wants to hang around until 3.00 am or 3.30 am. Exhausting as that was, however, it was important that we had the debate that night, and I am thankful to the Minister for facilitating that. As Committee members, we tend to think of the Bill as our baby, but, of course, it is for Members in the House to have their say and to table amendments if they wish to do so. I am impressed by and pleased at the support for the Bill and the interest in it. I previously outlined that I am glad to support the Minister's intention for the Bill to have a positive impact on our hospitality and tourism industry.

With respect to the amendments in group 2, I will first deal with amendment No 15 in the name of Rachel Woods. I believe that that amendment is sufficiently covered by amendment No 14. As the Minister said, an examination of the social benefits or otherwise of diversity of trade on licensed premises is adequately covered by the terms set out for the review in new clause 24(2)(a) and (e), proposed by amendment No 14. It is not that I do not see the point of the amendment; I do not see the need for the amendment, given that we have amendment No 14.

We also feel that amendments Nos 20, 21 and 22 are unnecessary. Efficiency should be a given for all Departments that bring through legislation, and this Department should be no different. We do not see any divergence in approach there. That is why we feel that those amendments are not needed.

I will draw my remarks to a close by thanking the Minister for the amendments that she has tabled today in an effort to work collegiately with Members across the House to tidy up some of the amendments that they have passed over previous weeks. I reiterate my previous comments about this being a hugely positive step. We are a step closer to seeing this much-needed Bill enacted as legislation, which will give our hospitality and tourism sector a much-needed boost.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I know that the Committee members feel a bit like this legislation is their baby, and I would quite like to lay claim to being the wicked uncle of the legislation, trying to inject something a little different into it. I know that doing that has occasionally caused headaches for some people, but that has been for good reason.

I will not go through all the amendments in the group, but it is clear that amendment Nos 14 and 16 to my previous clauses 24 and 25, as amended at Consideration Stage, are probably two of the most consequential amendments that we are debating today.

The Minister is right, and I thank the officials in her Department for engaging with me on this.

At Consideration Stage, I made clear that what I was seeking to do with my amendments and the provisions was to put in statute the need for a fundamental review of our licensing system, and let me reiterate, for the benefit of everyone, including people who are listening outside the House, why that is necessary. House of Commons Library data shows that, over the past 20 years, 36% — that is nearly 40% — of pubs in Northern Ireland have shut. That is faster than in any other part of the UK and faster than in the South of Ireland. We have lost 22% of pub staff. The number of people employed in pubs has fallen by nearly a quarter. We have a dramatic situation, particularly but not exclusively, in rural areas. The data shows that, for example, in the constituency of East Belfast, which is my next to my constituency of South Belfast, 50% of pubs have shut.

I will not delay everyone today by going over all the principles. I can see the Member for South Down starting to pray silently that I do not go through the surrender principle in detail, but it is worth mentioning. In the Consideration Stage debate, we were saying, at 2.00 am, that the thing that is unique to this place and this island — it is better preserved in this part of the island — is that the surrender principle means that, for all intents and purposes, once a pub closes, it cannot reopen. We need evidence and an evidence base for how the licensing system as a whole, not simply the surrender principle, is working. It is not about abolishing it; it is about gathering evidence and looking at possible reforms.

During the Consideration Stage debate, I made it clear that I would work with the Department if it had concerns about scope or, more specifically, about the capacity to deliver what is in the amendment. I thought that that was a reasonable way to proceed, and, on that basis, the Assembly agreed with the amendment and endorsed an independent review of the licensing system. I am not necessarily brimming with enthusiasm about giving the Department extra time to do this work, but, in the spirit of goodwill and after discussing it with officials, I am willing to accommodate and support it.

