Clause 55 - Fees

Licensing Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 29th April 2003.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire 10:30 am, 29th April 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 230, in

clause 55, page 33, line 5, leave out '(other than section 51)'.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 130, in

clause 55, page 33, line 7, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

'(b) prescribe guidance for licensing authorities when setting the amount of the fee and what may be charged for under the fee.'.

Amendment No. 226, in

clause 55, page 33, line 7, at beginning insert 'subject to subsection (5)'.

Amendment No. 227, in

clause 55, page 33, line 11, at beginning insert 'subject to subsection (5)'.

Amendment No. 132, in

clause 55, page 33, line 13, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

'(4) If the annual fee is not paid by the prescribed time, the relevant premises licence will lapse on that date.

(5) If a licence lapses under the provisions of subsection (4), the former holder of that licence may for a period of three months, commencing on the date the licence lapsed, seek reinstatement of the licence.

(6) The applicant for reinstatement shall pay to the relevant licensing authority the annual fee together with such reasonable reinstatement fee fixed in advance by that licensing authority.

(7) The premises licence shall be deemed to have been reinstated as soon as the requisite fees have been received by the licensing authority.'.

Amendment No. 228, in

clause 55, page 33, line 14, at end insert—

'(5) Regulations made under this section may prescribe circumstances in which any fee payable by virtue of this section may be varied (up to such maximum level as may be prescribed) by a licensing authority in order to take into account the cost to that authority of processing licensing applications.'.

Amendment No. 229, in

clause 55, page 33, line 14, at end insert—

'( ) In regulations made under this section, the Secretary of State shall prescribe a nil fee to certain categories of premises which shall include—

(a) church halls,

(b) village halls,

(c) parish halls,

(d) community centres, and

(e) similar community buildings.'.

Amendment No. 131, in

clause 90, page 51, line 38, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

'(b) prescribe guidance for licensing authorities when setting the amount of the fee and what may be charged for under the fee.'.

Amendment No. 207, in

clause 90, page 51, line 38, after 'fee', insert

'or maximum fee, and may prescribe different fees or maximum fees for different qualifying club activities'.

Amendment No. 208, in

clause 90, page 51, line 41, at end insert

'in respect of such qualifying club activity or activities as may be prescribed'.

Amendment No. 209, in

clause 90, page 52, line 3, after 'fee', insert

'or maximum fee, including provision for different fees or maximum fees for different qualifying club activities'.

Amendment No. 133, in

clause 90, page 52, line 5, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

'(4) If the annual fee is not paid by the prescribed time, the relevant club premises certificate will lapse on that date.

(5) If a certificate lapses under the provisions of subsection (4), the former holder of that certificate may for a period of three months, commencing on the date the licence lapsed, seek reinstatement of the certificate.

(6) The applicant for reinstatement shall pay to the relevant licensing authority the annual fee together with such reasonable reinstatement fee fixed in advance by that licensing authority.

(7) The club premises certificate shall be deemed to have been reinstated as soon as the requisite fees have been received by the licensing authority.'.

Amendment No. 210, in

clause 194, page 107, line 34, at end insert—

'(aa) regulations under section 90'.

Amendment No. 211, in

clause 194, page 108, line 3, after 'containing', insert

'regulations within subsection (3)(aa) or'.

Given all of those, and the brevity of the clause, we had better treat this as a stand part debate as well.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

Amendment No. 230 is a probing amendment, seeking clarification from the Minister on why all applications under the Bill require a fee except the review of the premises licence, which we covered under clause 51. Excluding that from fee

charging makes it possible that interested parties might call for reviews of premises licences for any reason—although vexatious reasons are covered earlier in the Bill—whether valid or not, as there is no fee or cost for the people making the complaint. There is, of course, a cost to the licence holder or holders, whether of premises or personal licences, if such issues are raised. The whole matter seems to be weighted in one direction.

We query the motives behind that exclusion, especially in the light of the need to fund reviews of premises licences from some source as yet unspecified. Do the Government envisage that those who instigate the review will meet the costs of carrying it out? If so, how will that be done? Perhaps an idea would be to put a charge on an application for a review but to refund that fee if the review leads to a successful conclusion and the complaint is upheld.

Amendments Nos. 226, 227 and 228 would introduce a new subsection (5), from which consequential amendments follow.

