Clause 155 - Prohibition on sale of alcohol on moving vehicles

Licensing Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 15th May 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

With this it will be convenient to take the following:

Clause 156 stand part

Amendment No. 314, in

clause 172, page 95, line 5, leave out

'engaged on an international journey'.

Amendment No. 324, in

clause 172, page 95, line 5, at end insert—

'(bb) aboard a vessel licensed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for licensable activity,'.

Amendment No. 364, in

clause 172, page 95, line 5, at end insert—

'(bb) aboard a vessel on which any licensable activity is incidental to the primary purpose of conveying passengers on a scheduled service,'.

Amendment No. 423, in

clause 186, page 102, line 35, at end insert—

'(1A) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, a vessel usually lying in inland waters which are within a port health district shall be licensed by the port health authority for that district as constituted under sections 2 and 7 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 as if the port health authority were a licensing authority under section 3 of this Act.'.

Amendment No. 406, in

clause 186, page 103, line 8, leave out 'vessel,'.

Amendment No. 424, in

clause 190, page 104, line 33, at end insert—

' ''port health district'' has the same meaning as in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and includes the London port health district;'.

New clause 5—Power to prohibit sale of alcohol on vessels—

'(1) A magistrates' court acting for a petty sessions area may make an order prohibiting the sale of alcohol on any vessel.

(2) A magistrates' court may make an order under this section only on the application of a senior police officer.

(3) A magistrates' court may not make such an order unless it is satisfied that such an order is necessary to prevent disorder, or to ensure public safety.

(4) When an order is made under this section, the responsible senior police officer must, forthwith, serve a copy of the order on the vessel operator affected by the order.

(5) A person commits an offence if he knowingly—

(a) sells or attempts to sell alcohol in contravention of an order under this section, or

(b) allows the sale of alcohol in contravention of such an order.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding £20,000, or to both.'.

I wish to make it plain to Members that on that basis, this is the stand part debate on both clause 155 and clause 156—which I shall therefore call formally when we come on to it.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I will begin by speaking about new clause 5.

Clause 172 exempts trains, planes, hovercraft and boats on international journeys from the requirement for a licence. However, boats on domestic journeys are required to obtain a licence for the retail of alcohol on board. While that reasonably ensures that large vessels such as so-called disco boats are properly licensed, it also affects small business ventures that operate particularly on canal networks and navigable rivers. Such vessels do not disrupt or endanger safety or public order—indeed, no significant disturbances of public order are ever reported. They merely provide a sedate form of recreation and means of enjoying the countryside. Safety issues are already covered under stringent Maritime and Coastguard Agency rules.

As the Bill stands, the operators of such businesses believe that they will be forced to obtain a personal licence and a premises licence for each boat in their fleet, in addition to meeting costly training and certification requirements. At a time when the British tourism industry continues to struggle as a result of recent events, imposing such financial pressures on small businesses such as those for little or no public benefit—unless the Minister conveys to us that the case is otherwise—is unimaginable.

Amendment No. 134 and new clause 5 were proposed to us by the British Marine Federation, a trade body for the marine industry in the UK that has 1,500 members from mainland and coastal businesses. The Government readily acknowledge that they have previously gone part of the way towards meeting their concerns with a possible concession for single-deck and narrow boats that carry less than 12 passengers. Those boats tend to be on the canal network. The Government have indicated that they will to consider exempting those from the licensing law—but only those, so that public safety and the protection of children were not compromised.

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

I do not want to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but we have been considering all vessels. I am not aware of an undertaking to give an exemption to those classes of boats.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

My wording is stronger than it might have been and the Minister has corrected me. He has put it on record that he will not give any exemptions.

The impression that I wanted to give was that some indication had been given that the matter would be considered, rather than suggesting that an exemption had been promised. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am not trying to bounce him. I would not use my record of the proceedings to put something on the record that he will have to deny at great cost later. I am delighted that he is listening to every word that I say.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

It is. I shall continue circumspectly. As I stated previously, public safety is already covered under strict Maritime and Coastguard Agency regulations. The sale of alcohol to children is dealt with under clause 144. That concern could already be met elsewhere in the legislation. The Government's proposal is insufficient to safeguard the many operators who cater for groups larger than 12 on smaller boats operating on inland waterways, whose businesses do not require the stringent controls and potentially costly requirements of being covered under the licensing laws, while maintaining controls on larger boats.

The amendments propose discounting boats from the licensing regime altogether, and providing the courts with the necessary powers to cease alcohol trading on board specific vessels at the request of the chief police officer where the vessel or operator of the boat is causing public disorder or compromising safety. That approach is already applicable to train operators under clause 156. Perhaps a workable solution could be for responsible vessel owners to be exempted, while the police have the means to cease the trade of irresponsible operators.

The Government continue to state that the licensing system for smaller boats will be simple and not costly. It would be helpful if the Minister gave a clear indication of those costs and of the processes that small vessel operators will face under the new regime, if they are to be included in the Bill. New clause 5 would rework clause 156, which deals with the sale of alcohol on trains. People have been telling us that the model in the Bill for trains and the train system is perhaps a way of ensuring that smaller operators running bars on the canal network and assisting the tourism industry are exempted from some of the licensing requirements.

I beg to move the amendment.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 2:45 pm, 15th May 2003

Order. Before we proceed, I inform hon. Members that there can be no moving of an amendment at this stage because we are discussing clause stand part. With that in mind, I feel obliged to point out that should sponsors of other individual amendments want to have them moved when they are reached in the course of debate—I am thinking particularly of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) and, in his absence, that tabled by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field)—it will be necessary for them to indicate to the Chair in

advance that they want to have their amendments called and moved formally.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

Thank you, Mr. Gale, for that guidance. I hope that it will not be necessary to move formally any of the three amendments that I have tabled. However, I should like the Minister's reaction to them.

Shipping law does not lie at the heart of my experience and knowledge, but I have become concerned that some aspects of the clauses have been drafted without sufficient attention to the needs of those in the shipping and pleasure craft industries. I shall begin with amendment No. 406, which would delete the word ''vessel'' from subsection (5) and would mean that it would be possible for an individual to obtain a provisional statement for a vessel under clauses 29 to 31.