I will briefly outline what the amendment does. It keeps, in principle, the independent review of the licensing system and the surrender principle. Looking at it in total, the key changes are to the timings. The previous amendment allowed six months for the Department to appoint an independent person. It will now have up to a year. After that, the independent person will have, rather than just a year, two years, with the Department having a regulatory-making power to change that, if necessary. After that, the Department will have more time to respond to the Assembly, again with a regulatory power to extend. I was happy to work with the Department on that, but I will say now in the Chamber that it is really important that this additional headroom, to use a phrase from the Finance Department, is, as a bank manager might say, a potential overdraft facility rather than a target. We can get this done as quickly as possible.

I am really keen for the Minister, if she is willing, to make clear that she will mandate her officials to get this person appointed as quickly as possible, ideally before the end of the mandate. Of course, none of us in the Chamber knows when this mandate will end, but, assuming that it ends next May, I am really keen to hear whether the Minister is willing to say that she will encourage her officials to endorse it by the end of next May.

There are a couple of other changes, which I am tolerant of, to the initial independent review that was passed at the previous stage. There have been changes in the drafting, but the changes are not fundamental. Subsection 2(c) of my previous clause mentioned the creation of new licences in areas of clear community need and talked specifically about new legislative options. That language has been removed in the new clause. I am clear that the review should look at those issues, and the independent person will have longer to do so. As far as I am concerned — I want to say it on the record, and I hope that the Minister will agree with me — nothing in this clause substantively changes the powers or remit of the review.

It simply gives the Department and the independent person a longer period in which to do that work. I repeat, however, that it does not state that they should take longer to do the work, and I hope that they do not. As I said, I am keen for the Minister to clarify, if she is willing, that she wants the work to happen as quickly as possible and that the new time limits are just that: limits not targets. I am sure that I and others in the Chamber will, in the best spirit possible, hold the Department to them.

I should say that I support amendment No 15, which stands in Rachel Woods's name. It does not create an undue burden; rather, it clarifies what we are trying to do. It also clarifies the Pub is the Hub model, which, I know, many in the industry, especially Hospitality Ulster, are keen to promote. That is important.

I will talk more about this at Final Stage, but we want the entire sector and everyone else who is interested to get behind the review. That is where I am, as it were, on amendment No 14. I have been working with the Department, and I welcome its engagement. Many of the changes are technical. There are some substantive ones, but —.

Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP

The Member's amendment at Consideration Stage indicated a desire to break down the publication of the number of licences by postcode. I note that the Department's amendment states that it should be done by district electoral area. Does the Member agree that it would be good to have that information even by postcode prefix?

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I am grateful to Committee member Mr Allen for his intervention. He is right. I was going to come on to amendment No 16. That amendment is another new clause, replacing my previous clause 25 on the annual publication of the number of licences. I have had conversations since with the Department, and some of the language in the clause has been clarified. The Department gave me some information that was, frankly, very useful. My clause had not been drafted as well as it could have been. I had also obliged the Department to do a 10-year rolling horizon forecast of the number of pubs. I accept that that would have been pretty ambitious and, even for the most creative economist, difficult to achieve. That has been replaced by a statement on pub trends.

It has been pointed out to me since that subsection (1)(b) required the Department to break down the number of operational pubs by postcode. Others have said that that should be doable by postcode prefix, without jeopardising General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or being a major burden. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify that she will, at the very least, endeavour to get her officials to do it by postcode prefix. That should be covered by:

"if the Department considers that it is feasible to reckon the number of such premises by reference to smaller areas".

I do not see how doing it by, for example, BT4, where we are now, would violate GDPR too much. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify that.

As I said, the issue is critical. This is fundamental legislation, and I did not want to let it go past without moving amendments that offered us the opportunity to look in substance at the operation of our licensing system. We face a crisis in rural areas in particular. The legislation does not commit the Department or the Assembly to any changes; it simply commits us to a process of gathering evidence. That might take years. In fact, it could take more years, because, if we agree to the amendments today, we will give the Department more years. No one could object to that.

