Licensing Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 8th May 2003.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 237A, in
clause 98, page 55, line 15, leave out '72' and insert '96'.
Amendment No. 380, in
clause 98, page 55, line 15, leave out '72' and insert '120'.
Amendment No. 378, in
clause 98, page 55, line 29, leave out '72' and insert '96'.
Amendment No. 381, in
clause 98, page 55, line 29, leave out '72' and insert '120'.
Amendment No. 340, in
clause 98, page 55, line 33, leave out
'(being a number less than 500)'.
Amendment No. 418, in
clause 98, page 56, line 9, at end insert—
'(9) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, where the licensable activities are incidental to a nonlicensable activity conducted by the individual, the duration of the licensable activity may exceed 72 hours but may not exceed fourteen days.'.
In speaking to this group, I propose to deal only with amendments Nos. 417 and 418, which I tabled. I am sure that my hon. Friends and others will refer to the other amendments in the group.
These are probing amendments. I was concerned that the restrictions on temporary event licences were too tight, and I came to that conclusion because many events take more than 72 hours. On the other hand, many events that take more than 72 hours are organised for profit rather than as community events, and I felt that an extension of the temporary event notice was more appropriate for a community event or a licensable activity that was incidental to another event than for simple profit-making events.
I have therefore drafted an amendment that would add to the clause a subsection (9), which tries to marry the idea of a licensable activity being incidental to non-licensable activities with the extension of the period of a temporary event notice to 14 days. I could not think of a temporary event that lasted for more than 14 days—and even if I could, it might be argued that such an event is not temporary. When I drafted this amendment I was thinking of events such as Cowes week, which takes 10 days, the royal show, which takes place over 4 or 5 days at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire, similar shows organised by major agricultural societies throughout the country, and other such events at which licensable activity may take place, but that activity is incidental to the non-licensable activity.
I am glad to say that an agricultural show is a non-licensable activity—at least, I hope it is, but I have begun to wonder about that since I heard the Minister mention flower shows. The Minister is looking blank.
The Minister is not looking blank; he is amazed. After all these Committee sittings, is the hon. Gentleman seriously trying to argue that if alcohol is sold at agricultural shows—sometimes in vast quantities, and I say that having been to many of them—no licensing conditions should be imposed?
No. The Minister referred to flower shows in his final speech in the previous debate, but I understand from my reading of the Bill that neither flower shows nor agricultural shows are licensable activities, and I just wanted to make that clear, so that the Minister could correct me if he felt it necessary. He is not doing so, so I assume that I am right.
What is licensable about an agricultural show is the sale of alcohol, the conduct of music or dancing, or something else of that kind: the event itself is a non-licensable activity. The licensable activity—the sale of alcohol—is incidental to the non-licensable activity. It is not the purpose for which the agricultural show takes place; although it may appear to the Minister that that is the case, the fact is that other things go on at agricultural shows as well as drinking inside and outside marquees.
My argument is not that the licensable activity should not be licensed, but that the restriction of 72 hours on the availability of a temporary event notice should not apply until an event reaches a duration of 14 days, and that the qualification for that should be that the licensable activity is incidental to non-licensable activity.
I am trying to extend the scope for a temporary event licence, and I am asking the Minister to tell me whether he thinks it unreasonable to apply for a temporary event notice for a bar operated for four days at an event such as an agricultural show—it is clear that when he drafted the Bill, he thought that it was. My aim is as simple as that. I am concerned that people will have to apply for permanent licenses to operate a bar at, for example, an agricultural show, even if it lasts for only four days a year.
I now want to talk about Cowes week, and I am indebted to Chris Troup, the landlord of the Anchor Inn, Cowes—the concessionaire who runs events in the Cowes yacht haven—for assisting me with my questions. Mr. Troup is concerned about the back-to-back restriction on temporary event notices, and about the fact that only five temporary event notices would be available for a particular set of premises. Once again, we get into the question of what is a premises.
The Cowes yacht haven is a large area containing many birds, moorings, pontoons, and so forth. It is possible to define that area as more than one place by drawing a line on a map that does not represent any physical feature on the ground. If the marquees are placed in two separate places and those are defined as two separate sets of premises, it would be possible for Mr. Troup to serve five temporary event notices for place A, at the western end of the yacht haven, another five for place B, which immediately adjoins it but is not within the curtilage of place A, and again for place C, which is a little further along the yacht haven. If he could do that, he would be happy. However, he is concerned that the definition of premises is not in his control.
Should the person serving the notice define the premises, or is another body able to define those as well? The definition contained in clause 190 says that premises are ''any place''; but who will define them? If Mr. Troup cannot get more than five temporary event notices a year, I assume, although perhaps the Minister will correct me, that he should apply for a permanent licence for the Cowes yacht haven. The problem with that is contained in the operating schedule, to which I referred earlier. It is impossible, at the beginning of the period for which a permanent
licence runs, to predict precisely the use to which it will be put.
I would be happy if the Minister could assure me that the following example is acceptable—and so would Mr. Troup. Perhaps it would be possible to say, ''We intend to hold various events over a period of five years''—depending on the duration of the licence—''some of which will run from 8 am to midnight, although we intend to run others until 2 or 3 am. We are not yet sure about the size of the marquees, because we have not had the bookings. We are not exactly sure where the marquees will be, because we do not know whether there will be boats being renovated or repaired on the surface of the yacht haven. We have not yet made the arrangements for the location of the stalls, stands and other non-licensable activities on the yacht haven.'' If that were acceptable as an operating statement, Mr. Troup would be happy. However, if it were not acceptable, he would have to acquire a general premises licence and would repeatedly have to apply for modifications, or serve temporary event notices.
First, why is there a 72-hour limit? Would it not be more appropriate to have a much longer limit that would cover agricultural and sporting events? Secondly, why is there a back-to-back restriction? Thirdly, what is a ''place'', and who decides that? Fourthly, what level of detail is required in the operating schedule? Will it be sufficient to provide an operating schedule that gives general scope for meeting the specific needs that may arise within five days?
Mr. Troup tells me that many people come to Cowes week and say, ''We want to have a party. Organise one on Friday.'' He has to get the marquee, the drink and the band with five days' notice. At present he can do so by using his licence for the Anchor Inn, by applying for occasional licences, which he can get in 24 hours from the Isle of Wight magistrates court, and by getting entertainment licences, which are broad in scope, from the Isle of Wight council.
Mr. Troup and I agree that the process is more complicated than having a single licence. Mr. Troup went out of his way to commend that aspect of the Bill, but he will not believe that things are less complicated if he has to use a crystal ball when he applies for his permanent premises licence to forecast exactly what uses his premises will be put to over the long period of the licence's duration.