I am once again indebted to the Yacht Brokers, Designers and Surveyors Association for its assistance with amendment No. 406. Clause 186 refers back to clauses that allow for an application for a premises licence to be made while premises are under construction. Vessels are excluded from that provision under clause 186. If someone is having a yacht built for charter, given the amount of capital involved they will almost certainly want to start making money from the yacht as soon as practicable. They will want to start using it as soon as it is commissioned and a wait of an unknown period after commissioning while the local authority processes the premises licence means a loss of trade and therefore income. Under the provisions in clauses 29 to 31, that argument is accepted for buildings but the Minister does not seem to accept it for vessels.

Of course, many vessels cost even more to build than buildings. I refer by way of example to the Wightlink ferry recently commissioned by Wightlink, which is being built in Poland. Boats are renowned for being delivered late, although I do not think that the last Wightlink vessel commissioned from Poland was. That is not to say that other boats will not be delivered late. If the ferry is to be delivered ready to go a day or two before Cowes week, it would be sensible to have the premises licence in place. In fact, that would be possible if we were talking about a building rather than a vessel.

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

The hon. Gentleman is making a fascinating case. I am sure that I recall from our debates on provisional statements that an application for a premises licence for the building—if the hon. Gentleman would allow me to refer to it in that way—would have to be made as soon as the building was commissioned or ordered, anyway. The owner of the building cannot simply assume that the licence will automatically be deliverable when he unlocks the door.

Of course there is the problem, if the hon. Gentleman wants to call it that, of delay, but it is only a problem in so far as there will be a length of time between an application being made and it being granted. As he knows, there are strong provisions in the guidance and the Bill to ensure that that is as limited a period as possible.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I accept that and perhaps I have been careless in using the term ''premises licence''.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I listened carefully to what the Minister said. We did not debate the relevant clauses on provisional statements because we did not have the time; the guillotine came down. I will not go into the details of whether timetabling is a good or a bad thing, but the industry wanted a debate on provisional statements as they are a key subject about which it still has serious concerns. The fear is that although there will be provisional statements and an owner will, in all likelihood, get a licence, while the building is being constructed someone may say, ''Oh, I was on holiday at the time, but I am now complaining about the issuing of a licence.'' In the case of a boat, I should think that there would not be quite the same objections that would stop a licence in its tracks.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I certainly hope that there would not be. I promise not to re-open—or rather, open—debate on clauses 29 to 31, Mr. Gale. However, there is discrimination between those constructing and commissioning buildings and those constructing and commissioning vessels and I see no reason for that.

The explanatory notes say:

''The effect of the clause is to establish a mechanism whereby those engaged in or about to engage in construction or development work at premises to be used for licensable activities . . . can obtain a certain degree of assurance about their potential trading conditions.''

I accept that the provisional statement is not a premises licence and it is not automatically converted into one. However, as the notes say, such a statement means that those commissioning the building—and, if the amendment is accepted, the vessel—can at an early stage receive a statement describing the likely effect of the intended licensable activities.

Those commissioning such buildings will be undertaking a major investment with some, but not total, comfort and I do not understand why a vessel is treated differently in that respect. Vessels, particularly those used for pleasure, are unfortunate in that they are not treated like other vehicles used for transport, such as aeroplanes, hovercraft and trains. Nor do they receive some of the benefits that apply to buildings. I would like the Minister to explain why the benefits do not apply to vessels. That is all I need to say about amendment No. 406.

Going nearer to where we are in the Bill, but by no means reaching that point, I will deal with amendments Nos. 324 and 364. I do not intend to press amendment No. 324 to a Division because I have subsequently discovered that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency does not licence licensable activity in the manner for which the Bill provides.

The Minister must respond to an important question on pleasure craft—I will come to ferries in a moment. I have received several representations about the licensing of pleasure craft. I shall start by quoting the Minister's words from the debate this morning. He said:

''If boat operators are pressing for an exemption from such offences, they are making a case . . . for the licensing of vessels.''

They are doing no such thing. They are saying that if licences are going to those vessels, we want an exemption for those purposes. I notice that the Minister nodded and I hope that he accepts that.

I have received representations about the fact that the licensing of pleasure craft is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut partly because, although licensable activities on pleasure craft are not otherwise licensed, the MCA specifically provides for such things as the means of escape from fire, shipwreck and so forth. Among others, Mark Rayment of Solent & Wightline Cruises Ltd. asked:

''Why we''—

the pleasure craft industry—

''are being singled out with yet more paperwork and regulations when we have a far better record than trains and planes''

on safety. The Marchioness was a terrible case but, first, as I have said before, it was run down by another vessel; it did not founder of its own accord or because of bad navigation practices by its master. Secondly, it was a river-going, not a sea-going vessel. Mark Rayment says:

''We already have had to move one vessel to Scotland to remain viable.''

By ''moved'', he means that it was physically relocated to Scotland.

I asked the Minister what would happen if all the vessels were re-registered or re-berthed in a different port—on the Clyde, for example—because that is one of the consequences of the measure. It is much easier to move a vessel from one jurisdiction to another than it is to remove a building. That may be the consequence of over-regulation, not as perceived by me or by the Minister, but as perceived by pleasure craft companies.

The South Coast Passenger Vessel Operators Association wrote to the Minister in March, saying:

''While the members generally accept there is a perceived need for some form of control over the consumption of alcohol by persons on board vessels,''—

they have not got their heads in the sand, if that is an appropriate expression—

''they feel that the draft Bill requires far more of them than is justified by the industry's record in that respect. Indeed, members of the Association have, during the time that the original proposals were being considered, supported the proposal by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that the MCA would be the most appropriate body to devise and apply such regulations as considered necessary to assert a proper level of control . . . The Association, which represents 30 operators from Eastbourne to Plymouth, is aware that the MCA has itself made many representations to your Department and previously to the Home Office,''

protesting about such matters. [Interruption.] I am sorry that the Minister seems to be sea sick. I want to know why he considers the MCA to be an appropriate body to take care of such vessels.