I seek clarity from the Minister, if possible, on two things. First, will she encourage the Department to go faster and treat the new time limits as limits not targets and for officials to do their homework, as it were, on Friday night, once they get home, rather than on Sunday afternoon? Secondly, will she ask the Department to investigate whether it is possible to publish data using postcode prefixes? I do not see how that could violate GDPR.

I also say that we support Rachel Woods's amendment No 15 and Kellie Armstrong's amendments. Other than that, most of the rest of the amendments in the group are technical, so I will not trouble the House any longer. I look forward to boring everyone at Final Stage on the issues.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

To be honest, I would love to support everything that is in group 2, but I know that amendment Nos 14 and 15 are mutually exclusive. I will see how the voting goes on those.

I am a wee bit disappointed by the group 2 amendments, even though I will support them.

Amendment No 12 gives a Minister an out. The Committee was very committed to ensuring that a minimum price per unit of alcohol would be brought forward within three years by the Health Minister, but, with amendment No 12, the Health Minister can choose to ignore that and would only have to come back and say that there is a reasonable excuse to do that. That is unfortunate.

As Mr O'Toole said, GDPR-compliant or not, amendment No 16 misses the point of what the Committee was looking for. I reiterate that, when I asked for a list of licence holders, I was told to go to the courts and get it myself. We were looking for that list in order to protect children and to help the police force and emergency services. It was not to cause difficulties for pub owners. Many pub licence holders are businesses, rather than named people. The list requirement has now been amended and, to be honest, watered down a little, but the reason that I asked for the list and that the Committee agreed to have the list was this: you could come to my Strangford constituency and look at a district electoral area (DEA). For example, in Portaferry DEA at the bottom of the Ards peninsula, there are pubs in Portaferry town, but there are also other licence holders that are outside that area. It gives me a list saying that, in that DEA, there are eight or maybe 10 pubs. It does not tell me where the cluster of those pubs is or how I, as a council, can plan ahead on entertainment licences. It does not tell me whether I, as a police officer, should send officers to one particular street or part of a town or a village. That is the part that really galls me. Imagine how many licences there are in the central Belfast DEA; just being told that you have 20 licences in one place does not break things down.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

I agree with the Member. The fundamental reason as to why I tabled the original amendment in the first place was simply because of the huge paucity of information. The information is gathered, but it is in different places. When you try to investigate how the system is working, it is simply impossible to get hold of it. Does the Member agree that it is in everyone's interests to have a consistent, clear data set that is published locally every year and that anyone can use?

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I absolutely agree. What annoyed me most was that, when I talked about this list, Hospitality Ulster was able to provide me with a list of the numbers, but the Department could not. I thought that that was a bit much. I ask the Minister to provide clarification on the first part of the postcode breakdown, because, if we are to have effective data collection, the data has to be usable. I do not think that DEA data is usable.

Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP

The Member welcomes the amendments, but does she agree that it has been a failing of the system that, until now, we have not had an electronic register available to us?

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

I agree. A list would help in considering the surrender principle, because then we could see if our rural pubs are disappearing.

I completely understand where Miss Woods is coming from with amendment No 15. We heard very clearly in Committee — and I have spoken to Hospitality Ulster and other pub owners — about how the Pub is The Hub model is key. That part of the industry wants to see the social value and that additional aspect of pubs grown. It is never a bad thing to have social value. Pubs can invest back into the community by having a post office, a small shop, or whatever it may be. I could tell you a story about my local pub getting me eggs when I was pregnant, but we will not go into that here.

The reason why I have brought forward the idea of effectiveness in amendment Nos 21 and 22 is very simple. In finance terms, civil servants are quite often asked to consider the efficiency and the effectiveness of their work. I believe that the term "effectiveness" needs to be used here. When changes were coming through and comments were being made about taprooms and article 52E in particular, there was the impression that taprooms were going to take all the business away from pubs. It would be an awful situation. People would be drinking terribly high levels of concentrated alcohol, and it would be terrible altogether. However, no evidence had been collected; it was all hearsay. What I heard directly from those taprooms is that they are not applying for taproom licences. The article 52E will sit there and not be used, and that is why I am looking for the effectiveness of the legislation to be measured. It is not about how many taprooms have applied for licences; it is about whether the licences are of any use and whether the legislation is good enough.