The clauses in question replace the Licensing (Occasional Permissions) Act 1983, which was brought in because of the inadequacies of the Licensing Act 1964 in dealing with temporary events. The 1983 Act has worked well. I am sorry to say that the clauses will in practice prove to be more restrictive than the 1983 Act. That is a pity when the Government say—and they sincerely intend this to be the case—that the Bill is liberalising and will give us a more permissive regime. Unless we can effect some of the amendments, we will end up with something considerably more draconian
than the existing legislation. Many events that currently take place on a semi-regular basis are perfectly permissible under the existing law, but will fall the wrong side of the law as drafted in the Bill.
One of my particular concerns is the number of hours. I understand that in proposing a limit of 72 hours the Government intended to accommodate long-weekend events—but would 72 hours do that? For example, often a beer tent at an event will open on Friday and carry on right through the weekend and into the bank holiday Monday evening. That exceeds 72 hours—albeit not by very much—so that sort of event will fall the wrong side of a 72-hour limit. I accept that wherever a line is drawn it will be a bit arbitrary and there will be things that fall the wrong side of it, but my object is to persuade the Minister that in drawing his line at 72 hours, he has drawn it just a little too tightly.
There are two relevant amendments. Mine suggests extending the 72 hours to 120 hours. The other amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, who will no doubt speak to it, suggests 96 hours. The Conservatives initially tabled an amendment specifying 168 hours. They have trimmed that back to 96 hours, or from seven days to four days. I am sure that that was done in an attempt to be reasonable and to entice the Minister to agree that the line should be drawn just a little beyond the 72 hours.
If the matter is considered constructively, the Minister, being a reasonable man, may be persuaded to move the line a little. Many events—for example, carnival weeks, music festivals, one-off shows and so on—may fall on the wrong side, and my suggestion of five days or the alternative suggestion of four days, would allow many events that have taken place under the 1983 Act to continue. Drawing the line at 72 hours is too tight and will prevent such events from taking place. I urge the Minister to think about that. The amendments are constructive; we are trying to find a slightly more lenient limit.
Amendment No. 340, in the name of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, concerns the limit of 500 people participating. That is new and, as I understand it, could cause problems in practice. Presumably, the limit relates to 500 people at any one time. If a festival lasts for a few days and a beer tent is running, clearly it is possible that more than 500 people will attend. Equally, if the beer tent is tangential to the principal event—the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) touched on this point—it would be difficult for those running the beer tent to have the slightest idea of how many people would use it, either at any one time or in toto.
I also want the Minister to tell us whether the 500 people include the event staff. If a beer festival attracts 500 people, it will have a large staff—perhaps 30 or even 50—working in shifts and relays. Will they be included in the 500, and how will the number be policed?
I am trying to think through the hon. Gentleman's argument. If he is arguing for more than 72 hours—there are good arguments for flexibility—he
is also arguing for removal of the ceiling of 500. The Glastonbury festival, for example, might be held under a temporary event notice and the ability to regulate such festivals, which attract 200,000 people and give rise to huge public safety and other concerns, would continue with the light-touch regulation.
If that were the case, that would presumably happen at the moment. Neither of the two limits that I am discussing exists in current legislation. I do not believe that the Glastonbury festival would try to get away with that. Common sense suggests that the scale of the festival requires it to be properly licensed and policed. There may be a need for a limit on numbers, although I am sceptical about that, but we have not had one in the past and that does not seem to have caused problems. However, if one is necessary, I am inclined to the view that 500 is a remarkably low limit for some of the events that I have described.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many venues already have capacity numbers imposed by health and safety regulations? That provides control, and perhaps it is unnecessary to reinforce it in the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. There are other ways of ensuring public safety and public order. Temporary event notices are for ad hoc or semi-regular events and many will be out of doors. The Government would do well to think a little more about the 72-hour limit, which is too tight. We have not had a limit of 500 people in the past, so is there really any good reason why we need it now?
I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 237A, 378 and, in passing, 340. The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) has some powerful arguments. He alluded to the fact that an earlier amendment that we tabled would have changed the number of hours from 72 to 168, and his analysis of why we cut that figure back was very percipient. The Government's figure is 72 hours, and so far this morning the Minister has suggested that they wish to accommodate as many temporary events as possible by extending the hours as far as they can to cover events that take place over a weekend.
I am sure that the hon. Member for North Devon has received much well-meaning material from institutions and organisers of events who say that 72 hours is just not long enough for many of the events that take place, in particular during some of the holiday weekends. We did not want to get into a situation where the Government could reject out of hand a move from three to seven days, so we cut that back in our new amendment, No. 237A, to 96 hours, or four days. The hon. Gentleman has suggested 120 hours. I do not think that either of us is saying that we know exactly what the number of hours ought to be, but we are confident that 72 hours is not long enough and will not enable many events that currently take place as temporary events to continue on that basis. They will be forced into the premises licence route, which is more expensive and time consuming.
We have been approached by the Country Houses Association, which holds many temporary events
throughout the year. The income from those events is terribly important to it in maintaining our heritage—something that the Minister's Department is keen to do. That association is concerned that on occasion it will fall foul of the 72-hour limit. As the hon. Member for North Devon rightly pointed out, the 1983 Act has worked extremely well. No one whom I have contacted on the matter has said that that is not working and needs to be changed. We take a risk if we change things that are working perfectly well. We should be advising the Government not to drift too far away from the current situation. I know that they want to tidy it up, and that they want a light touch, but they might not achieve that with the Bill's current wording.
Beer festivals have been mentioned. The Campaign for Real Ale has written to us to say that about one third of its festivals run for longer than three days. The measure will cut out a considerable number of the beer festivals run under the aegis of CAMRA, and that would be detrimental to the interests of not only the drinkers concerned but of the brewers of real ales. I should have thought that we, and the Government, would want to encourage those.
Amendment No. 340 is probing, and seeks to find out how the Government arrived at a figure of 500. The hon. Member for South Dorset intervened to mention Glastonbury, with which he has been heavily involved. That is off the Richter scale, in terms of the numbers that we are discussing here. The hon. Member for North Devon made the point that we would not expect Glastonbury or other festivals of that size to be covered by temporary event notices. There is a balance to be arrived at. We are being told that a crowd of 500 is difficult to police and gauge, and it may well be that such an event attracts far more people than usual, because it is a sunny day or whatever.
The second point is about a beer tent at a local show—I can think of one in my own constituency. The show itself may be attended by thousands of people, but the beer tent may only have a few hundred in it at any one time. One cannot be sure when making the application how many people will use the alcohol facility. It is not clear how that uncertainty would be accommodated.
The Government ought to take on board the lobbying that has taken place. I am sure that they too have had discussions with the people who have been talking to us. They are still unhappy that the hours that were shown in clause 98(1) particularly, which are repeated in clause 72(5), do not accommodate many of the events that currently take place, and those running such events would like to see some movement if possible. Our amendments our probing. The limit of 96 hours is as arbitrary as one of 72, but we are asking the Government to increase the time to enable more events to continue in the usual way.