We remain unconvinced that the Government's assurances are enough to satisfy the worries of local authorities and licence holders about the regulation of fees. They claim that the system will be self-financing and that it will not burden licensees with excessive costs or leave local authorities with cost deficits for the administrative responsibilities of licensing.

Licensees fear a repeat of past experience when they paid fees, in some cases at ridiculous levels, to obtain public entertainment licences. They also have fears about the fairness of the proposed three-tier system and that local authorities will inherit a huge burden with massive financial consequences. The new computer systems will require new administration, additional working hours and other costs, which the licensing authorities will have to cover in their new role. Let us consider the consequential implications for the local authorities of street cleaning and transport systems. We know of the experiences of Soho and Westminster and are not convinced that such costs can be met by the Government's current proposals.

The self-financing scheme cannot succeed without a variation of the fees that are set, as suggested under amendment No. 228, with a maximum cap established to prevent undue costs from being recouped from the fees. As history has taught us, some local authorities have a fee structure for entertainment licences, which must make them a substantial profit. Naturally, we want to avoid that situation.

The situation, size and location of the premises should be taken into account when setting fees. For example, a venue in an urban area surrounded by several other licensed premises should pay a lower fee, owing to the fact that those premises also pay their contributions to the necessary costs. It is imperative that the system, as outlined in the draft guidance, is fair and workable for all parties and that the Government can ensure that a self-financing system will definitely work before they implement it.

Amendment No. 229 deals with those premises that will not be charged a fee. They will still have to make an application, but the Government have promised a nil fee. The amendment would insert such a proposal in the Bill, so that it makes it clear to all parties, especially those involved, that their applications will be received on a nil-fee basis. The new subsection would state:

''In regulations made under this section, the Secretary of State shall prescribe a nil fee to certain categories of premises which shall include—

(a) church halls,

(b) village halls,

(c) parish halls,

(d) community centres, and

(e) similar community buildings.''

There was much debate in the other place on the issue. In fact, the Government gained considerable ground by accepting the argument that such premises shall be subject to nil fees, when making applications. They promised that such matters will be dealt with in the guidance, rather than in the Bill. Nevertheless, in the interests of clarification and commitment, it is important that the nil-fee basis should be designated clearly and unequivocally and amendment No. 229 sets out to do that.

Amendments Nos. 207 to 209 apply to fees for clubs, which are dealt with in a different clause. It seems appropriate to deal with that matter while we are discussing fees. The Bill is inconsistent in its approach to club premises licences. For example, clause 1 stipulates that a club premises licence is necessary for both entertainment and alcohol. The exact wording in 1(1) is as follows:

''For the purposes of the Act the following are licensable activities . . . the provision of . . . entertainment, and . . . the provision of late night refreshment.''

In 1(2), both alcohol and entertainment are specified as qualifying club activities. On turning to clause 76, however, we see that qualifying club activities for which the premises might be used must be specified on the form of certificate. Clause 90 does not accommodate those various activities by prescribing different fees for them. There is therefore some concern, especially among small clubs, that one uniform fee will be imposed on all clubs, regardless of their activities, and that it would include the costs of fire and safety regulation checks, for example, and for the sound insulation necessary for an entertainment licence on top of the entertainment licence fee. The prescribed fee would be additional to the application fee and a possible annual fee.

Surely, such measures are not necessary for premises that are not used for entertainment as that is defined in the Bill and should therefore only be imposed on club premises where such activities are likely to take place. One such small club, from which I have had some representation, is Ramsgate croquet club—[Interruption.] There are lots of croquet, tennis and bowls clubs throughout the country; I happen to have been approached by that club, and it makes a strong argument. Ramsgate croquet club would not require the inclusion of entertainment in their premises

licence and would therefore be paying fees that were unrepresentative of its needs. It would be more reasonable if different fees were prescribed for different activities taking place on club premises. For example, if a club premises licence covered the sale of alcohol, not the provision of entertainment, the fee should be lower. That ought to be articulated in the Bill, so that specific provisions could be made for the benefit of the licensing authority and the clubs. By prescribing a maximum fee, clubs need not be charged for inapplicable administration fees and the licensing authorities will maintain the apparent flexibility afforded to them under other clauses.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay 10:45 am, 29th April 2003

The amendments are helpful; they are clearly intended to seek transparency in fee making and to get some definition of what is intended, which I hope the Minister will be able to give us.