Will the legislation be good enough to stop young people from getting drink from off-licences? Will it be good enough to protect our Police Service when it needs more investment because the number of pubs that are letting people out at 3.00 am is putting a strain on it? That is why I included the words "and effectiveness" in the amendments. That will mean that the Department does not have to measure just outputs. It will be about how effective the legislation is. Someone may turn round to me and say, "It is covered. It is already in there". No, it is not. Unless it is spelt out in the Bill, it will not be measured.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green 4:15 pm, 21st June 2021

If Mr O'Toole thinks of himself as the uncle figure of the Bill, I am probably the annoying family member who you see a few times a year and who only visits and chimes in at Second Stage, Consideration Stage and today. I promise that I will not be back at Final Stage, and I will buy a round.

Before I discuss amendment Nos 15 and 20 that are tabled my name, I would like to support Mr Allen's comments about using postcode prefixes where they are available. On the surface, I do not see any GDPR issues, and I would certainly welcome an explanation. Those licensed premises are public houses or bars. We know where they are, and they will be listed in Companies House. I am not sure about the data issues, but I am happy to support the amendment that is on the Marshalled List. Without knowing the details of those types of data issues, I will leave my comments on amendment No 16 there.

Amendment Nos 15 and 20 stem from a number of issues that I raised at Consideration Stage. I will not go into every detail, because Members will have heard it all before and my comments are similar to those that I made during today's group 1 debate. Local producers and representative bodies raised a number of issues about the practical outworkings of the clauses in the Bill that relate to the local producer's licence, what it will mean in practice, the potential impact of accessing a licence on their business and current operations and whether it will be viable. I outlined those issues when I spoke on amendment No 24 in group 1. As I said, we do not want to get to a point where the licensing criteria in the Bill and its operational guidance and regulations mean that it is unworkable for the people and businesses that it is designed for. It is for the small, independent local producers, not the big boys. That remains to be seen.

I will speak first on amendment No 20 and then on amendment No 15. Amendment No 20 is very simple. It adds to the guidance that will be produced as part of the Bill becoming an Act by stating, under clause 43, that the "practical implementation" of the Bill will also have details published and available on it. The reasons for the amendment are quite self-explanatory and relate to my comments at Second Stage, Consideration Stage and during the group 1 debate today. With the creation of any new legislation, there must be accompanying guidance, so I welcome the fact that that requirement is in the Bill. The guidance, though, must serve and give details to those whom the Bill affects. As I stated, that guidance will most likely be very hefty, given the wide impacts of the Bill and its complexity. I have been looking at the Bill for the past few weeks, and I still need clarity. I am not a local producer, a bar owner or someone who will have to try to navigate the system. The system is complex. It is a maze, and people need some sort of helpful map to get through it.

As I said before, the 1996 Order is complex legislation and the Bill will only add to it. Licensing legislation involves many people, from local producers and alcohol manufacturers to the pubs, city-centre bars, councils, local residents, Departments, courts and other interested parties. Therefore, it must be fit for purpose. Guidance must be clear, accessible and easy to follow. I am not suggesting that clause 43 is not those things, but adding the words "practical implementation" will, I hope, ensure that the details that are needed for people to access are made available.

I know that the Minister indicated that she is not in favour of the amendment and pointed to the schedules to the Bill. Personally, I could not make head nor tail of the schedules without accompanying guidance. I have already outlined some of the concerns that have been raised with me in relation to the operation of the local producer's licence, and I stand by those concerns. It is clear to me, from the conversations that I have had over the last three weeks with the sectoral organisations and representatives from the industry, as well as local producers in my constituency, there are parts of the Bill that are fundamentally unclear.