I shall start where my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire ended, and
talk about amendment No. 340, before moving on to discuss amendment No. 237A.
I have received representations from people who organise events—as I am sure many other Committee members have—about the role of the 500-person upper limit. Those people appreciate the fact that there should be a limit of some description for such events. Pat O'Neill from the southern Hampshire branch of CAMRA highlighted that, and he agreed that there ought to be an upper limit. He went on to point out that some events that CAMRA runs locally would be precluded under a temporary event notice.
The Eastleigh beer festival takes place in a hall with a capacity limit of 300, and would not be affected by the upper limit of 500, but until recently there was a Winchester beer festival at which, given the size of the venue, there could be 800 people. Under the Bill, that could not take place. The number of attendees would have to be restricted, with the consequent problems that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire pointed out: people would have to be clocked in and out to ensure the limit was not breached.
There is also a Southampton festival, which has between 900 and 1,000 customers for a Friday evening session. Under the Bill that would not be permissible. What happens if we lose those festivals? The benefit to the local community will be lost.
I hesitate to speak again on this point, but this is not a question of whether those festivals take place, but whether they are licensed through the premises licensing procedure or the very light-touch regulation of the temporary event notice.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fairly obvious point. The question is when we should allow people to benefit from the light-touch regulation, and what cut-off point we should adopt to decide whether people should follow the premises licence route rather than the temporary event notice route. The argument is that many festivals are now organised by people who take advantage of the 1983 legislation to which the hon. Member for North Devon referred. The festivals are run under those rules in conjunction with the capacity limits set by the individual premises that are used.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the present limit is 24 hours.
The Minister's point is irrelevant, because I want to focus on the number of people who are present at events. The people who organise festivals in southern Hampshire are well versed in the use of the Licensing (Occasional Permissions) Act 1983. A person who wrote to me believes that they were one of the first to take advantage of the occasional licences granted under the 1983 Act.
All we are asking is that such events be allowed to take place at the capacity limit. Is there a sensible reason for setting the limit at 500? Should not there be a better upper limit so that people who organise festivals can benefit from the light-touch regulation set out in the temporary event notice provisions?
I also wish to reflect on the duration of events. We touched on whether 72 hours is the right limit, and there have been arguments for increasing the time. CAMRA's experience is that many bank holiday events that start on a Friday evening and end on a Monday exceed 72 hours. Events held during the four-day period of the Easter weekend could start at lunchtime on Friday and end at lunchtime on Monday, or even later. Many people would argue that we should consider the restrictive nature of the 72-hour limit, and perhaps be a little more flexible about how we determine the duration of the temporary event notice so that people are not discouraged from putting on events by the restrictive nature of some of the Bill's provisions.
We have had an excellent debate, with some strong arguments. Hon. Members are right to point out that it is never easy to set such limits; indeed, it is very difficult. I shall try to answer all the questions, but I wish to preface my remarks by saying that arguments completely counter to those that we have heard this morning could be advanced if we were representing the interests of the constituents who live near such events. Hon. Members have, very properly, spoken about balance. Let us remember that when we talk about balance and trying to get the limits right, we must consider those who live close to the venues.
I have had it put to me, as I am sure other hon. Members have, that at least the misery has a time limit—that is a phrase to remember. Without proper and rigorous examination of venues and events, we must ensure that the limits on time and on the number of people who are likely to participate do not allow people to take advantage of the situation, to the detriment of those who live nearby.
On previous amendments, I have stated that the system set out in the Bill is designed to deliver a light touch. However, there must be safeguards and controls to protect the rights of local residents and to prevent unscrupulous individuals from exploiting the arrangements to circumvent the licensing regime. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight has tabled amendments Nos. 417 and 418, which would allow licensable activities to continue under a temporary event notice for up to 14 days, rather than the 72 hours for which the Bill provides, if such licensable activities are incidental, as he put it, to non-licensable activities.
I do not believe that the amendments are necessary. In response to concerns raised in another place, the Government have exempted all incidental music from the requirement for authorisation altogether. If someone wishes to organise, say, a week-long flower festival, and wants recorded classical music playing in the background or a pianist playing background music in the corner, they will not need to give a temporary event notice.
Although it is easy to think of circumstances in which music may be incidental to another, non-licensable, activity, it is more difficult to imagine how the sale of alcohol could ever be purely an incidental activity. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight was quite right to point out that, although many of us might enjoy going for other reasons, the main purpose
of an agricultural show, or flower show, is to watch the animals or look at the flowers, or otherwise take part. Nevertheless, drinking can form a very important part of such occasions. He well knows that, very occasionally, things can get out of hand. That is why we have licensing laws in the first place.
We would not want the supply of alcohol to be treated as incidental to other non-licensable activities, but that is what might happen as a result of his amendment. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want that to happen either, because of the implications. More importantly, the amendments are not desirable. I think that we all accept that the sale or supply of alcohol raises some very special issues, and it is only right, for proper public protection, that those issues should be scrutinised. I doubt whether the public would thank us if we put the sale or consumption of alcohol outside the licensing regime altogether because of some notion that it is incidental to the main purpose of an agricultural show or a flower show. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not mean that to happen, but that is the sense that I get from the amendments.
In that case I have to apologise to the Minister, because I have not made myself sufficiently clear. That is indeed the intent of the amendment; but as I understand it, that would mean a more, not less, rigorous regime than the one provided by the temporary event notice procedure for events lasting less than 72 hours. Why is it possible to license an activity for less than 72 hours without any scrutiny but not for more than 72 hours, when that activity is merely incidental to an event?
This is interesting, because I sense that the hon. Gentleman does not much like the temporary event notice system that we propose to introduce. It is light touch, and he is right to draw a distinction between what has existed until now and what will happen from now on. The light-touch regulation in the Bill does exactly as he describes, because the only people who can object are the police, on the grounds of concerns over possible criminal behaviour. That is why, as I shall argue later, it is so important to have the limits, as we have proposed.
I should say now that I am perfectly prepared, on the basis of the arguments that hon. Members have advanced, to think again about the actual time limits. There is no question about that, but I argue that time limits are essential. If we live very close to such an event, and for all kinds of reasons, have our lives made rather unpleasant as a consequence—which can happen—there should be an end in sight.
I hope that the Committee can get away for a moment from the notion that temporary events happen only in the sylvan countryside. They also happen in cities, towns and the streets in which we all live. We have to realise that. Temporary events take place right in the middle of densely populated residential areas.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend said that the Government might seriously
consider whether 72 hours is appropriate. He was right to say that under existing legislation, 24 hours is the limit for a temporary event notice. There is also a limit of 12 per year. At present, however, the Campaign for Real Ale, for example, can apply for four successive periods of 24 hours—but such flexibility will not exist under the new system.