The Minister gave me an assurance on fees at an earlier meeting, which was vitally important. The track record of some local authorities on fee setting is not good, certainly not in relation to public entertainment licences, which currently come under their remit. One local authority I know of has raised public entertainment fees from £200 to £2,000. Neither sum reflects the cost of granting licences. It is difficult for the Government to find a formula that enables local authorities to set a fee that matches their costs and there will need to be a great deal of consultation with local government to come up with the right levels of fees.

Amendment No. 229, which lists the premises to which nil fees will apply, is important, although the Government have already suggested that they want to exempt such properties. I am sure that we can all point to local examples of buildings such as community halls that have no other activities and are having problems keeping going. The requirement to pay a fee may well be what closes them. Then, there are other community halls—I know of one in my constituency—that have a bar and generate a great deal of income. Although the bar is only a part of the community centre, activities that take place in other parts of that centre may be directly related to the commercial activities of the bar. Distinguishing between the two will be difficult, and I imagine that it will be left up to officers of local authorities to determine which parts of the premises should have a fee attached.

Clubs, which the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire mentioned, involve another set of complications. There are many small sports enterprises in my constituency; there are more bowling clubs than we can shake a stick at. Many of those clubs have bars and activities and some of those activities are held on behalf of other organisations. Sports clubs are good at holding charitable activities for other organisations. They have coffee mornings or wine and cheese evenings that generate profit for charity and not necessarily for the clubs.

It is crucial that we set the right climate of fees, to respect the variety of activities held in the clubs. It would be a tragedy if the Bill caused problems for such clubs and societies and if it meant that they had to disengage from some of their philanthropic activities, or if the imposition of fees affected the viability of

their activities. This is an important group of amendments that I hope will bring about transparency, so that it is obvious where fees are being directed. I hope that the amendments will also provide some definition as to what types of premises and activities we are talking about.

Mr. Field rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

I apologise, Mr. Field, because I should have called you first to speak to amendment No. 130, which stands in your name.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

Thank you, Mr. Gale. I wish to concentrate on amendments Nos. 130 and 132, which are both in my name. I shall not mention any croquet clubs. Ramsgate—which, of course, is just outside your constituency, Mr. Gale—has been mentioned; you, no doubt, are the life president of the Margate croquet club, for your sins.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Order. I do not recall that that is one of my declared interests.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

Yes, I am glad that the record has been put entirely straight on that point. It is just as well that Hansard's sound system is now working. We hope it is, anyway.

Much earlier in our deliberations, back in early April, the hon. Member for North Durham raised the costs of public entertainment licences in the city of Westminster and wondered whether all of the licence fee was put into enforcement. I have been able to conduct a certain amount of research into Westminster and the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the authority on which I sat as a local councillor for some eight years until 2002. I am acutely aware when discussing issues affecting central London that many Committee members are probably concerned that we should not forget that the country does not begin and end here in central London—although I would not necessarily support that contention.

My main concern with the Bill is that it is centralising in its authority. There is not the flexibility to take account of the fact that, without doubt, areas such as Soho and Covent Garden are sui generis in so far as two areas can be. The regime for central London should be considered differently from how the regime is considered elsewhere. Problems might arise from a set and centralised scheme for licensing and fees.

The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) said that some of the fee income of Westminster city council is disproportionate to the costs of administration and enforcement. The implied conclusion was that Westminster was making a surplus income from the public entertainment licensing regime. Nothing could be further from the truth. I apologise in advance for boring the Committee with statistics that apply to a relatively small number of authorities—none the less, they make the point that we should not be overly prescriptive.

There are about 372 public entertainment licences in Westminster as a whole, two thirds of which are issued at a cost of £2,188 or less. About 31 per cent. of those PELs cost only £1,067 or less and only four venues in Westminster out of the 372 premises pay in excess of £20,000 for their PEL; we could all play a parlour game of guessing which they are, but I shall tell Committee members that they are the Royal Lancaster hotel, Westminster Central hall, the Hilton Metropole hotel and the Royal Albert hall. All those venues have extremely large capacities, and a frequency and variety of events that require robust enforcement. The notion that a set fee ceiling of about £2,000 or £3,000 would cover their costs flies in the face of fact. For instance, last year the Royal Albert hall paid the highest public entertainment licence fee of some £31,000, but for next year the licensing sub-committee of Westminster city council has reduced that to £18,000, having received various representations.