Industry reps wrote to the Minister outlining their concerns on opening hours, planning permissions, rating, the application process and so on. Not all of the concerns that were brought can be answered in the details of the Bill. A lot of them will need answers, or they will be up to the courts to decide. That is where I see the amendment fitting into the departmental guidance. How can this be unpicked, and questions answered, without guidance that covers the practical implementation of it, not just for the new aspects, such as the local producer's licence, but for the practical implementation of the new requirements for off-licences, supermarkets, cinemas and those hosting underage functions?

Amendment No 15 is a very simple one to add in the requirement, during the review of this Act, to look in detail at pub diversification. Many Members at Consideration Stage spoke of the possible merits of the Pub as The Hub model, about the importance of pubs and bars to local communities, especially in rural areas. There was also concern about the number of pubs that have closed or are at risk of closure. The Minister and Members have said that this is already covered in amendment No 14. If it is, it is obviously not explicit, but what is the problem with having it on the face of the Bill? However, I appreciate the comments made.

I am aware that, if amendment No 14 is made, this amendment falls. I appreciate that this is the position, but I wish to speak to it and reiterate the importance of it. I note that, in the Minister's opening remarks on this group, she mentioned social value being covered in amendment No 14 as well. However, there is no denying that there has been a sharp fall in the number of pubs operating in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years, and many pubs are at risk. There are many reasons for that. You can set aside the pandemic, but it is another matter that we need to grapple with. However, costs of living and wages, longer-term shifts in consumption, the increase in sales of alcohol in off-licences, shifts in behaviour and choices, to name but a few, are some of the multiple reasons that affect the profitability and viability of pubs. However, no publican wants to close the doors without trying to make their business work. Pubs and bars will change over time as the communities around them change. They will adapt, though, and they will be different.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Member agree that part of the reason why we need this review and the better data is that, uniquely here, in the tragic situation where a pub decides to close or sell its licence on to a licensed off-sales, there is no way for that pub to reopen in practical terms? That is one of the things that we need to understand. New communities are growing up and there are areas where houses are being built, but there is no way that a pub can open there, simply because of the operation of our current system. We need to understand how it is working.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I thank the Member for his intervention, and I agree with him. I hope that, in the future, we can even look at community pub models: communities buying over pubs before they are sold on for different reasons and go out of the local area, given that the community pub is the community hub, in many cases.

Whatever pubs and bars do in local areas, they want to be different from the competition, and they want to stay open. Northern Ireland's rural communities could benefit from changes to the regulations that would allow them to provide enhanced community services, like post offices, local farm shops and so on, and also to facilitate community meetings, events and internet access points, as well as initiatives to tackle loneliness and social isolation in rural communities. They could, as an example, work in partnership with not-for-profit organisations such as Pub is The Hub and Hospitality Ulster, but this is just one example of many. I know that members of the Committee took evidence on this during their deliberations and spoke in favour of this type of model at Consideration Stage as something that they would like to explore. Again, I will not go over the details of that at this stage.

However, we know that possible diversity will not be a magic bullet to fix things overnight. However, it is something that we should explore, develop and support if required by licensees. That is especially the case with rural pubs, for example, before they are able to undertake the activity effectively. Our current licensing regulations for mixed trading only apply to off-licences, so any changes to allow for mixed trading in a pub setting would require changes to regulations and, perhaps, legislation. However, this amendment does not try to amend or change mixed trading. The Committee looked at that during Committee Stage, and it cannot be done through this legislation. However, making this amendment to the review clause would mean that this is something that could be looked at in further detail to see what could be done in the future and what appetite there would be for it.