Yes, I concede that. I would not want to blight the work of CAMRA. It does a good job.
May I finish answering my hon. Friend's question? The current restrictions are serious. The bureaucratic burdens are often great and I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that our proposed scheme will be much cheaper and less of an effort to organise for bodies such as CAMRA. If we can achieve the right time and capacity limits, they will be of great benefit to such organisations.
I want to go back to the remarks with which the Minister prefaced his response. He alluded to the same points more recently. A balance must be struck between the ease with which temporary event notices can be applied for and given, and protection for residents in the local area. We have been lobbied about the hours limit by people who run existing events and festivals, who are saying that such a provision will constrain them. In that sense, such events have been happening for some time and they have not created problems or difficulties—if they had, they would have been stopped. We are talking about supporting events that already take place. People say that the future of those events may be put in jeopardy if the limits are set too tightly.
Of course I acknowledge that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have guessed that we have been lobbied at least as hard as the Conservative party.
Yes, probably a good deal harder. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that it is never easy to strike such balances and introduce such safeguards.
I want to answer some of the questions asked by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight when he spoke to amendments Nos. 417 and 418. I doubt whether the public would thank us if we put alcohol that is sold on a temporary basis outside the licensing regime. The hon. Gentleman tried to clarify why he framed the amendments in such a way. As they stand, the proposals could open up a way for alcohol to be supplied without a notice or an objection by anyone, except the police on the grounds of crime and disorder, for up to a fortnight at a time. I think that he would acknowledge that several problems could be generated by such a scenario. In a sense, he has admitted that by hedging around his proposals. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish events of such length at which alcohol is provided to be treated in that way.
Licensable activities are the sale by retail of alcohol, the supply of alcohol by a club and the provision of regulated entertainment and late-night refreshment.
The hon. Gentleman referred to agricultural shows, as did several hon. Members. Most agricultural shows are attended by more than 499 people, so they go above the limit and would need a premises licence for a temporary period. Those licences can be obtained by applying for them. We will come on to the figure of 500 in a moment, because I want to make that clear to him. Most, if not all, agricultural shows apply for proper premises licences and temporary event notices or the current equivalent, and there is a long practice of that. They are usually very big events and they want to cover themselves for all eventualities.
The Minister said that a temporary premises licence could be obtained. Can he explain how that works? I was unaware that that was so. Obviously, we are dealing with temporary event notices, but I thought that a premises licence applied to a specific period and could not be granted on a temporary basis.
As I understand it, if the applicant requires a premises licence to be temporary, he or she can apply for one. What that means for costs, I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman at the moment, but I will try to find out for him because that would matter.
Fine. It sounds as though in almost all circumstances it would make sense to apply for a temporary event notice, rather than a temporary premises licence. If the hon. Gentleman could come back to me on that, I would be grateful.
Absolutely. As for the question of marquees, raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, many festivals have them. I cannot remember the name of the gentleman whom he mentioned.
No doubt, the hon. Gentleman will send a copy of the Hansard report of this Committee to Mr. Troup. We have mentioned his name at least four times now. [Interruption.] That is five times.
It is open to Mr. Troup or any other applicant to say that he intends to hold a temporary event at premises that he would describe as covering one, two or three marquees. It would be for the licensing authority to decide whether the notice was valid with respect to those marquees; and whether the premises consisted of one place or several places. That is an important provision, because it is the licensing authority that must make those decisions. The authorities do so now and they should do after the Bill becomes law.
The hon. Gentleman made a good point about crystal balls and applicants not being able to tell in advance whether 100 or 1,000 people would attend the event. It depends on the bookings and so on. We have tried to make temporary event notices flexible and it will be interesting to see which way the hon. Gentleman jumps when we come to the amendments that would slow down the process by giving longer time limits to applications and the way in which they must be approved.
If the premises user were unable to say what he or she would use the premises for, it would be difficult for responsible authorities and interested parties to assess
the impact on the licensing objectives and to decide whether to make representations. That is the way in which the system works now. The authorities must have a clear idea of what is going to be happening and—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree—it is the responsibility of the licensee to have some idea of the licensable activities for which he or she is seeking authorisation. I acknowledge that that is not always easy and the hon. Gentleman has made that clear. Where activities are unforeseen, the temporary event notice system provides an appropriate fallback. Failing that, he or she is perfectly entitled to apply for a variation of the premises licence.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the back-to-back restriction. That gets right to the heart of the business of trying to balance local residents' problems with the aspiration of a temporary event notice applicant to have a successful event. If there were no back-to-back restriction of 24 hours, nothing would prevent an individual from a holding a single event lasting for 15 days by applying for five temporary event notices each lasting 72 hours. That is a long time for the people who happen to be living close to the venue. It is a question of judging the limit.
The hon. Gentleman talked about a party in a marquee. I did not quite understand whether he meant that the alcohol would be given away all evening, or for part of it and then sold from a pay bar. A party at which alcohol is to be given away freely to those attending requires no temporary event notice or premises licence. I hope that Mr. Troup will draw comfort from that.
The hon. Member for North Devon asked a reasonable question about how one polices the 500 limit. It is not easy. There is currently a requirement on somebody—it could be a steward—to collect numbers. I am told that that happens widely. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will spend the summer checking entries to marquees to see whether that is the case. It is certainly the case where restrictions are put on licensed premises; for example, there might be an upstairs room used as a bar. As he knows, the penalties for not carrying out vital functions are fierce.
I do not want to prolong the Minister's speech, but I have a further question. Does he accept that Cowes is so warm that the walls of the marquee are seldom used, so it is literally impossible to tell how many people are flowing in and out?
We shall not get into a discussion about types of marquee.
These things are never easy. There are ways of adhering to the law, and we must ensure that the laws that we create are adhered to. I gave the hon. Member for North Devon one example that I have come across. If it proves impossible to police the number of people who are going in and out of a marquee, others measures will have to be taken. I know that Westminster is very strict in that regard, and the reason why I know is because of the receptions that are
held on College green and elsewhere in the summer. I notice that when the sides of the marquees are rolled up ropes are put around the structure to stop people from moving in an out. Westminster is strict about admitting people and counting them as they leave. I do not know whether others throughout the country are as strict about numbers.
The hon. Member for North Devon asked whether the measure was liberalising. He fears that existing legislation will be undermined and that it will not be helpful for temporary event licences. I guess that he is implying that the provisions are potentially more restrictive than the current legislation. I would very much like to hear of an example. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) gave us one; he said that it is possible to have back-to-back 24-hour permissions, using a licensee. However, as I tried to point out, many problems could arise in those circumstances, too.