The particular concern of that association and of Solent & Wightline Cruises Ltd. and Blue Funnel Cruises, which operates from Ocean Village, Southampton—the managing director is the brother of the managing director of Solent & Wightline Cruises—is that

''the Bill requires holders of a personal licence to demonstrate knowledge of licensing law, public entertainment and gambling law

. . . The Bill provides that such holders may be members of the ship's operating crew.''

Is that so? The association continues:

''for a person to be a crew member, they must hold proficiency certificates demonstrating considerable knowledge of navigation, tidal and other local conditions, ship handling, safety of ship and passengers and first aid''.

In other words, the association fears that the Bill requires the appointment of people not only with licensing experience, which may be reasonable, but, due to its interaction with shipping law, with knowledge of first aid, ship handling, navigation and so on. Can the Minister reassure me—

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport 3:00 pm, 15th May 2003

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman now. What he is talking about has nothing to do with the Bill. We are not requiring anyone, as a consequence of the Bill, to have a navigation skill.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I am pleased to hear that, but I am worried about interaction. Is there a requirement under other legislation that a crew member must possess navigational skills that would apply to someone with a premises licence?

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

My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight), who has great knowledge of the sea, has just made a good point to me. He asked whether the hon. Member for Isle of Wight is arguing that, because someone works in a galley and has the proficiency not to poison passengers and crew, that that person should also have navigational skills?

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I am not arguing about that. I am simply asking the Minister whether what I have said is the case. I advised that it is, and that is my worry.

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

The hon. Gentleman should not believe everything he reads in lobbying material. I am telling him now that the Bill is not concerned with coastal navigation nor any other of the invaluable skills that are required to sail boats. It is about the licensing of alcohol and regulated entertainment.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I accept that, but I note that the Minister does not deny that someone with such a licence on board a vessel may require a navigation certificate.

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

If there is only one person on board a boat that happens to be carrying passengers and offering alcohol for sale, that person—whether a man or a woman—presumably will have to have navigation skills and other professional requirements, plus the skills to sell alcohol. To do that, he or she will have to have a personal licence and such requisite skills. If that is what the hon. Gentleman means, I concur.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

The Minister is saying that, if a person is the only one on a boat, he will have to possess a multi-skill capacity. However, if he is not the only person, he may not need to do so.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

To help the Committee, I recall that my cousin, Elizabeth Knight, who is a trained beautician, worked as a beautician on board ship for six months. To do so, she did not have to train

to be a navigator. All she needed to be was a beautician.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I am much relieved to hear that. The prospect of a navigationally qualified beautician is more than most of us can cope with.

Mr. Lee Rayment said:

''Many of the clauses placed under offences are already obeyed by ourselves under instruction from the MCA who are still able to remove our passenger certificate and cease the vessel operating. These include the sale of alcohol to persons under 18 and the selling of alcohol to persons who seem to be over-intoxicated and the consumption of alcohol by staff, crew and ships' masters.''

I realise that we are not talking about staff, crew and ships' masters, but I do not think that anyone minds there being a clear boundary between one set of regulations and another. The anxiety is whether there will be double regulation using two different processes, essentially to regulate the same thing. I have no doubt that the Minister will be able to set my mind at rest on that.

Amendment No. 364 would exempt from the requirement to be licensed

''a vessel on which any licensable activity is incidental to the primary purpose of conveying passengers on a scheduled service''.

I feel strongly, not about the particular consequence of the provision, but about its sheer unfair discrimination. What is it about a vessel engaged on a journey that is a scheduled service within England and Wales that makes it so much more dangerous than a vessel engaged on a journey from, for example, Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, Dover to Calais or Stranraer to Larne, or an aeroplane, a train—a ''railway vehicle'' as the Bill refers to it—or even a hovercraft?

I may have said this before: Solent & Whiteline Cruises Ltd. offers an excellent catamaran service from Portsmouth harbour to Ryde, and there is an excellent hovercraft service from Southsea to Ryde. The Bill requires that, if licensable activity takes place on the catamaran, it must be licensed, but that is not the case if licensable activity takes place on the hovercraft.

I am arguing not that the hovercraft should be licensed, but that there is no justification for requiring the licensing of a catamaran, but not of a hovercraft. There is no justification for requiring the licensing of a Red Funnel steamship plying between Southampton and East Cowes: the Bill provides that that is the case, but there is no such requirement for a hovercraft or any other vessel plying between Portsmouth and Bilbao. Why?

Ministers have pointed to the Marchioness tragedy as a justification for that. I appreciate that there is a need to bring some activities on vessels within the ambit of the law. Activities such as the sale of alcohol to persons under 18 are brought within the ambit of the law, regardless of whether they take place on vessels, hovercraft or trains, and I have no objection to that, but as the Library informed me, the White Paper said of the effect of boat safety on the current system:

''In the Interim Report by Lord Justice Clarke on the Thames Safety Inquiry, he states:

'If we are to retain liquor licensing laws and require premises to be licensed to sell alcohol, then the reasons that commend themselves

to require such premises on land to be licensed seem to me to apply with at least equal force in respect of vessels.' ''

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

The Minister says, ''Absolutely,'' but Lord Justice Clarke was not comparing vessels that provide regular scheduled passenger services; he was talking principally about pleasure craft.

I examined Command Paper 4530—the interim report by Lord Justice Clarke on the Thames safety inquiry—and I could not find any reference to ferries. Lord Justice Clarke was talking, as one would expect, about pleasure craft. The Minister accepts his report, and I do not blame him for doing so, but vessels that provide ferry services have MCA certificates and means of escape from fire. They do not habitually carry a large number of drunken passengers, and are far more likely to be carrying either people who are unfortunate enough to be working in Southampton and Portsmouth and returning to the island, or visitors to the island. I should therefore like an explanation as to why is it necessary to license those vessels, but not other passenger vehicles.

The catamaran service between Southampton and Cowes requires every passenger to be seated throughout the journey, so there is an additional measure of safety provision, which, as it happens, is imposed by the MCA. The Minister should have taken account of such additional safety arrangements when he drafted the clause.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay

I support two of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. Although I fully support what he was talking about, I want to examine a different maritime activity from the one that he mentioned.