Stakeholders and interested parties could be consulted, and the practical outworkings of any diversification could be understood. For example, how would it affect court applications? Would it affect the licence being granted? What would be the impact of the red line on the licensed area to sell and consume alcohol? Strict segregation of products, which happens in a supermarket, say, or an off-licence, would not work in a pub setting. Would there be a change to building regulations or planning? During a review of the consultation, those kinds of questions could be asked and answered. It is at that time, with all the information and facts, that recommendations could be brought forward if needed.

Our hospitality and pub sector has stepped up during the pandemic, as have so many people in our communities. Businesses helped people in their local areas. They offered food essentials and takeaway meals, and they delivered food to vulnerable people and those who were shielding. They also donated food that they had stocked in March to food banks. They did the same in September and December. They adapted their businesses, if they could, to a different market. As we try to build back better post-pandemic and deal with all the outstanding issues that already faced that industry, we should look at whether there is any other support that government could give to the sector. If diversifying what is on offer in a pub or bar in a certain area would mean that the place was viable and sustainable, why not?

In closing, I say that I am aware that my amendment on pub diversification is unlikely to be made. I am glad that the Minister has said that it will be covered in amendment No 14, but I hope that the Department can progress some work on that through any review and going forward in general. I urge Members to support amendment No 20, which is also in my name.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

It will be no surprise that I oppose amendment No 12, which relates to the minimum unit pricing of alcohol. At the previous stage, I spoke about the anti-working class sentiment behind such laws. Not only are they rendered ineffective for those who can afford to circumvent them but they impact disproportionately on working-class people. Frankly, I am disappointed with many Members, particularly those from the Minister's party, who are happy to go along with that kind of legislation, which exclusively targets low earners, the unemployed and those who get a pittance from our welfare system. Those with alcoholism, who were rightly factored into COVID regulations, will be hardest hit of all. I cannot go along with such legislation. I am disappointed that the Assembly will do so. Instead, a more responsible route would be legislation that does not disproportionately target one section of society, particularly when that section of society is the hardest hit by most of the cuts and debilitating policies that come from the Executive already.

I also put on record my disappointment that, once again, the Minister has failed to include protections for bar workers, who will be detrimentally and directly impacted by the new laws. I submitted two amendments backed by Unite the Union that would have given those workers a pay premium and a safe journey home, but, unfortunately, they were not selected for debate. I asked the Minister to do that, but she said that it was outside the scope of the Bill, which is focused on licensing. I argue that that does not stack up, because the Bill takes into account the undue inconvenience that licensing changes could have on local residents, and that:

"the hours mentioned ... will not cause undue inconvenience to persons residing in the vicinity of the premises".

I ask the Minister this: how can the undue inconvenience of residents be within the scope of the Bill but the undue inconvenience of the workers who have to work those hours is not within its scope? Surely if we can afford residents the room for inconvenience, we can do the same for bar workers. I remind the Minister that we are talking about bar workers who are regularly assaulted as they travel home late from work, and female staff who report sexual abuse and fear of travelling home when public transport is not running. Is that not just as important — some might say it is more so — than residents suffering the unfortunate inconvenience of bars being open later? To be frank, I find it to be a blatant attempt to exclude workers' rights from the legislation. It is the latest attempt to do so by the Executive.

I will support all the amendments apart from amendment No 12, but workers' rights still have to be addressed in the Bill.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I remind the Member that Members have opportunities to table amendments themselves.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin 4:30 pm, 21st June 2021

I thank the Communities Committee and the Chair for all of the work that they have done to get the Bill to this stage and for working with me and my officials in the way that they have. I thank the Committee for playing its role as a scrutiniser of the legislation. I reiterate my thanks to my officials, who have been on hand for anybody in the Chamber and outside I who has asked to have those engagements. As we move through the implementation of the legislation, once it is signed off by the Assembly, they will commit to continue to do that. They will not wait until Sunday but will do it on the Friday. As I said, they have been proactive since 2005 in trying to get the legislation through, and I know that they are committed to doing that. I express my thanks to the officials behind the scenes in the Assembly in Committee. I thank those who have contributed to the debate, even when their amendments have not been passed. It has shown how important the legislation is. It is historic that we are now finally moving forward on the implementation of this. Obviously, it has been long overdue, and I thank everybody who has made a contribution to it.