The hon. Member for North Devon is quite right to say that we have to make sure that the legislation does not become more restrictive. That is why I have said that I will certainly consider some of the limits that we have talked about today. The Licensing (Occasional Permissions) Act 1983, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, allows only non-profit-making organisations to obtain an occasional permission to sell alcohol. That is an important point; I do not know what kind of lobbying he has been subject to, but we have been lobbied by many organisations that have said that the current situation is very restrictive. In some ways, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, unless we get the provisions right, they could be seen as being more restrictive. However, I hope that he will realise that there are pluses to the provisions, too, and that we are making the notice more open and easier to obtain.
The current limit for permission to sell alcohol is 24 hours. No one other than a licensee or publican can sell alcohol over a period longer than 24 hours—unless, of course, they work out a device such as the one described by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby.
My recollection is that it would be possible to use the Theatres Act 1968 to licence a village hall, for example, and then to hold a series of events during the year in which alcohol could be sold. All that would be required to put on such an event would be the public entertainments licence. That is one possible mechanism for getting round the provisions.
I understand that that is used sometimes as a means of holding the kind of events that my hon. Friend describes. We are trying to make things simpler and much clearer, and give more people the opportunity to hold temporary events in the way that I have described.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire mentioned CAMRA. Relatively few festivals of the nature that he mentions are likely to fall foul of the provisions or be subject to our limit, although he has mentioned some that do, and we have had notice of
them, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby mentioned at least one festival that goes on for four days. I am not sure that he told me which one it was—
Such events can start on Friday and finish on a Monday; the hon. Gentleman is quite right there. The hon. Member for North Devon said that the provisions do not infringe much on such festivals, but they can do, and we have got to get the measures right.
Just a minute; before I lose my thread—I am capable of doing that, as the hon. Gentleman knows—I should say that many of those events will have more than 500 attendees, and so would not qualify under our proposals anyway. Many more will be held in premises already covered by premises licences; we should remember that. It is important to maintain a sense of proportion and balance, and I am sure that hon. Members would agree.
CAMRA advised us that a third of its festivals run for longer than three days, and therefore would not be able to take place under the provisions of a temporary event notice as they are set out in the Bill.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. Either they will become shorter festivals or we will have to think of some other way of getting around the problem. He is quite right to remind the Committee that a third of CAMRA's events last longer than the 72 hours.
It is not just the limit on hours that will restrict the festivals in future if the Bill goes through unamended. CAMRA has told us that a third of its events would be caught by the 72-hour limit. If the Minister is now saying that because the 500-people limit has come in, that will mean that most of the festivals with more than 500 attendees will not be able to take place under a temporary event notice, then it will not be just a third of CAMRA events that will be affected, it will be even more.
Yes, a temporary premises licence would be needed if there were more than 500 people in attendance, for the reasons that I made clear earlier. I defend that limit and say that the hon. Gentleman must remember his constituents, who may live near the place where one of those events is taking place. We must maintain a balance. I see that the hon. Gentleman is nodding. He therefore does believe that we should maintain a balance. We must decide what the proper limit should be.
The Minister has told us that someone should monitor attendance with a clicker. I will use the example of a beer tent at a three-day agricultural festival. Is he saying that the limit of 500 people is a total limit throughout those three days? If the festival has been open for a few hours, and the 501st person presents himself at the marquee, must the beer tent be dismantled for the remaining two and a half days?
No. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked that question. I missed that point on my briefing
notes earlier. The limit is 500 people at any time. Therefore, throughout the course of a day, thousands of people could attend, but the capacity limit is 500 at a time. If I am wrong, I am sure that I will be passed a note to tell me so.
We have reached a fairly critical point in our discussion, which I would like to have placed on record so that it will be clear for those reading the report of this debate, especially members of CAMRA, who will no doubt be sent copies by the hon. Member for Selby.
The Minister said that there must be a balance. I accept that, but we are talking about events that already take place, where there are no problems such as unseemly behaviour and so forth. Among those events are CAMRA beer festivals. The Minister has just accepted that, under the 72-hour limit, a third of those that took place under the old regime of a temporary notice will disappear. As for the 500-people limit, that will affect those festivals even more keenly. Events that currently take place, which are no problem whatsoever to communities, will no longer be afforded the route of a temporary event notice under the 1983 Act. Organisers will have to apply for a premises licence—albeit a temporary one—with all the costs and bureaucracy involved. Does the Minister think that that is a deregulatory measure?
I do not believe that to be the case. We have talked to CAMRA at length about this. A third of its events may run for longer than three days, but in future most of those will be held in premises that are already covered by premises licences. The hon. Gentleman says that CAMRA has not said that, but that is what CAMRA has told us. We have come across that sort of lobbying before. CAMRA will try to get the most effective case put forward in the Committee. CAMRA has told us that a third of its events may last longer than 72 hours, but that many of that third are already run on premises that have a premises licence. The figure is therefore likely to be lower than a third. That is not to diminish the force of the hon. Gentleman's argument, because it is important that we do not cause disruption to a festival that may be important to a local economy and to the people who go to enjoy themselves, which is run by CAMRA or any other organisation. We will look very carefully at that issue. I remind the hon. Gentleman, however, that lobbying is a fine and dark art. He will have been lobbied by all sorts of people, as indeed have I.
Does the Minister accept that, where an event takes place on premises that already possess a premises licence, the licence may not encompass the sort of activity involved because the operating schedule was set up before the event was planned? He kindly referred to that subject earlier. There is nothing in the Bill about a modification of a premises licence. Any event outside the terms of the operating schedule will have to be dealt with under a new premises licence application.
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, we have discussed the matter endlessly. The premises licence is different; the holder may at any time apply for a modification to his or her licence, for example, if
he or she wants to hold an entertainment in a licensed premises. Other clauses deal extensively with that and with how that should be done. There is nothing to prevent a premises licence holder from applying for a modification to their licence.
The Minister said earlier that people could apply for a premises licence for a temporary period. Clause 26(1)(b) says:
''Subject to clauses, 27 and 28, a premises licence has effect until such time as . . . if it specifies that it has effect for a limited period, that period expires.''
Accordingly, a person can apply for a premises licence for a temporary period.
Many events that take place at present under the 1983 Act will be affected by the new legislation, including beer festivals, although I do not just refer to those. For example, a beer festival in a village hall that had taken place for some years under the old system would, under the new system, have to be covered by a premises licence if it lasted longer than 72 hours and if more than 500 people attended. Although that festival took place only once a year, somebody would have to apply for the licence locally. Would that person come from the local village community, or would they be on the village hall committee? Whoever they were, they would not want the hassle of applying for a personal licence, designating a premises supervisor and so forth. We shall discuss that matter further on a later set of amendments. It is easy to say that a person could apply for a premises licence. That would, however, prevent some activities that are already taking place—with no problems for the community—from happening at all.