I want to consider line-fishing boats, which can be found across the west country in many harbour ports; deep-water or wreck-fishing vessels, which go out from those ports; and coastal and estuary tours, which can be found at any seaside resort in the country. For many of those enterprises, the reality is that their boats carry very few passengers—perhaps no more than 14. At the end of their activities—having had a day of mackerel fishing, deep-sea angling or touring along the coast—those aboard might break out a few bottles and engage in sea shanty or two on their way back to port. Those are fairly innocent activities enjoyed mainly by families, and children will indeed be on board.

I can see where the Government are coming from, but I want to go through certain aspects of the Bill. I am not aware, in the 43 years of my life and association with the west country, of any reported problems on any such vessels. I am not aware of any convictions of people on board vessels—either of the owners for acting illegally with regard to alcohol or of passengers for bad behaviour as a consequence of alcohol consumption. I have never heard any safety concerns expressed, as the MCA does an extremely good job of ensuring the vessels' safety, the qualifications of the operators and the practices of the vessels.

The vessels that I am talking about are very much subject to the vagaries of our delightful English weather. They do not operate every day, and certain weather conditions such as sea squalls, wrong wind direction or wind strength will prevent them from going out. The number of days during a tourist season when an enterprise can encourage people to come aboard its vessels is severely limited, so the ability to sell a few cans of beer at the end of the day on the way back in is crucial to the viability of those businesses. That side of the business can make the difference between profit and loss.

The Bill, if it remains as it is, will hit such small enterprises hard indeed, and will, for many seaside resorts with sail boats, fishing boats and pleasure craft detract from the traditional seaside experience. Going on a boat trip and trying a day's fishing attract people to the seaside.

One has to ask, ''What is the benefit?'' In terms of the Bill's four objectives, I cannot imagine how safety will be improved if it is yet to be proven that there is an existing safety problem. I cannot envisage that people working in the industry, who recognise that safety is paramount, will find that they can offer an even safer product under the Bill. We are talking about small boats; often the owner is also the operator and is at the helm throughout the journey. Therefore, his own safety is on his mind as much as that of his passengers.

This provision cannot be about amenity. I have never heard any complaints about the noise of a vessel out at sea—certainly, not the ones that we are discussing. These boats do not moor up in a residential area, they do so on a quayside or a pier, some distance from where people might be trying to have a nap or enjoying some peace and quiet.

The final objective of the Bill is the protection of children. If it receives assent, however, it will simply protect fish that will not get caught. There is no danger to children if the Bill is not amended so as to protect small boat operators.

I am unsure whether the amendments of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight tackle fully the issue about which I am talking, but they are the best on the amendment paper and I hope that the Minister will take account of that. I pay credit to the hon. Gentleman. Like me, he has a coastal constituency, although the coast is only 180º in mine and in his it is 360º. Nevertheless, such businesses are important for our constituents and our economies and there is a danger that their future viability will be compromised through over-regulation. I am interested in the Minister's response to my arguments and those of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:15 pm, 15th May 2003

I shall speak to amendment No. 423, which refers to clause 186, and to No. 424 which is consequential. I am speaking in lieu of my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster. I fear that I may lack his eloquence and power.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Opposition Whip (Commons)

I shall be modest on this occasion.

Clause 186 tries to tackle situations in which vessels are not permanently moored in one location. If they are, it is easy to sort out who is the relevant licensing authority for the place where they are tied up. The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) will recollect that there is a boat on the river Tyne called the Tuxedo Princess. It is moored on the Gateshead side of the river and it is clear who is the licensing authority. There are, however, boats that are not permanently or habitually moored in one place. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight wants to simplify some of the complexity in clause 186 by saying straightforwardly that where a vessel usually lies in inland waters that fall within a port health district, the port health authority should act as the relevant licensing authority.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had in mind the Port of London health authority, which is operated by the Corporation of London. It has a wide range of responsibilities, including the quarantine pound at Heathrow airport. That strikes a discordant note, given that it is a port health authority, not an airport health authority. None the less, it acts as a port health authority for the pool of London and other inland waters.

Rather than going through all the complexities of clause 186 relating to vessels or structures that are permanently moored, or moored for the purpose of undertaking one licensable activity, we could cut through that by asking the port health authority to act as a relevant licensing authority and, in effect, add such authorities to the relevant licensing authorities on the list in the front of the Bill. It is a simplifying amendment that will help the Bill to achieve its aims of having a more simple and straightforward licensing regime.

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

We have had some interesting contributions. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss), who opened the debate, is right. We thought long and hard about that aspect of the Bill and I can reveal to him that it has given me more cause for thought than any other part of it. I am also responsible for tourism and I am aware of the sometimes fragile profit margins that exist in certain years—2001 was such a year, when the foot and mouth blight caused so many problems, especially in the countryside.

Those factors concern many vessel owners, especially the owners of small vessels on non-tidal rivers and canals. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) for making me aware of the fishing boats that operate out of that harbour and many others throughout the country. I will explain why we have special difficulties with that matter and shall try to answer some of the questions that were raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, especially those about boats that are being built and the difference between ferries and vessels on international duties.

Mr. Gale, may I take some guidance from you? I hoped that I could take my answers in a different order from the one in which the amendments were moved, because I would like to come to new clause 5 about half way through if that is possible.

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

The Minister may take his answers in any order he wishes, so long as they embrace and encompass the relevant amendments and clauses. It is entirely up to him.

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

Thank you, Mr. Gale. Clause 172 provides that an activity is not licensable if is carried on at particular locations, which include an aircraft or railway vehicle engaged on a journey and aboard a vessel on an international journey. Amendment No. 314 would extend the exemption for vessels in clause 172(1)(b) to any vessel. The exemption would therefore encompass a vessel on any journey, not just an international one, and any vessel that was permanently berthed. It therefore does not preserve the status quo, but exempts permanently berthed vessels that are at present subject to alcohol and public entertainment licensing.