The Royal Albert hall has a capacity of 5,200, in excess of 1 million attendees to events annually and each year hosts 320 to 330 different events—almost one event per day on average. To ensure public safety, this world-renowned venue requires engineers from Westminster city council and licensing officers to visit at least weekly because of significant changes to scenery, stage and seating. Each visit usually requires a full day of officers' time, including at least four hours on site.

I have Westminster's statistics for the financial year just ended, on 5 April. It anticipates that public entertainment licences will provide a fee income of about £1,473,800 with expenditure of £1,794,300; in other words, there will be an operating loss of in excess of £300,000. The levels of fees are determined at present by a relatively straightforward formula that takes into account the capacity of the venue and the terminal hour.

The same sort of regime applies in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and similar statistics exist. The income fees of the tax year 2001–02 brought in £353,800, with expenditure of £376,000, so the deficit was in excess of £20,000. That local authority provided me with copious details to make it clear that the great costs incurred in officer time mean that although the fee regime might appear extremely generous compared with many other local authorities, it is not.

I hope that the Minister will give some thought to the amendment. Perhaps we will have to return on Report to whether we have the right mechanism for certain London authorities. That applies equally to Conservative authorities as to the stress areas of Camden, which also includes part of central London, and to a number of other London authorities that have real and distinct problems that are different from those envisaged under clause 55 in trying to introduce a fair and reasonable fee regime.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said on numerous occasions that it will ensure that the centrally set application fee and an annual fee will cover all associated costs. That is a welcome assurance, but the Department must also recognise that there are

distinct problems in certain parts of the country. It is hard to envisage how the DCMS will come up with a ''one size fits all'' fee that does not involve local authorities making a loss or a profit.

Amendment No. 130 would still impose statutory regulations on fee setting so that there is certainty for business and to ensure that there is no suggestion of wild profits being made by a local authority, but it would also tightly control what may be charged for under the fee and how it should be calculated. Within those guidelines, local authorities will be able to set their own fee in consultation with licensees, residents and businesses. We hope that the outcome would be—to use a slightly vulgar phrase—a ''win, win, win'' scenario for licensees, residents and local authorities alike.

The rationale behind the amendment is straightforward and it was discussed in detail in another place. In Committee in the other place, Baroness Blackstone said that the Department was considering introducing a separate fee band for London and the south-east because of higher costs. That would be a step in the right direction, but that alone would not guarantee a fair licensing fee for local authorities and the licensees because there are several factors in determining licensing costs that can be determined only through self-determination—rather than by a regional-type scheme.

The two biggest factors are wage costs and travel expenses. Wage costs have an impact on every part of the application process, from policy development to inspections to enforcement and the actual process of applications. London weighting is an obvious example. There is a concern that if the Department calculated an average wage cost for the whole of England and Wales, London boroughs and metropolitan councils would lose money and rural councils with much lower wage costs would be able to make money.

On expenses, we accept that in more rural districts, where licensed premises are spread over a wide area, travel costs associated with inspection and enforcement will be far greater than they will be for inner city boroughs. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the Department to give a petrol allowance as part of the fee because many urban local authorities do not use such vehicles to get around.

There must be a sense of balance and there is a worry that a ''one size fits all'' approach would not produce the right result.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay 11:00 am, 29th April 2003

Economies of scale is another factor. For an authority that has a large number of premises, there are costs that can come down per application, but for an authority with few such premises the costs will be greater. I am arguing against my authority having more money, but that is part of the formula.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

That is a fair point. The Minister touched on it earlier. The level of expertise for a number of London authorities means that there is an opportunity for them to reduce some of the cost base simply because of the volume of applications being made.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for dispelling the myth that Westminster city council is efficient and well run and that the taxpayers are subsidising the entertainment industry.

Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that, if there are a large number of entertainment venues in a small city area, managing them and travelling between them is a lot easier than dealing with licensed premises in a large rural county such as Durham where large distances have to be covered and lots of different types of licences have to be dealt with?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

I accept that. I will let the hon. Gentleman's initial comments pass by, although I fear that they are now on the record. I agree with the notion that a ''one size fits all'' scheme will lead to injustices on either side of the balance. It is fair to say that many local authorities operate their licensing regime at a loss rather than regarding it as a money-spinner. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and some groups in the licensing trade believe that local authorities are making vast profits from the regime and no doubt use it as part and parcel of their lobbying schemes.