The hon. Gentleman may talk about such events, but they do not appear out of the air, as if by magic. At present, people must go through a long process to get permission. In most instances, the proposed regime would make things much simpler. The hon. Gentleman is properly using an extreme example. Indeed, I have been accused of doing that in the Committee dozens of times. Once a year, there may be a four-day festival in a village—I wish he would not use the word ''village'' as such an event could take place in the middle of a city. CAMRA, for example, holds one of its biggest festivals in Olympia, which has a premises licence, likes the business and is not likely to raise any objection. The hon. Gentleman presumably is talking about an event taking place in a large hall, or in a premises that does not normally have a premises licence.
If thousands of people attended a well known and important festival—
We are talking about more than 499 people attending. If that happened, the hon. Gentleman is saying that it would be an onerous duty to have to apply in that instance for a temporary premises licence, but it is not so onerous. If the organisers realised that the event was going to be big, they would also realise that many interests would be involved in judging whether and where it should take place, and that some consideration should be given to
the hours involved and the likely consequences of the sale of alcohol.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire is right to say that there is a fine balance to be drawn. We have tried to lay down a reasonable time limit and to balance the welfare of residents and businesses living and operating in the area with the needs of the organisers and those who go along to the event to enjoy themselves. The judgment is fine and I have no doubt that there will be instances—the hon. Gentleman referred to one—that fall on the wrong side of the line for the organisers. However, he must pay some attention to the lobbying that I would receive from his constituents if modifications to the Bill allowed longer periods of music and drinking under a temporary event notice with no control over the number of people. Some of the consequences could be serious.
I told the hon. Gentleman that the matter is one of judgment and balance. That is not easy, but we believe that we have got it right, although I am prepared to reconsider some of the limits.
Many beer festivals involve thousands of people. They are not all like the Munich beer festival, but I have been to some big ones where the organisers have properly understood the necessity of carrying the community and the licensing authority with them when they applied for premises licences. The Brecon jazz festival is probably the biggest jazz festival in Britain, although Cheltenham would probably disagree. Most events are held in pubs, but some are held in school halls, community halls and so on. The organisers have got their act together superbly and ensure that they are properly licensed and covered for the events. They have not told me that that is onerous. Cowes week on the Isle of Wight is a long-established event, which works well and we must ensure that under the Bill it continues to work well. However, there will be occasions when temporary event notices are not the right way forward if local residents, the police and the authorities demand more stringent restrictions and more monitoring of what is likely to occur.
I have spoken for long enough, so I shall sit down in the hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
This has indeed been a good debate and it is not the fault of any Committee member that it has also been muddled. We have been trying to consider too many issues, but that is what the licensing authorities and the applicants will have to do for the sort of far-in-advance applications that will be necessary if the temporary event notice procedure remains as the Minister put it in the Bill.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that we shall come to clauses under which the limit is 10 days. In the White Paper, we suggested five days, but we bowed to pressure from the various authorities that must consider such matters and extended that to 10 days, which is a short period. Withdrawal must be up to 24 hours before the event
takes place, which is a fine limit and provides tremendous flexibility to both the applicants for a temporary event notice and the authorities that must consider it.
Indeed. We will come to the time limits for applications. The issue is how the appropriate authorities draw a balance. I have got the message that the Minister is willing to reconsider the duration of temporary event notices. He has not convinced me that the procedure to apply for a premises notice will be sufficiently flexible in circumstances other than someone saying, ''We are going to use these premises over the next five years for all sorts of activities at all sorts of times but we promise that they will not go on after midnight for more than two weeks a year.'' Such an application is understandable, but it will be difficult for local people to accept it. If local people accept an application drawn up in broad terms and if the licensing authority accepts it, the Minister's proposed restrictions on temporary event notices will not get in the way of running events such as Cowes week.
My great concern is that a licensing authority will receive an application and say that it is too vague and that a modification must be applied for every time the arrangement is changed. The applicant would therefore have to go through the full rigmarole of modifying the application, which is exactly the same as the full rigmarole of applying for a premises licence in the first place. Cowes week works at the moment on the ability of the magistrates to provide an occasional licence within 24 hours, usually with discussion beforehand between the organiser and the clerk to the bench, and the ability of Isle of Wight council to provide a broad entertainment licence, which vitally does not cover alcohol. It is much easier for people to accept entertainments such as noise—I am sorry, they are called bands—knowing that the alcohol issue will be dealt with separately than it is for them to have the two lumped together.
My great concern—I am almost repeating myself and apologise to the Committee for that—is that people will not be able to gaze into their crystal ball and will be put through a process of constantly applying and reapplying for modifications. That will involve regular and repeated consultations and additional cost, which will make it more difficult for people to run existing events.
The debate has shown that there is not a clear view on the transition from a temporary events notice to a temporary premises licence. My hon. Friend is right to say that people will go through the same process as applying for a full premises licence. I should like the Minister to give us an indication of the guidance that will be issued to local authorities to enable people to apply for a temporary premises licence without going through the same detailed process as that required for an ordinary premises licence.
I endorse my hon. Friend's question and I should also like to hear it answered. I should also like the Minister to help by giving some guidance on the fee level for applications for a modification.
I do not want again to remind the hon. Gentleman of this—I am sure that he is aware of it—but we have dealt extensively with modifications and fees in previous clauses. The clause is about temporary event notices; it is not about modifications to premises licences. The Committee has already agreed that.
I accept that. I keep raising the matter because the Minister demonstrated that the temporary event notice procedure is not the appropriate procedure to be used by people who are organising temporary events to the extent that they are currently. I would like the Minister to confirm what the Committee has agreed so that it is on the record for Mr. Troup and others who may read it that they do not have to go through the same procedure and pay the same fees every time they apply for a modification to a premises licence. An application cannot be made both clearly and far in advance for events that vary as much as some of the events in question. I accept that the Minister may feel that we have dealt with the matter adequately. I do not propose to press my amendments, but I may want to return to the matter in the clause stand part debate.
We are grateful to the Minister for the thorough way in which he has answered the questions in this part of the debate. He has gone a long way towards assuaging some of our fears. We welcome the fact that he is prepared to consider the time limit of 72 hours. He did not commit himself to any other figure, but he did say that if he saw evidence of severe problems arising for bodies or groups of people because of the 72-hour limit, he would reconsider the matter. We are not saying that we know precisely what the figure should be. There is agreement among the Opposition that, from the evidence that we have been given, 72 hours does not allow certain things to take place that take place at present under the temporary event notice route. We are obliged that the Minister is going to reconsider the matter.