Amendment No. 364, to which the hon. Member for Isle of Wight spoke, would exempt from the licensing regime vessels on which any licensable activity is incidental to the primary purpose of conveying passengers on a scheduled service. I do not think that he will press amendment No. 324 to a Division, so I will not speak about that.

The laws on the licensing of activities on vessels have always been inadequate. It is, for example, perfectly legal at present to sell alcohol to children on vessels on the journey and for them to consume it. However, it cannot be right that the sale of alcohol and other activities aboard vessels should not be licensed when the risks associated with those activities are, if anything, more pronounced.

I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman quote Lord Justice Clarke's interim report, practically all of which was confirmed in the final report. I shall quote a short a statement from the interim report on the Thames safety inquiry that was supported in the final report. Lord Justice Clarke said:

''If we are to retain liquor licensing laws and require premises to be licensed to sell alcohol, then the reasons that commend themselves to require such premises on land to be licensed seem to me to apply with at least equal force in respect of vessels. Indeed it might be said that safety concerns demand even higher standards for those in charge of serving alcohol on board boats.''

When we were considering what to do about the issue in the Bill, I happened to be in the Norfolk broads. We were thinking of some way to exempt a vessel, operating on, say, the Norfolk broads, that sold or supplied alcohol perhaps as part of the ticket, and it struck me that there might happen to be a small public house right alongside the broads; in fact, there are many. We would expect that small public house to conduct itself in specific ways. We would expect it to have a premises licence and a premises supervisor but, to paraphrase or, rather, mangle what Lord Justice Clarke says, if someone comes out of that small pub on the edge of the Norfolk broads a little the worse for wear and falls over, they would fall on to the ground. Anyone drinking on a boat would, as Lord Justice Clarke puts it, have to be doubly careful—if someone who was drunk fell into the water, they would have real problems. That is our dilemma in the Bill.

Personally, I feel uneasy about imposing additional costs, especially on small operators. However, in the

interests of equity and what we intend to do under the Bill, those comparisons have to be made. I am sure that those who own or operate small pubs will ask us serious questions. They might see a boat moored alongside a river, perhaps with extensive bars on board—there are some of those along the Thames, not far from here—and wonder why those boats should be exempt when a pub on the other side of the broads, for example, is not? That is something that all Committee members have to ask themselves.

Following the Thames safety inquiry the Deputy Prime Minister made a commitment that the Government would close the loopholes on the licensing of vessels. The Bill fulfils that commitment and will bring about 600 vessels within the licensing regime. The police have also raised concerns with us and the Home Office about the use and supply of drugs on vessels used for party cruises. The absence of licensing controls limits severely the actions that the police can take to prevent and control that activity. That is another reason why such vessels must be brought into the licensing fold.

We recognise that this is one of the few matters on which the Bill is regulatory, rather than deregulatory, but given the overwhelming public interest issues, particularly public safety, it is necessary to bring vessels within the licensing regime. The licensing system will be both simple and transparent and should not prove onerous in terms of costs or time. However, I hear what hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Torbay, say.

The hon. Gentleman was worried that the boats that were operating on slim margins might find themselves in financial difficulties as a consequence of the changes. Indeed, in the middle of night I worked out what it might cost those 600 boats. It will be 600 multiplied by £100. Therefore, £60,000 would be the one-off global cost for those vessels to have a premises licence, so each of them would become premises from which to sell alcohol. In addition, there would be a £50 annual inspection fee—the cost of the local authority carrying out its inspection each year. The sum of £30,000 would be a recurring cost spread over the 600 vessels that we calculate are necessary, plus the one-off payment of £60,000.

There would be additional costs, too. As the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said, in some instances, crews will have to undertake a short course—for a few hours or half a day—to gain the qualifications required to become a premises supervisor. The British Marine Federation said that it was especially worried about that cost. In some parts of the country, there is a high turnover of staff and it would have to train them. I am aware of the costs; they are a serious consideration but, compared with the potential earning power of many boats, it is not a big cost.

I am worried about the small boats to which the hon. Member for Torbay referred. We cannot differentiate and exempt some boats from registration but not others. My right hon. Friend the

Minister for Rural Affairs and Urban Quality of Life believed that that was possible by categorising the water into category A or B water. Those categories could, in some shape or form, be exempted because they are usually not deep; they are canals and inland waterways. We have given the matter great consideration. I have not bumped into my right hon. Friend lately but, when I do, no doubt he will have something to say on the subject. We will keep considering the matter but, for the moment, I cannot accept the amendment.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:30 pm, 15th May 2003

Perhaps the Minister was reverting back to ferries. It is impossible to walk off some ferries because the doors are shut—it is like being on an aeroplane, and not many people walk off an aeroplane by mistake even if they are drunk. I emphasise the argument about the cost of training. Red Funnel operates a half hourly service from Southampton to Cowes using three Red Jet catamarans. Obviously, that would involve three premises officers working from 6 am to 10.30 pm in the week and 11.30 pm at weekends, which represents a substantial training commitment. It is the case that there is a high staff turnover. I hope that he will have something more satisfactory to say about that.

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

Again, I am not sure that I can ever say anything that is satisfactory from the hon. Gentleman's point of view. In many industries there is a requirement for training, and many arrangements are made, usually between colleges of further education, the training agencies, and the companies and bodies that require such courses. I can see the problem, but I can also see solutions to it to keep the costs down.

I know that the company to which the hon. Gentleman refers is very professional and has a high reputation. I have no doubt that it would be keen to comply with any new legislation and would ensure that its employees were trained to the highest standard. I give the hon. Gentleman an undertaking to explore with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills the possibility of such courses being made available, and I will try to give him some idea of what the costs will be. I do not want this issue to become a red herring. The costs may be much lower than some people assume.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Opposition Whip (Commons)

We have talked about costs in the context of the licence fee and training. Does the Minister expect that where a vessel complies with all the safety standards imposed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the relevant licensing authority will not be in a position to impose additional conditions, which might lead to additional cost being incurred because of modification to exits and the like? So long as a vessel satisfies the MCA's requirements, the local authority should not impose additional burdens, and therefore costs, on those vessels.