On the appointment of the independent expert, some of the initial stuff will take at least six months for procurement and for that person to be in post. Again, neither I nor my officials will rest on our laurels, and we will try to speed up where we can. There will not be any undue delay. There is a commitment in the amendment to the legislation that we will have the person in post as early as possible, but it may take at least six months just to get the procurement process in place.

There has been some discussion on amendment No 16, which relates to an amendment that was tabled by Matthew O'Toole at Consideration Stage. Obviously, the Information Commissioner's Office has determined that a postcode is classed as personal data and that, therefore, there may be GDPR issues with gathering and publicising that data. I can understand issues that people have raised in other circumstances where some of that data has been given in other records. Obviously, there is a commitment from me and my departmental officials to provide the information initially, as was said, at district electoral area level. We will try to go lower, where possible, in making sure that it complies with GDPR, so there is a commitment, in progressing this legislation, that we will try to provide as much of that information as possible, as long as it complies with those rules. Of course, the records are not held in my Department but are, in fact, held by the DOJ, which holds the data on the register of licences that go through the courts. Of course, it will depend on the quality of data received. Again, we are more than willing to work with the DOJ and with the courts on the back of the legislation to make sure that we provide data that is as good as possible and at the most local level possible.

Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP

Minister, you have highlighted an important point about the availability of an electronic register, and you have highlighted the fact that it is the responsibility of the Department of Justice. Have you had any engagement with your ministerial counterpart in the DOJ in respect of the creation of such a register?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

There have been ongoing engagements with officials in the DOJ and with the Minister on the development of the legislation. You will understand that that will be a matter for that Minister and the Department. Obviously, the DOJ will be aware of the legislation's progress. There has been engagement on various parts of it, and it will be a call for that Department. Once the legislation passes, I will commit to working with the DOJ and the Minister to try to have a system of data that is as robust as possible and can be presented digitally. Again, the costings and all of that will be down to that Department, but I will be keen to work with it to deliver on that.

With the other amendments that were tabled, it is not that they are necessarily bad; it is just that there have been a lot of calls to make sure that the legislation is clear and concise, not unwieldy and layered. I believe that many of the amendments are not necessary because they are already covered.

Amendment Nos 14 and 15 are set out in the review. Amendment No 20 is already in the schedule and is set out in the various courts. On amendment Nos 21 and 22 around effectiveness, the implication of provisions will include objective assessment of effectiveness. I believe, therefore, that those assessments and requests are already built in to what I propose in the legislation. I commend the amendments to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 (Occasional licences: conditions)

Amendment No 13 made:

In page 26, line 36, leave out “as the court thinks fit”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 24 (Independent review of the licensing system and surrender principle)

Amendment No 14 made:

Leave out clause 24 and insert -

<BR/>

Independent review of licensing system including surrender principle


 


24.—(1) The Department for Communities must, before the first anniversary of this Act receiving Royal Assent, appoint an independent person (‘the reviewer’) to conduct a review of the system in Northern Ireland for authorising the sale by retail of intoxicating liquor (‘the licensing system’).


 


(2) The review must include the following—


(a) an assessment of the operation of the surrender principle, an examination of options for reforming it and an assessment of the implications of those options for licence holders;


(b) an analysis of the geographical distribution of licensed premises in Northern Ireland;


(c) an analysis of the economic and social impact of the licensing system and the impact of the licensing system on personal and public health;


(d) an assessment of the extent to which the licensing system meets consumer demand and local community needs, when set alongside the impact it has on personal and public health and on public order;


(e) whatever recommendations for improving the licensing system that the reviewer considers appropriate.


 


(3) The reviewer must complete the review within two years of the appointment being made.