Baroness Blackstone said in another place that local authorities had had their chance to set fees, and in her view they had failed. As a result, the Government believe that they are justified in opposing a nationally set fee. It is widely acknowledged that a small minority of local authorities make some profit from the licensing fee, but most local councils operate at a huge loss, and will continue to do so on a much greater scale if there is a one-off fee of either £100 or up to £500, as stated in the regulatory impact assessment.

Many local authorities have struggled to estimate the true extent of the proposed change to the licensing regime, so I am reluctant to provide a projected figure, because it would be difficult to realise the size of the loss that would result. It would be invidious simply to multiply by £100 or £500 each of the licences that are now set at significantly higher levels. We have received little direction from the guidance so far, and local authorities have to rely on an assumption based on the experience and the expectation of their staff.

Enough evidence is emerging to highlight the worries of local authorities with a significant number of established licensed premises. Indeed, a fee case study covering Westminster and Camden—both sides of the political divide—was taken into account. Camden council considered that as councils take over responsibility for alcohol licensing under the new regime, there will be an associated increase in administrative costs for the processing of applications and conducting licensing meetings. That change will see Camden's licensing responsibility increase from about 175 premises, which include night cafes and other entertainment premises, to about 1,500 premises when all those with liquor licences are included. The council says that the guidance framework for the Bill notes that the Government's expectation that local authorities will receive a considerable income during the transition period may not come to pass, because that expectation is based on the fee income expected as existing premises transfer their licences to the regime.

Under the regulatory impact assessment, all licensed premises will be required to pay a one-off fee of between £100 and £500 during the transfer from the old licensing system to the new regime.

In the absence of any other direction when trying to work out its finances, Camden inevitably tended to consider the mid point in the range of fees—about £300. Given its new responsibilities, it reckons that it can expect revenue of £450,000 a year. It feels that the inadequacy of such fees is exposed by the fact that the current licensing regime in Camden, under which 300 licences—not 1,500—are processed annually, is already averaging £500,000. Some real problems lie ahead for several London authorities.

Westminster City council has built up a cost model to assist in preparing and planning for the enforcement work resulting from the Bill and its associated guidance. It has systematically identified the costs for a proactive inspection regime for each of the different types of premises, based on the number of premises and the frequency of existing visits for non-licensing purposes, as well as the other routine visits required. That is notwithstanding the point that the Minister and the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) made about the fact that many premises are close to each other, so there should be an opportunity to make certain savings. It is, however, felt that under the new regime the total enforcement costs in Westminster may be as much as £2.5 million.

Time is moving on and we have little more than 10 minutes to go, so I shall touch only briefly on amendment No. 132, the substance of which was tabled in another place by my parliamentary predecessor, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville. Clause 55(4) says:

''Any fee which is owed to a licensing authority under subsection (2) may be recovered as a debt due to the authority.''

Local authorities are concerned about the huge cost and time implications of the proposed legislation. The law currently states that if someone does not pay the public entertainment licence fee before the licence expiry date—usually within 12 months—the licence will lapse until the operator pays the fee. The Government propose that the local authority will be able to chase up fees for licensable activity, not just for entertainment licences. That will, in the minds of many local authorities in London, cause significant problems. That is one of the reasons why we want to insert new subsections (4), (5) and (6); that would clarify the situation where there has been a problem with non-payment.

Thank you for allowing me to go into some detail, Mr. Gale. I am sorry that we will not be able to have a full debate on all the matters covered by the amendments, but I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us to a certain degree. Of course, we may return to the subject on Report.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 11:15 am, 29th April 2003

I recognise that time is running on, but I would like to contribute to the debate.

The Government will get themselves into a hopeless hole on this matter. There are so many arguments on either side—for example, that the local authority monopoly could be abused, and also that different circumstances apply to different local authorities, an idea that my hon. Friend has put forward effectively. I shall illustrate those further by referring to a letter that I received from my local authority, which says that at the moment it more or less covers its costs—although I do not believe that it licenses anything like the number of things the Minister thinks it should, such as morris dancing in pub car parks. My local authority tells me that it makes a loss of £10,000 to £15,000 a year. It says that, for example, on one event—the Seaclose pop festival, which took place last year—the fee payable will be reduced from £8,000 to £500.