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

Obviously, the local authority will want to be assured that the sale of alcohol and the manner in which it is sold will not pose a danger for those to whom the alcohol is being sold—or, indeed, to those who are selling it. I am confident that it would look in the first instance to the maritime authorities to ensure that vessels are properly secure in all respects. I

do not envisage the local authorities imposing the conditions to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

I want to return to the small vessels to which the hon. Member for Torbay referred, and about which the Minister expressed such concern. Will it be lawful for the owner of the vessel to give alcohol away? Obviously, it would not be advertised that he would give away a drink at the end of the fishing trip, but he may crack open a few beers for which he might not charge. If he were tipped at the end of that trip, would he end up being in some danger? If the Minister does not want to commit himself at this stage, I would be more than happy for him to drop me a note.

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

I shall certainly drop my hon. Friend a note.

Often the cost of the alcohol is in the price of the ticket. The owners of the vessels to which the hon. Member for Torbay referred would be lunatics if they knew that their profit margins were being eaten away by the fact that everyone was blotto by the time that they returned because they had been given free drink. Once I enjoyed a wonderful trip, in the constituency of the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey), to Lundy, during which I drank some liquid known as beer and ate some mackerel—I caught it myself. I worry about the amendments because in some respects they ignore Lord Justice Clarke's profound words; they would exempt more vessels than are currently outside the licensing regime. However, I know that some of them are probing amendments.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight deserves a good answer to his question about ferries, and I shall try to give him one. I want to put to him a rather crude comparison. I recall that when I last travelled by a Red Funnel steamer, I had a cup of tea in the bar on the quayside while I was waiting for the next ferry to leave. I could have had alcohol, but I was not sure whether I would be driving at the other end, so I did not. I do not know whether the bar there is a franchise bar—I may add that I am heartily sick of talking about the Isle of Wight, although actually that bar is in Southampton, not the Isle of Wight. I do not know how those who owned the bar on the quayside would feel if the bar on board the ship was exempt from all the requirements, overheads and additional costs for which the quayside bar had to pay. If I were the owner or franchisee of that bar, I would take a dim view of that. I am sure that the same thing might happen at the other end of the journey. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is wondering whether he could get out of that by saying, ''Well, that isn't my constituent, so I shan't worry about it''.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight is confusing our rationale for the exemptions provided for in clause 172. We have exempted trains, aircraft and hovercraft, because those are on scheduled journeys, not pleasure trips. We excluded trains, after much thought, because of the practical difficulties of subjecting a collection of carriages to the licensing regime. Carriages would change constantly; dining cars might be on different routes at different times. It is difficult. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman could visit the Library and come up with a damn good solution to the problem, but we cannot think of one.

Aircraft and hovercraft were excluded because there is specific legislation covering them to deal adequately with the potential problems. There is little point in subjecting vessels on international journeys to our licensing regime for the brief time that they are in our jurisdiction. The shortest international journey is probably Dover to Calais. Our law cannot apply to those ships when they are outside our jurisdiction, nor do we seek to extend it that far.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about vessels being removed and permanently berthed in Scotland. Vessels berthed outside England or Wales would not be subject to the provisions relating to the requirement for a licence. Vessels in Scotland would come under Scottish law. I am informed that Scotland is currently reviewing its licensing laws, and I have no doubt that that includes licensing on moored boats.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about mooring in a different context. Because vessels move around, there are concerns about the difficulty of defining them as premises. I assure the Committee that the relevant issue is which authority should deal with the authorisation of the vessels in question. The Bill sets out a system that should be simple for both operators and authorities to administer. The relevant licensing authority is the one that covers the area in which the vessel is normally moored or berthed. Hon. Members might also wonder why vessels on international voyages do not require licences; they are extreme examples of vessels on the move. We cannot regulate what happens outside our waters and our jurisdiction. I hope he accepts that answer.

New clause 5 can be considered in isolation from other amendments in the group, or as part of a broader scheme, although I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman wants to do about that. I assume that the new clause is intended to be taken together with amendment No. 314, and I note that hon. Members are offering what amounts to an alternative scheme of control. They are suggesting that boats should enjoy an exemption, but that police should be able to seek an order from the magistrates court prohibiting the sale of alcohol on any vessel on the grounds of preventing disorder or ensuring public safety. In the light of past experience, I am surprised that hon. Members should think that that is an adequate response, because clearly the intention is that if the police have found that a particular boat has been causing problems, an order from the courts could be obtained.

That is fine as far as it goes, but it is—I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman mentioned it—a wholly reactive approach. That is where the difficulties come in, because the hon. Member for Torbay told us that in 43 years he cannot remember a single incident that required the attention of the police and was reported as a case of public nuisance or a riot on board. I hear what he says, but Lord Justice Clarke was pointing to the need to anticipate such problems and to control them proactively through licensing conditions in the same way as premises on land are controlled.

Nothing in what Members have said persuades me that Lord Justice Clarke was wrong in his independent

assessment. I do not want to confuse that with the question of cost or the burden it would place on a business, although I can see that they are interlinked. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that, if we are to pay proper attention to what Lord Justice Clarke laid down in his report, we must take that point of being proactive, rather than waiting for some disaster to occur before we act.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay 3:45 pm, 15th May 2003

Lord Justice Clarke is not talking about small boats that go out with a small group of people to engage in a sporting activity or a small pleasure boat that is going out along a coastline to give an historical or environmental talk over the tannoy. He is talking about a different age group, clientele and activity, and it would be wholly wrong to legislate on that basis.

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

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I acknowledge that there are wide categories—they are all caught under the legislation. We have looked hard at the possibility of how we might exempt some. Even in the two categories of boat that he has mentioned, one is a lot more similar to the Marchioness. That is the pleasure boat that might trawl along the coast, as opposed to a sporting boat that might go out for a day where, as he says, people might crack open a few cans on the way back in.

Without any licensing authority, we would have to look carefully at the provision for sale of alcohol on the boat that, for example, might be showing people the Jurassic coast, or a magnificent coastline anywhere. It might well operate in a very different way from, say, a local fisherman who has decided to diversify and take people out fishing. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is difficult to see how we could differentiate between those two operations.