 


(4) The reviewer, having completed the review, must provide a report to the Department; and the Department, having received the report, must—


(a) lay the report before the Assembly, and


(b) arrange for it to be published.


 


(5) The Department must, within six months of the publication of the report, publish a plan setting out how it proposes to respond to the report.


 


(6) The Minister for Communities must, within six months of the publication of the report, make an oral statement to the Assembly about the plan published under subsection (5).


 


(7) The Department for Communities may by regulations modify subsection (3), or modify subsection (6), so as to substitute a different period for the period for the time being specified there.


 


(8) Regulations may not be made under subsection (7) unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.


 


(9) In this section—


(a) the reference to an independent person includes a reference to a group of independent persons, an independent organisation or a group of independent organisations,


(b) the references to intoxicating liquor, licences and licensed premises are to be construed in accordance with the Licensing Order, and


(c) the reference to the surrender principle is a reference to the part of the procedure for granting a licence that is provided for in Article 7(4)(e) of the Licensing Order.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will not call amendment No 15 as it is mutually exclusive with amendment No 14, which has already been made.

Clause 25 (Annual publication of the number of operational liquor licences)

Amendment No 16 made:

Leave out clause 25 and insert -

<BR/>

 


Annual publication of the number of licences


 


25.—(1) The Department for Communities must, as soon as reasonably practicable after the beginning of each year, publish a statement of each of the following as at 31st December in the previous year—


(a) the number of licences in force for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing Order;


(b) the number of licences in force for premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(b) of the Licensing Order;


(c) the number of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing Order in each district electoral area or, if the Department considers that it is feasible to reckon the number of such premises by reference to smaller areas, in each of those areas;


(d) the trends which may be observed from the numbers referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).


 


(2) In subsection (1), ‘licences’ and ‘premises’ each have the same meaning as in the Licensing Order.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 26 (Code of practice)

Amendment No 17 made:

In page 29, line 18, leave out “insert” and insert “(but before the following ‘or’) insert ‘or’”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 34 (Increase in number of authorisations for special occasions)

Amendment No 18 made:

In page 35, line 13, at end insert -



“(1A) After paragraph (2) of that Article insert—


‘(2A) Regulations may modify paragraph (2) so as to substitute a different number of authorisations for the number for the time being specified there.


(2B) Regulations may not be made under paragraph (2A) unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.’” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 37 (Underage functions)

Amendment No 19 made:

In page 39, line 23, leave out “that Order” and insert “the Registration of Clubs Order 1996”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Clause 43 (Guidance)

Amendment No 20 made:

In page 43, line 18, after “effect” insert “and practical implementation”. — [Miss Woods.]

Clause 44 (Review)

Amendment No 21 made:

In page 43, line 35, after “implementation” insert “and effectiveness”. — [Ms Armstrong.]

Amendment No 22 made:

In page 43, line 39, after “implementation” insert “and effectiveness”. — [Ms Armstrong.]

Clause 48 (Commencement and short title)

Amendment No 23 made:

In page 45, line 2, leave out “7(1) and (3), 11” and insert “1, 7(1) and (3), 11, 14”. — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Schedule 1 (Minor and consequential amendments)

Amendment No 24 made:

In page 46, line 22, leave out paragraph 3 and insert -



“3. In Article 5 (premises for which a licence may be granted), in paragraph (3)—


(a) for ‘Article 51(1)(b)’ substitute ‘Articles 48B(2) to (6), 51(1)(b) and 52C(1)’,


(b) for ‘(l)’ substitute ‘(m)’, and


(c) in sub-paragraph (b), at the beginning insert ‘except in the case of premises of a kind mentioned in Article 5(1)(m),’.” — [Ms Hargey (The Minister for Communities).]

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

That concludes the Further Consideration Stage of the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill. The Bill stands referred to the Speaker.

I ask Members to take their ease while we move to the next item of business.