On amendment No. 340 and the upper limit of 499 people, I am still not convinced that such a limit is workable. At the end of the day, we need something that is enforceable by the authorities, particularly in this instance the police, who can close a temporary event down immediately if they so choose and who are approached when the notice is first given to determine whether they think that there is a problem. I do not see how anyone is going to enforce the 499 limit in a marquee or a function room. If we are going to make law, let us make it practical and enforceable. Specifying a figure of 500 means that the law will be unenforceable. If that is so, why include the figure in the Bill? If the Minister insists on having an upper limit for temporary event applications, I will not demur. An upper limit is right. However, the Government need to think again about how the figure is determined. A figure of 500 is not enforceable.
Surely the key issue is that we are making new law. Presumably, we start off from the point that we want to improve the situation for all interested parties, both those who hold events and those who live near them and have to put up with them if they are noisy and boisterous. However, if the restrictions relating to hours and numbers make it more difficult than the
Licensing (Occasional Permissions) Act 1983 for groups, bodies and people who run events to do what they are doing now—I am talking not about new events, but about those that currently take place—in a straightforward and simple manner, we are making bad law. I am not convinced by the arguments so far.
As I said, the Minister has done a terrific job this morning in covering the ground but I am not sure whether the Bill is right yet. I shall not press the amendments because, as I said at the outset, they are probing amendments. However, I ask him to go away and consider the implications for the groups that enjoy an easy application route for such events under current legislation. Can he put hand on heart and say that the new law will not make it more onerous for them to continue their activities in future?
This has been a useful debate, from which I have learned a great deal. Briefly, licensees are very careful about capacity limits. Under the present regime, they stand to suffer serious consequences if those limits are exceeded. The limits are often set and adhered to most strictly for nightclubs. The nightclub owners organisation is keen that limits should be set on pubs as well, but we have resisted that lobbying. I can see the reason for it, but there is often nothing to prevent a licensing authority from imposing a capacity limit on super-pubs or other licensed premises, where the authority or the responsible bodies fear that some sort of danger could be involved. Licensees are aware of such matters and are very strict about whom they do and do not let in.
There is one point that I raised which I do not think the Minister has answered. Do staff at an event count towards the total number?
Yes. I am reliably informed that the number does include the staff, so that reduces the number of people who can be let into the marquee or other place where the event happens to be. I can tell the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Selby that I have been trying to tot up the figures. If at a long CAMRA weekend, alcohol starts to be sold at 6 pm on Friday and finishes being sold at 11 pm on Sunday—the organisation having not taken advantage of the new law to stay open until 2 o'clock on Monday morning—by my calculations, that works out at about 77 hours. If we add three to that, it takes the total up to about 80 hours.
The matter is debatable, of course, as hon. Members acknowledged. I shall think hard about the hours and I hope that Committee members will also do so, thinking especially, as I have tried to emphasise, about those unfortunates who live next door to some of the premises. They will see 72 hours as the light at the end of the tunnel and would be worried if we extended the limit much beyond that. We shall, however, examine the matter carefully.
I do not intend to go through the variations in licences and licence conditions, but there is no reason why the publican to whom the hon. Member for Isle of Wight referred would have to amend his premises licence repeatedly. As the hon. Gentleman told us, Cowes week is a long-established event, which arrives
yearly. It is not a shock to the publican, the licence holder or the community. I am sure that being the business man that he seems to be, he knows what, roughly, is required. Variations in licence conditions would be few and far between and not onerous in terms of cost.
Yes. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 415, in
clause 118, page 64, line 30, leave out from 'applicant' to 'possesses' in line 31.
Amendment No. 351, in
clause 118, page 64, line 30, leave out '18' and insert '21'.
Amendment No. 414, in
clause 118, page 64, line 36, at end insert—
'(2A) The authority may not grant the licence if it appears that the applicant has not attained the age of 18.'.
I shall speak briefly to amendment No. 345, which is a probing amendment to ascertain the Government's thinking about why the minimum age for applying for a temporary event notice should be 18. There are reasons for increasing the minimum age, bearing in mind that there may be problems with raves held under temporary event notices, and that younger people are more likely than older people to be involved in such events.
I am not suggesting that there is a massive difference between 18 and 25, but concerns have been raised that the measure would give opportunities to fairly young people to apply for temporary event notices, and that events such as raves, which have drug implications, could cause serious problems in some instances. In the past, raves and drugs have been very closely associated, and the police in rural areas have had real problems clamping down on so-called rave events. In later clauses we shall come on to police involvement.
The amendment simply asks why the minimum age should be 18. It is the age of voting, but, to use the Minister's phrase, we are trying to strike a balance between allowing an event to take place and the potential commotion or disorder that may ensue from it, which would be of concern to the police and residents.
By imposing in a Bill a limit that is not the normal age of majority of 18 years, would we not infringe the human rights of those between the ages of 18 and 25, who would assert that they have the right to give such notices? That would cause trouble for the legislation.
I also raise the question of student unions, which typically comprise members between the ages of 18 and 25. They would always have to find someone else to apply for their temporary events. I understand the argument of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire. He raises some interesting points, but we cannot write into primary legislation what appears to be a discriminatory measure.
I shall speak to my amendment No. 351. I appreciate that it applies to clause 118, but there are similar questions about the qualifying minimum age under clause 98.
I suggested a minimum age of 21, which partially gets round an issue raised by the hon. Member for North Devon. The more senior undergraduates and the sabbatical officers of student unions are likely to be 21 or above, so the amendment would not create an absolute bar to student events.
A debate on a qualifying minimum age is always very difficult, and I may not have thought through the human rights implications to which the hon. Gentleman referred. However, it is Liberal Democrat policy to reduce the voting age to 16. Is the age of licensees also to be reduced by a further two years from the suggested age of 18?
Serious responsibilities go with being a licensee. Should one be entitled to be a licensee for an event at which alcohol may be served on the very day that one is entitled by law to consume alcohol? My amendment would be a sensible compromise, in so far as it would be allowed within the confines of the human rights legislation. I acknowledge that that may be an insurmountable problem—no doubt the Minister will take advice on the matter—but it would make sense to specify an age above 18 in order to get some balance.
The rights that come with reaching the age of majority are accompanied by responsibilities. The responsibilities of a licensee are recognised: the fact that we have licensing legislation in the first place recognises that people who want to run licensed premises have particular responsibilities. It is therefore sensible to consider raising the age set out in the clause to 21, which is my preference, or, as my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire proposed, to 25. I should be interested to have some feedback from the Minister on why the age of 18 was chosen, and whether specific thought was given to the qualifying age, as distinct from the age of majority.
I endorse the points made by my hon. Friends. Many student unions have stewards or other full-time staff who could be the licensees.