If we look at new clause 5 in isolation from the other amendments in the group, we find that the control of the vessels would be tighter than for land-based premises. I do not think that that is what the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire has in mind. So long as the vessels are licensed, there can be no justification for giving the police additional powers to seek orders prohibiting sales of alcohol on deck. The police could seek a review of those licences if problems emerged. In addition, the closure powers in part 8 would apply to vessels.

Before I finish, I must comment on amendment No. 406, which is slightly different from the others. I also want to say something about the port health authorities. It concerns the provisional statement provisions in clauses 29 to 31, as applied to vessels. The amendment would mean that the proposed builder of such a vessel, which could be licensed only wherever it is usually berthed, could apply for a provisional statement with a view to a premises licence being granted. The proposed builder of the boat would have no or a very limited idea of where the boat would be berthed. As the hon. Member for Isle of Wight has pointed out, there may be occasions when he would know exactly where it was going to be berthed. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Cowes, and I assume that the boat builder would have vast amounts of money to

be able to moor the boat there—from what I have heard, it is very expensive.

As the proposed builder of the boat would sometimes have no idea, or a very limited idea, of where the boat would be berthed, as clause 186 applies only to vessels without a permanent berth, to whom would he make such an application? Buildings are erected where they will be used for various activities, so it makes sense to provide provisional statement arrangements for them: they are in a permanent place. A vessel moves, which makes it difficult, in normal commercial circumstances, to anticipate where the usual berth will be for the life of the vessel. The amendment does not make sense in that respect, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman withdraws it.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

Can the Minister help me with a couple of definitions? First, he used the word ''builder'', but clause 29 says:

''A person . . . if . . . he is interested in the premises'',

which does not necessarily mean the person constructing the vessel. I imagine that that reference would be interpreted most conveniently in this context as the person commissioning the vessel, who, if he is to use it for the purpose that I have described, is likely to have some idea where it will be berthed, certainly if he wants to get it into commission as quickly as possible.

Secondly, what does the Minister mean by ''permanently moored or berthed''? Is he referring to the vessel's normal place of mooring, or does he mean that it never takes to sea?

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

No, I used the expression ''permanently berthed'' in respect of the amendment moved by the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, when I talked about the boats that are berthed along the Thames just a few hundred metres from this building. However, the expression that we have used throughout is ''where a boat is normally berthed''. In respect of licensing vessels that sail, a third category was asked about, but I cannot remember it now. I can confirm to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight that the people who would be interested in a provisional statement might well be developers and pub chains—as he said, the person who would commission the project.

Amendments Nos. 423 and 424 would make the port health authority for the port health district in which a vessel's usual berth lies the licensing authority for the vessel. The Committee should have debated these matters under clause 3. I am concerned that we are debating them under a definitional clause so late in the day, but I am glad that they have been raised.

I understand the interest of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) in the London port health authority and why he may think that it should have a voice in licensing matters. However, its role is limited. It is narrowly concerned with certain aspects of health in respect of passengers using boats in the district. Safeguarding public health is not, of course, a licensing objective.

We have talked at length about the importance of full democratic accountability in licensing matters. I do not intend to rehearse what I said about clause 3,

but it strongly argues for the licensing authority to be the local district council or borough council. In respect of vessels, the issue is not health. The issues are crime and disorder, public safety, nuisance and protecting children from harm. Those are not all in a port health authority's remit. Decisions on those matters, when they are raised by responsible bodies and interested parties, are for elected councillors of the district or borough in which the vessel's usual berth lies.

Port health authorities have some responsibilities for environmental health. Clauses 14 and 69 list responsible authorities. The Committee will note that, in relation to a vessel, those include a navigation authority. I hope that, following those explanations and as we have had quite a debate on the issue, the amendment will be withdrawn.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I wish to speak in general terms to clauses 155 and 156. I have listened carefully to the Minister. He has conveyed to the Committee the fact that he has taken on board the representations that have been made to him. He has also agonised, although I do not use that word too strongly, over the merits of the regulations in the legislation, as opposed to allowing things to continue in much the same way as they have, particularly in terms of his role as Minister with responsibility for tourism. He understands the implications for people who run small businesses, and especially for owners of small boats and canal boats, who feel that this is a bit heavy-handed for the normal requirements.

We are returning to our argument on regulated entertainment: ''If it ain't broke, why fix it?'' In the experience of the hon. Member for Torbay, there are no relevant incidents involving boats in his area, nor are there any involving river boats or on the Norfolk broads. I do not know of anything happening on the Norfolk broads that flies in the face of the licensing objectives and which might cause public nuisance or disorder. We are talking about people in small boats—often families, couples or friends—who are just having a holiday. Therefore, there is not an issue here that causes great public concern.

There is great public concern about the Marchioness incident, but it may well be that we are getting legislation that catches everybody who runs a boat on board which there is entertainment and alcohol is served, because the Deputy Prime Minister gave a commitment that that sort of thing would never happen again. I am left thinking, ''Will this prevent a Marchioness-type incident from happening in the future?'' The answer to that is no, because the Marchioness was rammed by another boat, and it was that other boat which was at fault.

Therefore, although I have re-read in the White Paper what Lord Justice Clarke had to say—the Minister quoted it—we do not have to go along with that just because a Lord Justice said those words. That was an emotional time, but nothing that we are attempting in the Bill would prevent such an incident from occurring in future. The fault lay with the master of the boat that rammed the Marchioness.

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

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts that there was a lot of publicity at that time

about the incident and the subsequent report. It was not a simple accident; it was very complicated. As a consequence of it, a number of big changes were instituted on navigation, navigation lights, look-outs and so forth. The issue is more complex than he is giving us cause to believe.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

Not at all. I accept that it was a very tragic incident, and if we could put on the statute book a measure that would prevent such a thing from happening again, I would be all in favour of doing so. The point that I am trying to make is that I am unsure whether what we are trying to do through the Bill will contribute anything to preventing such incidents from happening again. As the Minister rightly pointed out, there was a wide range of causes of that incident, and changes to navigation and other things took place as a result of it. They are far more important than introducing legislation that means that every small boat owner has to apply for a premises licence.