In order to set at rest local authorities' fears and concerns, it would be far better for the Government to allow local authorities more discretion than is proposed at present.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

In the little time left in this important debate, I shall try to answer some of the questions that have been asked.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire asked about street cleaning costs and how they would be factored into the scheme of things. The fees and charges made under the Bill will recover the costs of administrative inspection and enforcement of the licensing regime; it will not and should not recover the costs of other matters, such as street cleaning, which are paid for through other forms of taxation by both businesses and consumers.

As for Ramsgate croquet club, fee levels and the location and size of businesses, we are discussing with all stakeholders how fees should be set to reflect the size and location of businesses. Rateable value includes both elements, and that is one possible basis for allocating businesses to bands of fees to be set out in statutory instruments.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I do not believe that Ramsgate croquet club—or any other small club—is a business; it is a small club formed for the enjoyment of a small number of people.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I hope that the answer I gave clarified the Government's position on that subject.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster asked about the number activities taking place and the possibility of different fees being charged. To base the fee on the number of activities conducted on any premises makes no sense. The main cost of enforcement and inspection relates, as he pointed out, to labour costs and visits in connection with licensing. They will not necessarily vary because of the wide variety of activities that may take place on the premises; it is the labour costs and the visits that count. Clause 194 allows different provisions to be made for different purposes, and allows us to make provisions generally or in relation to specific cases.

The hon. Member for Torbay asked about local sports clubs. He will know, I am sure, that the Central Council of Physical Recreation has made

representations in favour of an exemption for local sports clubs. The Government are considering those representations at the moment. Hon. Members may be aware of the work that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport has done to make the benefits of charitable status more easily available to local sports clubs, and his work with the Treasury on the tax benefit package introduced in the Finance Act 2002.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster raised the issue of capacity levels. I was fascinated by what he said, and I am grateful to him for his efforts to give us some notion of the range of fees in one constituency. However, I do not understand why a capacity of 1,000 should give rise to licensing costs different from those involved when the capacity is, say, 2,000. Are more visits involved for the latter, and is more time spent on those premises? The case may be slightly different for somewhere as large as the Royal Albert hall, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but generally large venues, such as theatres of about the same size, will not involve that many administrative differences, and therefore not such high costs.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

What I was saying about the Royal Albert hall would, I suspect, apply to a number of similar premises in which many concerts take place, and there are many changes to the stage and scenery. Clearly, there would need to be plenty of regular visits in such a case. The capacity—between 1,000 and 2,000 or 3,000—may also reflect the sheer variety of events that take place, and frequent visits might be required to take account of new arrangements, and to ensure that health and safety aspects were taken properly into account, along with basic licensing matters.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. He has made clear his reservations—and, I assume, those of his local authority.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

May I make a little progress?

We are still discussing the exact level of fees with local authorities. I hope that the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster will draw some comfort from that. The intention is that fees will be set in bands, based on the size and location of the venues—and, in some circumstances, on how busy they are. My noble Friend Baroness Blackstone did not say in the other place that a special fee would be set for London and the south-east. She said that we would consider how a geographical element might be

included. That is being considered, but using rateable value as an indicator may serve that purpose.

As for fees and costs in the transitional period, Camden would indeed have an income of around £450,000 from premises during that period, but it would have no enforcement costs during the year to 18 months or so of transition. It would have an income of at least another £45,000 in respect of personal licences during the transition—that is £5,000 less than the £500,000 estimate made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster.

Mr. Field rose—

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I will not give way again, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

I hope that after those reassurances, the amendments will not be pressed. If they are, it will send a strong signal that Opposition Members are willing to damage the livelihoods of some of the lowest paid employees in our economy just to save a few coppers for the local authority.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

The Minister was doing all right until that last specious, throwaway comment on the politics of the issue. As he rightly said, the Government are still discussing the local authorities' fee structure. What he did not say, but we have been told, is that considerable problems and difficulties have still not been ironed out. I would have thought that it was still nearly impossible to get general agreement because of the conflicting needs and requirements across local authorities, and because of geographical circumstances. We wish the Government speed in coming to a conclusion on the subject, but we recognise that that will be difficult.

It is true that there needs to be flexibility—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [29 October 2002] and the Order of the Committee [1 and 3 April 2003], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Amendment negatived.

The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Clauses 55 to 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Adjourned at twenty-six minutes past Eleven o'clock till this day at half-past Two o'clock.