Not all, but the more successful the Minister's legislation is, the greater the profits that student unions will doubtless make from their licensable activities and the more easily they will be able to afford stewards. Indeed, I always recommend stewards as a way of making sure that people make more profit. Amendments Nos. 414 and 415, which may be built on a false premise, would make it unlawful to give a personal licence to someone under
the age of 18, which is not provided for elsewhere in the Bill.
I have an admission to make, which goes back more than 30 years. As I was reading the clause in the early hours of this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that at 18 I was a much more sensible individual than I was at 21, and at 21 I was more sensible than I was at 25. By the age of 21, I had spent three years at Hornsey college of art.
I was about to come to that. I know many 50-year-olds who would struggle to muster the common sense of some 18-year-olds whom I know. Frankly, there is no iron rule that people become more responsible and achieve greater wisdom as they get older. Indeed, I left home—the wonderful environment in Aberdare—at 18 and suddenly found myself in the middle of the most sinful city on earth in 1965. I was a very different creature by 1968—thank God.
The hon. Member for North Devon rightly raised the issue of human rights. People can drive a tank at 18, and there are 18-year-olds out in Iraq who are in extreme danger and face life-or-death situations. We allow people to become nurses, in whose hands we put our lives, at 18. No one is casting a slur on 18-year-olds, but we must be more sensible.
It strikes me, and probably most members of the Committee and people in the country, that there was particular unease when 18-year-old soldiers, as opposed to those who were slightly older, were killed in Iraq. There is particular unease when such young soldiers, who are less than half the age of everyone in the Room, die. On that basis, the Minister's point is slightly misleading. Although those extremely youthful combatants may have been willing to fight for their country, they none the less carried high levels of responsibility. I understand that there are rules in the armed forces about the precise age at which junior trainees are entitled to go into battle.
I do not know the particular rules in the armed forces. I know from my constituents, however, that 18-year-old soldiers may be young but they are professionally trained and show high levels of skill in many of the functions that they carry out in the Army, and the same goes for nurses, firefighters and many other people who are in positions of great responsibility. As I tried to argue, there is no golden rule that someone aged 21 is more responsible than someone who is 18.
I know that there is a cosy assumption that we somehow become wiser and more responsible as we get older but, with respect, I do not think that all of us sitting in the Room are good examples of that. Many people would think that we should be locked up somewhere, if they looked at the lifestyles that most of us have to lead. We must be generous and acknowledge that 18-year-olds are capable of doing great things.
We are talking about not only pubs and nightclubs, but a range of licensed premises, including cinemas. The cinema industry was keen that the age of its managers could be brought down to 18. As was pointed out to me yesterday when I had a meeting with the Cinema Exhibitors Association, there is nowadays an infectious enthusiasm among young people for cinema—as opposed to DVDs or videos—which the industry wants to capture in the way that it runs its cinemas. It wishes to be able to link up with great numbers of young people and to have a feel for what they want out of the experience of going to a cinema, which will be a licensed premises. It was pointed out to me that the age of 25 is sometimes too old if one wants to capture that essence.
I support my hon. Friend's point. I would have needed temporary event notices for some events that I promoted when I was under 21, which were important not only in the development of my short theatrical career, but in the careers of others who have gone on to much more important things. My hon. Friend speaks about cinema: one of the first events that I promoted in a temporary venue was directed by Sam Mendes, who has gone on to be an important figure in our film industry, as well as in our theatre.
I am glad about that. However, I am surprised that, as my hon. Friend worked with Sam Mendes, he is a Member of Parliament: he has the looks of a good villain.
I am sure that Sam Mendes will return at some stage and make good use of that.
A 17-year-old can get behind the wheel of a car—a powerful car if their mother or father can afford to pay the insurance on it—so we are trusting young people with huge responsibilities. I oppose the amendments, and I hope that they will be withdrawn.
I shall try to find my notes.
May I attempt to keep things moving?
A thought occurred to me when the Minister was speaking. I take on board the powerful arguments for retaining the age of 18. However, a question mark hangs over temporary event notices involving young people, for events that may or may not be a rave and may or may not involve drugs. Individuals at 18 probably do not have a criminal record—or if they have one, it is probably fairly obscure—as young people with a criminal background are let off pretty much everything until they get fairly long in the tooth.
The police might get involved, and they might have to do a quick investigation on the temporary event notice. They argue that they do not have enough time to do that, which we will discuss later. If people who are older have a criminal background because they have been involved in nefarious activities, that will become more apparent and make it easier for the
police to investigate whether those are appropriate people to hold the kind of event to which I referred.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is always most accommodating. As we have been going for some time now, I was getting confused and thought that we were talking about amendment No. 118, not 18-year-olds. I apologise.
Amendments Nos. 415 and 440 would change the Bill to the effect that a licensing authority may not grant a personal licence if it appears to the authority that the applicant has not attained the age of 18. Apparent age is not a criterion that we want to introduce into legislation. Age is a matter of fact, unfortunately, which is why it is a condition under the Bill. A licensing authority may require certain evidence from an applicant to be satisfied that the person has attained the age of 18, but its opinion about their age should not enter the equation.
Subsection (3) already provides the licensing authority with the ability to reject an application on the basis that it is not satisfied that the applicant has attained the age of 18. Under the Bill, a licensing authority must grant a personal licence if the applicant fulfils the following conditions: they are aged 18 or over; they possess a licensing qualification or is a person of a prescribed description; no personal licence held by them has been forfeited during the period of five years ending on the day the application was made; and they have not been convicted of any relevant offence or foreign offence. If it appears to the licensing authority that the applicant has not met the condition of having attained the age of 18, the application must be rejected.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment No. 383, in
clause 98, page 55, line 28, at end insert
'except where the licensable activities involve folk music or folk dance performed in the vicinity of the premises in the open air,'.
This is an attempt to revisit some of the discussion under schedule 1 on certain forms of entertainment, in particular morris dancing, folk music and the like. Clause 98 seemed to provide an opportunity to slip in an exemption from the licensable activities referred to in the first line of the clause. The Minister has already made it clear that licensable activities include not just alcohol, but entertainment and late-night refreshment. I wondered whether we could exempt folk music and/or folk dance performed in the vicinity of the premises and in the open air from the details that need to be part of a statement of a temporary event notice. That might get round some of the difficulties that we are still being told about by those who are involved in such activities.
I shall tread carefully, given the adult and fascinating debates that I have had with representatives of the folk music industry. I have thought a great deal about the matter over the intervening period, and I always worry about the definition of folk music. Does some kid singing about the fact that he can't get no satisfaction in the late 20th century constitute a reflection on the quality of his life at a certain point in history? Is that any less valid than somebody who sings about canal boatmen, and the problems that they suffer because they cannot reach their sweethearts, in the 19th century? I always worry about such distinctions, not because I am doubtful of the validity and beauty of folk music—
It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order.
Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.