I re-read the section in the White Paper on trains, which states:

''Drinking alcohol on trains can also lead to disorder and intimidating behaviour which affects the travelling public.''

One could say that, in certain circumstances, one or two people could cause disorder on a boat, which is the same thing, and I would not deny that that could happen.

The White Paper goes on:

''However, trains will inevitably travel through many licensing districts during a single journey.''

That is true, but a canal boat travelling along the Grand Union canal will pass through a number of licensing districts during a single journey, so I do not see any major difference there. It continues:

''If licensed in these circumstances, which authority should be responsible for issuing any relevant licences and who should be responsible for monitoring compliance?''

That is a good question. Furthermore,

''because trains do not have permanence like buildings (or indeed, boats) and are assemblages of coaches that may change regularly, they do not lend themselves to our scheme for premises licences''.

The Minister made that point, but almost every time I get on the Great North Eastern Railway service to Peterborough, it is the same train. The company might move the buffet car now and again, but there is no essential difference between that and something fairly permanent such as a boat. The argument is terribly weak.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 4:00 pm, 15th May 2003

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that boats are different from GNER trains, because boats are on the water and people can fall overboard, while trains have sealed doors and are difficult to fall off?

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

People have fallen off trains before now, although the safety requirements may now be stricter. However, the Bill does not say that a boat should do X, Y or Z to ensure that it meets the health and safety requirements. I assume that any boat that wants to ply its trade along our coastline must register with the MCA and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight has already said, must meet strict health and

safety requirements, particularly if it is carrying passengers. How many people fall off the Isle of Wight ferry drunk? We are legislating for every small boat owner because of one particular incident.

The White Paper mentions

''the absence of major problems in recent years''.

The Government admit that there are no problems on trains or boats, so why are they hammering boats? The White Paper also says that

''some mechanism is needed to prevent the sale of alcohol on train lines that are a persistent source of disorder and nuisance.''

I agree with that. There may be football trains on which alcohol is banned, and everyone would agree that that is sensible. We proposed new clause 5 to deal with cases in which a particular boat is causing a nuisance. It is drafted in the same way as clause 156, and it would mean that the people who are affected could go to the police, who could then go to the magistrates court to sort the matter out.

The other point that I cannot get my head round is why a boat needs a premises licence. If it is moored permanently on the Thames and is merely a floating pub, I can understand the need. The owner of a pub across the road from it could say that although it is boat, it is basically a pub. I can go along with that, but if a pub is moving from A to B, it normally causes no nuisance to residents, because it plies its trade on the water—it could be moving across one of the Norfolk broads or to the Isle of Wight. The problem of disorder and the effects on the local community are almost negligible.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Labour, South Dorset

Regularly in the summer we can hear boats going up and down the Thames outside Parliament. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is the potential for noise nuisance, particularly if a vessel chooses a short route to chug up and down, blaring out loud music and causing a disturbance?

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

If the hon. Gentleman chooses to spend most of his summer evenings at the Terrace Bar, that is up to him.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay

The problem of a noisy pleasure boat can be dealt with under existing legislation. I remember a famous case in which the Sex Pistols were arrested for making too much noise on a vessel on the Thames during the jubilee year, on the legal grounds that they were causing a disturbance.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I shall not comment on the hon. Gentleman's choice of music, but he makes a valid point. There are different ways and means of tackling such problems. We do not disagree that safety is the main aspect, but new clause 5 is designed so that if a safety problem is perceived, the police can intervene and go to a magistrates court to sort it out. The real fear of the small boat owners and people involved in tourism may be the cost. The Minister has given us an idea of the figures, but the training for personal licences is a key area of ongoing cost for them because of the high turnover of staff. He should take another look at this. I know that he is partly with us and partly with those who are affected. He has made every effort

so far to find some middle ground. If we are to set a limit of 12 or 20 on a boat, those are arbitrary figures that do not necessarily help us to address the real principles.

Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Liberal Democrat, Torbay

To return to the safety aspect, could we perhaps consider the motives of those who are going on these vessels? People go on disco boats to have a good time, and part of that involves having some alcohol. For people going out on a fishing boat or a sightseeing boat, alcohol is just the cream on top. It is something that is offered. Human behaviour comes in here too. I am sure that people would be more sensible because they are on water rather than on dry land. We cannot mollycoddle everyone. Things happen; that is life.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. If the small fishing boats did not charge for the alcohol, would it count as supply? Perhaps it would. They could cover their costs by charging more for the trip. They could get round it that way. We will not press any of the amendments. We have had an excellent debate; we have raised some questions that have been put to us and some have emerged during the debate.

There is not much consistency in the Government's approach. In their White Paper on trains they use arguments that could just as easily be applied to boats. The part about boats, which precedes the part about trains, says:

''boats would also require a premises licence issued by the licensing authority for its home port.''

The problems of law and order and nuisance are hardly likely to be reflected in the home port. When the passengers board the boat they are all sober—then off it goes down the river or across the lake. If there is going to be a problem it will normally be when the boat is some distance away. If the Minister is so keen to tie down the health and safety aspects, the solution may be to do what he did with church halls and village halls and exempt them from fees. They may have to go through the hoops, but they need not pay any fees to do so.

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

I considered that option. Has the hon. Gentleman any thoughts about who would pay for that process? The local authority would end up paying.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

I throw the question back at the Minister. Who is paying the exemption fees for the village hall applications?

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Conservative, North East Cambridgeshire

Well, the Government can fork out for the boats, too.

We have had an excellent debate. The Minister has approached it in a constructive way and attempted to answer all our queries. He has made a fist of shooting down our amendments and drawing out some of their inadequacies, but some of his comments give me hope that he will come back on Report with something a little more amenable to those in this sector.

Mr. Turner rose—

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

Order. I called the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire to wind up the debate.

Unless the hon. Gentleman wishes to move an amendment standing in his name, I must put the question. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to move an amendment formally?

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

I do not. I hoped that we might have an opportunity to return to the subject—

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

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find an opportunity to return to it at another time and in another place.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 155 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 156 to 158 ordered to stand part of the Bill.